Are You Networking or Simply Self-Promoting?

BroadcastAs I’ve engaged in discussions on LinkedIn, one thing stands out. Many are confusing networking with self-promotion. The savvy you gain by honing your skills now may grant you opportunities in the future and save you from self-sabotage.

Here’s an example many (women) can relate to. You meet a gentleman who is dressed right, smells good, isn’t bad on the eyes and you strike up a conversation. Within minutes you want to escape. Why? Because his entire conversation centered on himself. He talked about his achievements, his career, the awards he’s received. He may be a charming guy, but with his introduction you’ll never know. You’re already looking for the exit signs.

He would have had a better chance of getting to know you had he focused more attention on you, his audience. I can’t say this enough – the finest people, the most innovative ideas and the best products often get no attention simply because of how they are presented.

[pullquote4 quotes=”true” align=”right”]Get others hooked on your value to them first, then sit back and watch them come back for more.[/pullquote4]Is that how you’re networking? I’ve seen many discussions started here asking for help. If the person posting says she has a difficult boss and needs tips on how to handle her, the response might read, “I had a difficult boss, too. That’s why I started my own business. I now own xyz chains in 15 states and you can, too. Let me tell you how! My website address is . . . and I also . . . but then I . . . blah blah blah.” After reading the first sentence, she’s on to the next post, and most likely won’t be visiting the website or anything else mentioned. Because no matter how useful this person could be, he showed no consideration for the requester. She is only a prospect. And one would have to wonder, if this is how selfish he is in his approach, would this also be the behavior she’d be met with should they do business together?

If the requester was responded to with tips she could use, she’d be more inclined to view this person’s profile, add him to her network and communicate in the future. Now there’s an opportunity for self-promotion. When she thanks him for his help, he could reply with, “You’re welcome. I learned much of this the hard way when I had a boss that was hard to tolerate. I started my own business and I’m happy I did. Check out my website and let me know what you think. If it’s not for you, maybe someone in your network might be interested.” I can assure you, the person who has been helped in a friendly unselfish manner would be pleased to help out in turn.

I’ve always been a natural schmoozer. (See how this works? I offer you tips then I get into ME ME ME.) I have colleagues and bosses that I still keep in touch with from my very first job, even if only once a year for a holiday drink, but when an opportunity arises, I’m the first to get a call. Not because I hit them over the head every chance I get with my achievements or latest ventures. Rather, it’s because I don’t. I ask about the kids, the wife’s pottery class, make notes of ventures they’re pursuing and occasionally send a link to an article that might help them in that pursuit. That is networking and it is successful. You don’t want people to see your email or your number and think, “What is it this time?” You want people to be glad you’ve contacted them, excited to hear from you, pleased to help you.

I recall a show I saw years ago about the drug epidemic and I never forgot the commentary. It was said that often the drug dealers would offer their customers a little something for free, just to give ‘em a taste. Next thing they knew, customers were pounding on their doors – they were hooked. That salesmanship and attitude is the same you should have here and in all your networking endeavors. Get others hooked on your value to them first, then sit back and watch them come back for more. 

I look forward to your comments!

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