I organized a lunch this summer for 8 or 9 people that needed to meet each other. They all have similar targets that they were trying to meet, so I figured why not help them to help themselves. The lunch was low key, no official presentation, just getting to know each other. I sent an email out encouraging them to reach out to each other after the event.
About a week later, I met with one of the participants, let’s call her Susie, and asked her if anything had come of the lunch for her. She replied that one of the others had called her to get together in order to explore opportunities they might have for each other. This second person had also offered all of us at lunch an opportunity to place a free ad in her in-house newsletter. Susie replied that she hadn’t called this person back yet. (It had been a week!)
When I questioned her a bit more, what came out was that Susie felt that she was being pushy by calling this person back, because of course in the back of Susie’s mind, she wanted to sell more of her products. I said, “Now let me get this straight, you have someone who wants to figure out how to partner with you and you think you are being pushy?????”
While this is a refreshing approach to networking, usually many of us experience networkers who love being pushy, it began to make me more aware about how others might be feeling when my overtures are not returned. Before I had just been lumping the people that I reach out to, who don’t return my suggestion for a coffee and a chat, as not too smart. But maybe I have to change my way of thinking to encompass the thought of what might they be afraid of.
I now know that I probably failed those people at lunch. Instead of leaving them to their own devices and assuming that they would all take the next steps, I should have instead, just instructed them to schedule an appointment to network while we were right there at lunch. Perhaps I could have even shared a story of how this type of networking works. We CNers, are so advanced in our networking skills that sometimes we have to take a step back to help others come along with us. It will pay off in so many ways.
Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg