You know? I really love pushy telemarketers. Through their inept efforts at establishing rapport in order to sell me something, I can almost come up with a lesson about good networking practice.

The star of this particular object lesson was “Robert”. Robert was calling me because he wanted to sell me some sort of “4G” phone/Internet service (he wasn’t very well-spoken, so I wasn’t clear on the details). He tried to convince me that I should sign on with them because it would mean I would get faster upload and download rates. That would be fine, except I have Comcast business-class service which means I was getting speeds significantly faster that those he quoted.

I pointed this out to him, he quickly came back with “Oh, but Comcast only promises up to that speed. During the day when you really want to use it, it’s a lot slower”. Poor Robert. Don’t you know you don’t win the sale when you are telling me that I’m wrong? I’m a techie and I have actually run the speed tests and — surprise! — they were exactly the speeds I told him.

Now Robert might have had a better chance if he’d actually taken the time to find out more about my business and my needs first instead of trying to tell me what my problems were without asking. Maybe there was some aspect of the service he offered that would have been important to me. I’ll never know, since I told him never to call me again.

As networkers we have to be careful of this, too. Especially with people we’ve just met, we must take the time to get to know them and their challenges before we start to try to help them. Even when we think we understand, we have to slow down. Make an offer, but never prescribe. Start with “If you’d like, I could introduce you to…”, not “You should talk with…” Remember you are being a friend. Be respectful. Be gentle.

And, only where appropriate, be helpful.

Photo credit: Jacek Obszarny