The Drawbacks of Ineffective Networking

By Debbie Scott, CWCC Member

Quiz:   What is the purpose of Networking?

A. To sell your product.
B. To qualify those you meet for future discussions.
C. To let loose and have fun.
E. To build relationships

Which of the above is the right answer?  If you said B and E, you are correct!  So why isn’t “A” correct?  Isn’t that the purpose of spending money on a networking event, to sell your product or service?  Many people you will encounter believe it is and will pressure you to listen to their “pitch” even if you have no interest in it.  How does that feel?  Uncomfortable?  Offensive?  Irritating?  Now the correct answer IS “all of the above”.  And what about C?  What’s the first impression you want to leave behind:  Professional and trustworthy, or drunk and disorderly?

The purpose of networking is to build relationships.  It is NOT to sell.  The most important part of building relationships is asking questions and sincerely listening to how people respond so that you can qualify them for further discussions.  This means that you must reach out and talk with another person (yes actually make contact), be effective in communicating your sales message, and truly listen to their response.  More so, it’s being OK with “no”.  It may not be a fit for them.  However, it could be a fit for someone that they know.  So, you have to be very good at describing your “ideal client” so that they know how to recognize that person if they meet or know someone that needs your help.   Also, people do business with or make referrals to those that they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST.  If you don’t make a good first impression on them, it’s unlikely they will want to refer anyone to you.  Thus “letting loose” may not be a good idea at a networking event.

Another key to effective networking is to “give first”.  My first intention is always to listen to those I meet and to try to connect them.  If I can’t help them personally, I try to connect them with someone I know that can.  This is always a win-win since now you may be helping two people.  Giving from the heart without “strings” will always come back to you blessed and multiplied, and usually in ways you least expect.

So. what do you say in those first critical moments?  To start, be courteous and ask them about their business first.  It’s critical that you really listen to what they have to say.  Ask questions to clarify what they do and questions about their ideal client so that you understand how to connect them with others that might be a fit for them.  Then when you speak, consider that communicating your sales message, and communicating it effectively, requires three closely related concepts: stimulate…differentiate…and validate.

Stimulate the prospect’s interest…grabbing their attention.  Ask thought- provoking questions that serve as a springboard to further discussion.  DON’T recite a formulaic “commercial” that spotlights just the features and benefits of your company and goes well beyond the 30 second guideline.

Not clear on how to do this?  Attend the CWCC workshop, Networking is a Contact Sport on September 22nd to learn how to make the most of your networking experience!

Debbie Scott is a professional trainer and sales/business coach for Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a Sales and Management Development firm based in Denver, Colorado and certified by the Sandler Training Institute.  She has been a top producer and leader as well as trainer and coach for over seven years.  She is dedicated to nurturing and inspiring the human spirit to change for the better through coaching, training and motivational speaking, as well as leading by example, using Sandler communication tools and Law of Attraction concepts. Learn more about Debbie and Achievement Dynamics, LLC at

10 responses to “The Drawbacks of Ineffective Networking

  1. Great Advice, as usual from Debbie Scott!

  2. Great article! So many people who miss the point of networking events will benefit from this explanation!

  3. Debbie,
    Thank you for sharing this knowledge and approach! I remember the first networking event that I attended with you several years ago and the lessons that I learned from that experience. I travel often and as a result am constantly creating new social and business networks. I now apply these practices to each new social interaction and have thus created a large network of business associates and friends around the world. By being generous and listening for what I can provide and who I can connect I find that when a new acquaintance is done sharing about who they are, and what they do, they are completely open, attentive and curious about who I am, and what I do! This approach has succeed in creating open, intentional, and prosperous relationships for the businesses I represent and in my personal life as well. Thank you for your coaching and the powerful influence you have been in my life!

    Genesis Dionne

  4. Margie McCarthy

    This advice really takes the pressure off networking (don’t sell; have a conversation!) and refocuses its purpose (qualify for later). I’m also a believer that giving to others comes back “blessed and multiplied.” Really useful article!

  5. Great article Debbie, we all need to remember this!

  6. Going into a Networking event with the goal of qualifying vs. selling is soooo much less pressure! Great advice!!

  7. Ms. Scott makes a very solid point in this post. The purpose of networking is not to sell your product, or push your business cards onto others. Rather, it is about building relationship so that one can qualify or disqualify the prospect based on their possible needs. By listening for their needs you might also be able to connect them to others who can help them which, as Ms Scott sates, will always come back to you in a positive way if you have a giving mentality. Be courteous towards your connections and actually care for their needs, and realize that any outcome is OK, and networking becomes a very valuable tool that can actually be fun! Ms. Scott makes a lot of good solid points here – that I follow and believe in for my company as well! Thanks for posting this!

  8. I really like your approach and wish more people understood the importance of building relationships as part of networking, not selling. I think one of the reasons we all dread networking is the terrible stereotype associated with them and the fact that we’ve all been cornered by an overzealous bore who won’t quit selling and who we’d never, ever want to give our business card to so he/she can follow up. I like your suggestion of asking thought-provoking questions that can lead to further discussion. That’s when you really start to build relationships. Great article!

  9. Rick Malinowski

    Debbie makes a number of great points here: Actively listen, ask thoughtful questions, approach networking as an opportunity to meet new people and build new relationships. I use this technique and it really works. Most people are listened to so little that someone showing interest in what they are saying starts an interaction off in a great way.

  10. Great article. So…the purpose of networking isn’t to shove a business card in everyone’s face! And giving a referral to someone else can be very rewarding in itself.

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