In my more than two decades of
developing business networks and coaching networkers,
I've noticed some very different styles of networking.
One of these styles, which results in the ground smoking
wherever these networkers tread, I call "scorched earth
networking." Let's talk a little about this style, so
you understand how important it is to avoid
this type of networking in cultivating a successful
business networking model.
Just what are the hallmarks
of a scorched-earth networker? Experience has shown me
that this type of networker...
1. Moves from networking group to networking
group, constantly dissatisfied with the quality and
quantity of referrals they get from each. The
scorched-earth networker doesn't stay in one place long
enough to build the type of relationships it takes to
really capitalize on networking. It's like planting an
apple tree in one spot, not being satisfied with the
tree's growth after a matter of days, uprooting it and
expecting it to grow faster in another spot. When the
growth isn't happening fast enough in the new spot, the
tree is uprooted yet again and replanted. Every time
that tree is uprooted, it takes longer to build itself
back up to even where it was before it was moved. A
serious networker understands that in order for that
tree to grow a bumper crop of apples, it needs to be
cared for right where it is.
2. Talks more than listens. If you meet
someone who talks on and on about their services, what
they can provide for you, how they can help you increase
your bottom line and so on--and doesn't seem genuinely
interested in your business, what you do and what you
need--chances are you've just met a scorched-earth
networker! A serious networker will want to learn all
about you, what your professional goals are, and how
they can play a part in helping you accomplish those
3. Doesn't "honor the event," or networks at
inappropriate opportunities. There's something to be
said about constantly looking for an opportunity to
develop a business relationship, but a serious networker
is always aware of how that networking comes across.
You've seen the scorched-earth networker, for instance,
wanting to do business and passing out business cards at
a church function, funeral or other inappropriate event.
The key to networking at all times is to do it in a way
that's appropriate. While it can be entirely appropriate
to begin a relationship at such an event as a wedding or
a funeral, going around looking for an opportunity to
pass out your business cards isn't the right way to do
4. Thinks that being "highly visible" is enough to
make business flow his way. In my book, Business
by Referral, I talk about the VCP factor:
visibility, credibility and profitability.
The more you're seen in the business community
(visibility), the more you become known and trusted
(credible). The problem with the scorched-earth
networker is that they seem to think that anything they
do that makes them visible is beneficial. But that's
just not so. As people begin to trust you, seeing that
you're dependable, honest and outwardly motivated as
opposed to selfish and demanding, they then begin to
refer you to others. This is when you'll see more
business referrals coming in (profitability).
5. Expects others to be consistently referring
them. When they're considering developing their
social capital, the scorched-earth networker expects
that this means finding a source of referrals who's
dependable and constant. This is a "get" mentality.
Scorched-earth networkers view networking as a
transaction, not a relationship. Wayne Baker
calls this negative type of networking "coin operated
networking"--you put something in and get something back
right away. Serious networkers understand that
developing strong social capital means that your focus
is on what you can give to your inner circle.
There's a law of reciprocity and synergy that can't be
denied when you focus on giving referrals to those
around you. Think about how you feel when someone refers
you to another person. You feel driven to repay the
Scorched-earth networking doesn't work, because
building your business through word-of-mouth is about
cultivating relationships with people who get to know
you and trust you. People do business with people they
have confidence in. One of the most important things
I've learned in the past two decades is this: It's not
what you know, or who you know--it's how well you know
them that counts. If you go into this process
understanding this one key point, you'll have a better
opportunity to build your business through
As you network, look around at what you leave behind.
Are you creating relationships by building your social
capital (farming, as opposed to hunting), or are you
leaving a scorched earth and many bodies in your wake?