The Fine Line Between Building Connections and a Hard Sell

Recently I arranged a meeting with someone met at a networking group. I looked forward to the meeting as I enjoy getting to know people. The meeting started off on what I would call a wrong foot. The person I was meeting immediately started telling me all that was wrong with my ______. For more than 80 minutes, I heard all about what was wrong with me. 

Now remember, this was not a 'free consultation' to discuss what is wrong with the product or service I have that they could do better. It was a get to know each other and build a networking relationship. 

After the 'get to know each other' session was over... the lady next to me share with me that she didn't know how I handled it so well, especially when she found out that it was not a 'free consultation' but a get to know each other coffee date. 

This was the second time in a week that I had this happen to me from other networkers. 

I believe in the concept of networking as sharing my 'why' and what 'pains' I can help them with... but letting them decide when they needed my assistance. I don't do hard sells. 


Because hard sells don't work. Not for me. Not for many people. And those who cave in to hard sells because of the pressure do not commit fully to the 'product or service' that the hard sell was about... and that means, as soon as they can 'escape', they do. They are not the type of person who will be a dedicated consumer of your product or service. 

People who identify your 'why' for your product or service that you are passionate about and see their 'pains' in what you mention in a 'relationship' building conversation, will investigate it more and want to commit when their heart and mind connection and get on the same page. 

Networking is a delicate balance, even more than the lead into a customer balance. Networking is about building a relationship where one feels confident in sharing the other person's business with those they think could benefit. It is also important for a person to understand, that the networker they are sharing their business with... will share with those who have placed trust in them. They do not want to make the mistake of letting a bad apple spoils their network. 

I attended a group meeting and after the meeting was completed, I watched several people swarm a few people they decided NEEDED their services. It was sad because of the manner in which they did such a thing. They literally pounced on this 'victim' and then kept laying the hard sell on this person. I laughed in between watching this happen... you see, this person and I were involved in a discussion. He approached me... and others swarmed him. 

While those who were swarming this victim pounced... I received to offers of my own. No hard sells, just being asked to look into an opportunity to do what I do... share Leveraging Your Time to a new audience. 

What would I do differently in each situation? 

In the meeting with a fellow networker to get to know each other, I would not have started in on me with 'all I am doing wrong'. This is how I feel it should have gone. It should have started with some questions like - "So tell me one thing you think would surprise me if I knew it about you?" 

I would answer "Before the first time I colored my hair blonde, I had trouble with small talk with people. Once I got to know them, no problem... I could talk and talk. But... when I colored my hair a lighter shade, I adopted the mindset that... If I could go blonde, I could certainly loosen up and talk to anyone." 

I would then ask her the same question, to hear their answer. And then I would ask a follow up question. 

You see, my answer would have allowed this person to get a good glimpse as to the type of person I am. I will look outside the box for an answer to a problem. I wanted to get better at small talk with people... I lighten my hair color... and yes, I thought this... 'if blondes have more fun, it is because they are less concerned about what others think of them and will take those risks without concern of censure.'

I would have looked into their answer to find out a bit more about them and determine the messages that were not being said... in order to follow up and ask another question. 

One of the best ways to get someone to want you, your products and services.... is to demonstrate that you are good at what you do. I am an expert at Leveraging MY Time and love to share this with others. I prove my expertise by arriving on time, completing tasks on time, being assertive, saying no, developing relationships, finding my focus and sharing these tips with others, without preaching to them, without belittling them, without criticizing them... I do it by showing them what I do all the time. 

What went wrong with the coffee date was an 'attack' on my and my ______. It started and ended that way. It was sad that the person who spent so much time criticizing me stated that the meeting was supposed to be us getting to know each other. 

It was sad because I did get to know this person. I learned that 'being right' or 'being better' than me was more important than getting to know me. That being the preacher, preaching at me was more important than building connections. 

I told this person that my success plan is built around the word connections. I elaborate this as building connections and even more so building connections that matter. I told this person that the majority of the time, when I have meetings like this, the lead - client or networker, has turned into a deeper relationship and depending on the purpose of the relationship - a client or a referral source and a friend. I then told this person that maybe next time we get together we can get to know each other. 

I left it at that, I didn't tell this person that I knew all I needed to know about them. I didn't tell them that I felt attacked, criticized, and saddened by the encounter. I didn't tell them that I would not refer anyone to them. 

There was no reason to tell them that at the meeting. It wouldn't be received in the manner it was intended. It would not be seen as anything other than me being bitter because I was told what I was doing wrong. Even if throughout the criticism I told this person that not only do I know what I am doing, I also seek out others who are experts in this area for advice. And everything you have just told me to changed was just changed from that to what it is now. And despite, in an effort to end the continuous onslaught of criticism, I changed what this person told me to change, even when it didn't look right, I was still treated like an oppositional child who wouldn't listen to my parents. 

This is not the how networking should go. This is not how building connections should go. This is an example of what not to do and how to get out of a situation like this with your head held up high. 

Building connections with any lead or networker should be a positive experience. If it is not a positive experience, then you must know what is true, how to handle yourself, and walk away. Not everyone will treat you as a person worthy of respect. And when they don't, then you need to move on... quickly. 

Saying no is an essential part of building connections. Negative people come in all shapes, sizes, and yes, others may like them... but that doesn't mean your perspective is not correct. Say no and move away from them. 

Are you Ready and Set to Go - Building Connections That Matter?