Networking Vs. Sales (or Trouble With Brian) – UPDATED

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A year or so ago, I wrote a blogpost describing the rule I have for accepting (or sending) connection requests on LinkedIn.  You probably missed it, but you can still read it here – it’s not a long one so it won’t take you long.

Over the weekend, I received a number of bog-standard LinkedIn connection invitations, as I usually do.  One of these invitations was from somebody that I’ll call Brian (though his name is actually Gary T. O’Neill of Nationwide Van Centre).

I replied to Brian in the usual form, explaining that I only connect with folks I have actually met or with whom I have developed a relationship even though we may never have met in person, blah blah.  If you are one of the people that I now count as a connection even though we first made contact via LinkedIn, you’ll be familiar with the words.  I always indicate that I would be delighted to meet, though in some circumstances, when I check the profile of the person sending the invitation, I can’t see just what I could do to help them with their business or they with mine.  Such was the case with Brian, so I concluded my reply with the following:

“Having looked at your profile, I’m not sure there’s a great deal I can do to help you with your business, but if you’d like to meet properly, I’d be very happy to have a chat over a cuppa and will gladly accept your invitation thereafter. “

After all, I don’t think a pointless meeting does anybody any good – and that’s coming from someone who subscribes to the chaos theory of networking.

Mostly, people then recognise the value in a meeting and often good things come from those meetings.  Occasionally, somebody ‘fesses up to a spam invitation, apologises and we move on.  But on a couple of occasions, somebody tries to justify what they are doing as “networking”.  About 6 months ago, for example, I had this from a woman at an office supplies place:

“No we haven’t met but I thought that was the point of linkedin to get your company known to other members. You never know if you wanted more space or need a room separated we could do that for you of if you were to relocate or wanted glass partitions with your logo on. So as I said never say never.”

No, that’s not the point of LinkedIn.  That’s the point of advertising.

AND this was after I had mentioned to her that my firm is office-less, secretary-less and paperless.  So it wasn’t really very likely that we would need logo-printed glass partitions.

But last night I received this from Brian:

“Hi Matthew, 

I asked my sales administrator to look at some law firms on here for some advise. 

We are launching a new asset finance side to the business.He probably just added them instead of doing his homework. 

I know some people dont use this for networking or recriprocal business. 

Sorry to have bothered you. 

Regards Brian” 

“Some people don’t use this for networking or reciprocal business.”  Well, that’s EXACTLY what I use it for.  But what Brian was doing was using the banner of networking to camouflage a spam campaign.  He hadn’t even looked at my profile.  He couldn’t possibly know whether I would have anything in common with him or not.  If he had, he would see that my business would have absolutely no need of asset finance and that in all likelihood, his business would not fit our typical client profile.

I came as close as I have ever come to clicking the “report for spam” link after “ignore“.  What I did instead was take him up on his networking and reciprocal business point and then I clicked “I don’t know Gary“. Er, Brian.

Building networks is not about making sales to the person next to you.  It’s about learning about what that person does, what s/he needs and then trying to help them remedy those needs either from yourself or from someone else within your network.  And if you’re lucky, they may be able to do the same for you.  The process can take years to come to fruition.

Networking is not spamming lots of people you don’t know in the hope that someone will see what it is you do just when they’ve realised they have a need for that particular thing.

That is called “sales”.

***

Well, it seems Brian didn’t take kindly to my suggestion that he rethinks his strategy for the use of LinkedIn.  This was his reply:

“As I said I asked my sales admin to find me a firm for legal advise. They added you by mistake. 

Also the networking definition is 
The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business !!! 

To be frank your clearly being a little bit touchy over this issue. 
Keep yourself secret and good luck 
If your really that bothered report me for Spam. I could not care less 
To be honest I have found a law firm that’s interested in my business.

l am taking my ball away to play with someone else,your giving me a headache.”

Now, it could be argued that a man struggling with grammer to this extent would be well-advised to leave the management of his social media to another.  But that, I think, would be to miss the point, which is that networking is the connecting of entities and in the case of LinkedIn, those entities are individual people, not organisations.

Here was my reply:

“Well OK… except, of course, that I did offer to meet with you, as I do with everybody that sends me an invitation. So the pretext of looking for a law firm seems a bit thin. 

And I don’t believe that the dictionary definition you proffer justifies the strategy you have adopted. Having a sales assistant blindly send invitations to every law firm s/he can find on LinkedIn hardly counts as “the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” 

#justsaying”

As to Brian’s new law firm, I say good luck to them.  We love our clients and our clients love us.  I don’t think I could love Brian…

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