The Dark Side of Business Networking: 3 Personality Types in the World of Business Referrals with Scott Detweiler
As any geek can tell you, the entire world can be broken down and referenced within the confines of the Star Wars saga. Therefore, young Padawan, the practice of professional mingling, aka networking, is covered. There are lots of stories about people meeting and finding significant business relationships, but this road is treacherous and filled with people who wield deadly laser swords. Here are the three personality types you will encounter while milling about looking for that ideal relationship.
The Han Solo
The first is the swashbuckling Han Solo character. He is there to find business for himself and has little to no interest in what you do or what you are saying. He doesn’t make much of a secret about it, either. Han won’t often let you get a word in edgewise, and if he does, it is just another talking point so he can tell you about himself: “OK, enough about me. Why don’t you tell me what you think about me?”
These people are annoying, but luckily they are easy to identify. Most of the Han Solo types are business-to-consumer salespeople who attend business-to-business networking functions. They view the meeting like a wolf stalking a pack of deer. Of course, there are always exceptions, but they are hard to locate amid the sea of people who play this part flawlessly.
The Darth Vader
The second type of person you will encounter is similar to Han, but much more common and insidious: Darth Vader. Darth promises much to those who do his bidding. If you help him with his cause, the rewards will be beyond your imagination and might even come in the form of uber-valuable exposure.
The problem is that Darth never really keeps his part of the bargain. I once gave five leads to a professional networker in one of the high-power networking groups in my town. He closed four of them, reaping him thousands of dollars in commissions. But in all of his travels over the course of the year, he apparently never came across a company that needed a photo or might be interested in getting better headshots for their business.
Come on, Darth—toss me a bone here, you jerk. Instead, he has now alienated me as a lead generator where such a small amount of effort would have been sufficient to keep me placated. Sure, he might have a close and trusted partnership with another photographer (not like this is a rare business), but it’s no less frustrating. This is something we must all deal with at some point, weighing the ramifications of helping someone like this.
The Luke Skywalker (and Sister Leia)
The third personality is the fabled Luke Skywalker and his twin sister, Leia. Luke watches his own back but also looks out for his friends. He asks additional questions for the benefit of his network. These tidbits of information are unimportant to him, but he knows they may reveal a need outside of his realm.
A great time to ask these questions is in the small talk at the end of the sales call when you are asking polite questions about that enormous fish hanging on the wall: “Hey, great fish. Do you drug-test your employees?” OK, maybe that example sucks, but you get the idea. You can always tell them you just met with a groovy company that does this “great thingy/service” really well, and you thought you would ask a few questions. I do this for my professional recruiter, computer networking partner, logo apparel maker, fish taxidermist and laser-sword maker.
May the Lead Be With You
If someone gives me a lead, in my mind, I owe them, and I will do my best to give them something to keep them energized (or at the very least buy them a martini if I cannot produce a lead). Everyone gets something out of this relationship. Now, if I have multiple partners who offer competing services, then I have to weigh the value of the additional eyes on the street and then award the lead where it is most needed. I always try to trade a lead for one given.
The large man in black plastic armor who was formerly my computer networking partner was awarded no fewer than 10 customers from me last year, yet never gave me a single lead. He told me that he is too busy thinking about his own business to remember to ask questions. Of course, I have since given my business to another firm that offered me a lead without knowing my current frustrations. That told me I had found a potential Luke here among the endless galaxy of evildoers.
In the end, it boils down to developing a core group of Luke and Leia characters who share freely and trust each other. Keep in mind those questions that can point out potential leads for your partners. Being a good networker isn’t that hard, but it does take patience to find those who use the power of the Force for good and not for evil.