At Your Service: The perils of networking
What on earth does networking have to do with customer service? Well, everything! Once you have a solid reputation for exceptional customer service, it’s good to get the word out as much as you can and networking is a great way to achieve this.
We are the face of our businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any time we are out in public, we have to be on our best behaviour. This rule applies even more so when we are at a networking event.
I have made over $1.6 million dollars from networking in the past eight years. I consider myself a professional networker. I know how to work the room and how to maximize my success at networking functions. I also know what doesn’t work and I see it all the time at different events: too much alcohol and people acting like it’s a place to hit on other attendees.
Let’s start with alcohol. I enjoy having a beer, wine or cocktail like a lot of other people do. It’s important that you don’t overdo it at networking events or you can end up looking like an idiot. I can still remember an association golf tournament I attended over 20 years ago where one individual had a bit too much to drink. “Eric” was a well-respected member of our association and general manager of a car rental facility, but on this particular day, he lost a lot of respect.
I was in his foursome that day. One of the other gentlemen was like Rodney Dangerfield on the golf course. He came with a fully loaded bar in his golf bag. I’m not sure where he put his golf balls, tees and other equipment, but the bag had every hard liquor you could think of plus beer and mix. He poured us drinks until we said “No more!” Eric continued to drink, which was a big mistake. By about the 14th hole, Eric was slurring words and being loud and belligerent to the other groups around us. He then swung at a tee shot, missed the ball completely and fell flat on his face.
Eric was a big man. He was about a biscuit shy of 320 pounds. It took three of us to lift him up and sit him back on the cart. We actually had to call the pro shop and ask them to come and pick him up, as he couldn’t even sit straight on the golf cart.
He didn’t stick around for the steak dinner and awards that night. They called him a cab. He was thoroughly embarrassed by his actions and we were all embarrassed for him as well. Some members thought it was funny but others did not see the humour in it at all. He left the association soon after that event.
The other way that some people self-destruct their networking efforts is by attempting to use the event as an opportunity to hook up with the other attendees. If you want to pick someone up, go to a nightclub. A networking event is a business event and needs to be kept professional. There is nothing more disgusting than someone hitting on another person during a business event.
If you have staff representing your company, make sure they fully understand that these are not acceptable practices. It takes a long time to build up the trust and respect of our customers. It only takes one event to lose that trust and respect. If you are looking for new business, these practices will leave the potential customer with a very bad taste in their mouth.
When done properly, networking can be a great way to deepen relationships with your present clientele and also to add new customers to your list. In the next newsletter, I’ll share some of my top networking tips you can use to increase your networking experience.
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