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Networking 101 – Never Abuse Your Networks

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Dr Renate Volpe, in her nugget cards entitled “Networking Tips” says:

“Never abuse your network. Be respectful and request permission where indicated.”

You have no idea just how important this is if you want to stay in the networking game. Let me be a little more specific. The world is no longer a huge place. Each time new technology is written/developed/invented or however you would like to put it – the world shrinks a little more. In the old days, a journey by ship took years, then we got aeroplanes and it took, at worst days or hours – now we can travel the world in seconds. Today I spoke to my Russian friend in Greece, my friend in Arizona in the States and my brother in Australia on SKYPE and because we all have cameras we can all see one another as we talk, thousands and thousands of miles between us and yet we talk and we can see one another as if we are sitting next to each other – the world has indeed, become a very small place.

The world of the SMME has also become really small too, especially if you confine it to the country or the state and even the city or town that you happen to be living and networking in – this means, and listen very, very carefully now – this means that if you abuse your network – within seconds many, many people will know about it and as much as referrals are your best form of obtaining business, they can also become your worst nightmare. The grapevine works in both directions and believe me when I tell you, that once your name is mud on that grapevine, you will be shut down faster than you can blink.

Here’s an example of what not to do: During the early part of last year, I met a fellow (let’s call him George) at a networking event. Subsequent to that meeting, we had a one on one and I gave him a long list of referrals. People who would not only be interested in his product but also people who were “connected” and who could also send him to other people who would be interested in his product.

Now those of you who know me, know that I don’t just give out a bunch of names and contact details – I send an e-mail to the person that I am referring you to and to the person who has been referred. I introduce the two in the mail and give a brief outline of what each one does. It is obviously time-consuming, but it turns into a warm call and a referral and each party knows what to expect.

About four months later, I met George at another networking event and we ended up after the event having a drink together and again I gave him some more contacts (remember I had had six months to grow my database and my circle of influence). Again I took the trouble to e-mail both parties and introduce them to each other.

About six months after that – I bumped into George at yet another networking event. At this one, he was bemoaning the fact that he was not getting much work out of the networking events that he was going to. Perplexed (remember I had given him a huge bunch of referrals – people who would have had great value out of the product that he was selling), I asked him, which of my contacts had not “come to the party”? At this point, I was on the brink of phoning my contacts to ask them what the problem was as I was sure that his product would assist them greatly.

He smiled very sweetly and said, “Actually Nikki, I haven’t contacted any of them and actually it’s been such a long time since you sent the emails to me, could you send them again?” I’m sure you can just picture me standing there with my jaw hanging open!

Needless to say, he never got those e-mails re-sent and in fact, he will never get another one from me either! Apart from the fact that I very nearly sent him an invoice for 6 hours of work in which I wasted my time and the time of my contacts, who read the emails and then sat waiting to be contacted, this man will never, ever get any kind of referral from me! To make it even worse, I will tell everyone that I come across, not to give him referrals because he does absolutely nothing with them!

How rude! How disrespectful!

Remember, each time you get a referral – you will be getting work based on someone else’s credibility. If you mess with that person’s credibility – you also mess with yours!

Treat referrals as the “golden nuggets” that they are, or you may find yourself “nuggetless” with no new “nuggets” in sight.

For more information on Renate, please visit her website at