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Shallowness And Networking!

by David Brock on June 11th, 2013

It’s clear we’re in a frenzy of networking and connecting.  There seems to be a rush to establish connections, friends, whatever.  People are reaching out, connecting, racking up the numbers.  They’re using every channel possible–LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and more.  But then there’s this odd phenomena. 

Somehow, I’m under the mistaken opinion the purpose of networking and connecting is to form some sort of relationship.  It needn’t be close, but it’s a relationship.  We build some sort of informal bond, develop some level of trust………

But instead, networking seems to be more about, list generation, lead gen, and other things–but little about relationships.

Today, I get a call from a sales person.  It was an OK call, not great–perhaps my expectations of these calls is so low, that someone who is polite and articulate is good.

Salesperson, “Hi Dave, I’m so and so from such and such company  (a Sales 2.0 solution provider).  My boss, Mr. Big Name In Social Networking And Selling, asked me to give you a call to discuss our solution………”

I recognized Mr. Big Name In Social Networking And Selling’s name.  In fact he and I follow each other on Twitter, I like a lot of his stuff, and tweet his materials.  So we were starting to establish some level of professional relationship through Twitter.  It may have grown and extended. 

But something else happened.  He tried to transfer that relationship to someone in his organization.  I’m not complaining about the prospecting call, and won’t comment on the problems with the call or why it was inappropriate.  It’s frankly not the sales person’s fault.  It’s the notion that Mr. Big Name In Social Networking And Selling thinks that relationships are transferrable.  That because we have a budding Twitter relationship, he now has permission to transfer that relationship to a sales person with the mission, “Prospect, Pitch, Qualify.”

I’m pretty certain it’s not my ego speaking.  I love talking to sales people.  I just feel as though the relationship has been betrayed.  We’d barely connected, we were establishing a common bond, starting to establish a low level or trust, then — Poof — I’m handed off to be sold.  So I guess Mr. Big Name In Social Networking And Selling really views networking as fodder for generating prospect and lead lists.

Well, I’ve stopped following him.  I’m just not feeling the warmth in the relationship.

Another “Big Name In Selling,” recently reached out asking to connect on LinkedIn.  I really respect him, like his product.  He reached out,  “Dave, we share a lot of common connections and the same passions, I’d really like to connect.”  I accepted the connection, sent a note, “I’m flattered that you ask, thank you.  By the way, you don’t live far away, let’s get together for coffee.”  I thought, since we apparently share a lot of passions, we might have a very interesting discussion.

I wasn’t offended with the lack of a response.  That’s fine, it might not fit his priorities, no harm, no foul.

But then a few days later, I notice him tweeting about my post, “Don’t Hide Behind Social Selling,” with the comment,  “I often tell people to pick up the phone or better yet go meet someone in person.”  Hmm, interesting I think, just what I had tried with him.  Let me try again.  I tweeted, thanking him for the comment, then, say, “What about that cup of coffee?”  Haven’t heard anything, don’t expect to.  Leaves me a little confused about his comment.

I don’t want to be rough on these guys.  We all make mistakes.  But, unfortunately, this behavior is rampant.  There seems to be a lot of firing for effect, rather than a genuine interest in connecting and engaging.  These activities cause me to be more cautious about networking–who I network with, what their agendas really are.

I’m sure others will feel the same way.  There will be an apprehensiveness to connecting and engaging.  Defenses will be up, “Am I just fodder for a prospecting call?”  “What do they want from me?”  “What’s their agenda?”

  1. I love this. There’s a huge problem with social engagement when people don’t know how to transition from digital to personal. I see it over and over again, and it’s frustrating that a lot of these folks are engaging in the name of “Social Sales”

    Secondly, I’m sure some folks are under the gun to deliver real results from their social efforts (by real, leads/Opps/deals) and are jumping the gun either from ignorance or top down sales pressure.

    Either way, there’s NO excuse for someone who “purports” to be a Social Selling expert to “loan out” their network. How hard is a 3 sentence email, or 3 min phone call to frame why it’s valuable for you to engage? Where’s the actual REFERRAL!!!

    That’s just dumb.

    • Great comment Brian. With these particular individuals, it’s particularly shameful behavior. They are very senior, experienced executives and thought leaders. They should know better.

      By the way, thanks for connecting me with Barb G. Really enjoyed our discussion. Regards, Dave

  2. Dave, just read this on the train, on my way to a Cubs game. Great post! I’m going to forward it to a few individuals whom you could’ve written it for. One of them teaches a sales course at the University of Chicago, no less. He’s too busy to talk. Wants his sec. to handle it. LOL!

  3. David Olson permalink

    Are your expectations too high? After all prior to digital or electronic “Social Networking” these behaviors were no less rampant, and just as annoying. It was not as intrusive because the boors had to get past a gatekeeper or we had to stumble into the retail location … fully expecting to be abused in the process of trying to buy something or find a solution to a challenge we were facing.

    Now they can intrude directly on our day — via Social Networking — which imho is a fantastic time saver and research tool but so easily abused. The abuse tends to create an interesting start of a conversation, after all they can know so much about us. But it quickly becomes a transparent sales pitch heavy on FABs and no understanding of customer issues or needs, as you so eloquently point out.

    Now about your damaged ego Mr Big Name in the Blog-o-sphere, and Selling AND Social Networking — its okay Dave we all love you!


    • David, your comments are always so refreshing! Thanks, also, for bolstering my already too big ego 😉

  4. I couldn’t agree more. I am a little put off by the “cold call” LinkedIn invites who do not respond to my request for a brief phone intro. I want to know or have at least exchanged some form of dialogue with the other party to find how we can help each other. More often, I am seeing people that just want to be in my network. What’s the point?

    • Ryan, I think too many people are now starting to see through this shallow behavior and it is beginning to backfire. (Or at least I hope it is.)

  5. Dan Wessel permalink

    Dave, I share your take on the frenzy of networking attempts that I’ve experienced as well. The simple fact is that successful selling is always about people, relationship building, trust establishing and sincere follow through. Very few , if any, of these requirements can be met via social media and cyber contact. I believe the telephone is still the best way to build a real human connection (assuming in-person contact is not practical). It may sound old-fashioned but humans don’t change at the same pace as technology.
    Dan Wessel, Sales Consultant, Reston VA.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan. Authenticity and Genuineness (if that’s a word) are critical, regardless the channel.

  6. You make a number of good points. One of them = ‘I tweeted, thanking him for the comment, then say, “What about that cup of coffee?” Haven’t heard anything, don’t expect to’. I do try to draw a line between those who say we must have a drink sometime (then I assume, leave it to me) and those who then ask when would be a good time and make it happen.

    The “must have a drink”-ers: are they busier than me? (I doubt it). Lazier? (that would be hard). More arrogant??

    My take-away -it doesn’t matter whether it’s communicated by mouth or by Twitter. There’ll be some folk who make an effort and some who don’t. My preference for developing a relationship is with the former.

  7. Hi Dave,
    Please send me a copy of your coaching guide.
    In response to your blog re: connecting, perhaps it’s that times and people have changed; many businesses are struggling, resources are depleted and owners are in a “What’s in it for me” mode, i.e. expenditures of time and money keyed to returns.
    If you are in Milwaukee, coffee?

    • Robert, thanks for the comment. First, glad to send you the coaching eBook, will send that separately. You make an interesting point, Civility and basic good manners/politeness seem to have suffered tremendously. We can blame the economy, he WIIFM mode–which isn’t new, I was part of the “me generation,” and other things. I’m not sure what drives these behaviors or if it is the confluence of a number of factors. Perhaps naively, I believe in the basic goodness of people. I believe individuals eventually stand up for what is right, I believe individuals tend to try to do the right thing, and despite all the bad things, there are huge numbers of examples of good and inspired things people do.

      Finally, when I’m in Milwaukee next, I’ll look you up—but coffee????? Surely in Milwaukee, we have to have a beer 😉

  8. Devonne permalink


    You have explained my exasperation to the T. And to another point about social media generation. I generally listen to people at networking functions and have given a multitude of referrals. I have only had 1 person in the last year and a half give me any referral. I’ve had great conversations, met very nice people, but not much business has been generated for me from these functions. I am feeling like the mouse in Who Moved My cheese..working very hard and not making much headway,.

    • Thanks for the comment Devonne. As far as the social networking functions, I have a little different view. I don’t go into them with the expectation of getting a referral immediately, but to start building relationships where I might earn referrals over time. Likewise, I don’t give referrals at these events, I want to make sure the people I’m giving the referrals to will handle them well/appropriately. So I look to start building relationships, developing them over time, then where it makes sense, to give and receive referrals.

  9. This belief relationships are transferable is quite prevalent within second generation business owners who believe the relationship is with the firm and fail to understand the relationship was with the owner. The same goes for sales people. A business believes the customer buys from them when in reality the customer buys from the salesperson and the strength of that relationship.

    Good read, thanks for sharing,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    • Thanks Leanne. Relationships can be transferred, creating a new relationship–but it requires the active engagement and acceptance of every one. I might transfer someone inquiring about our abilities to help them solve product management/marketing problems to Mark, our expert in that. I’ll do that by introducing Mark, via conference call, sometimes-but rarely just email, but always with an explanation, “I’m connecting you with Mark because he is the guy that can best help you with this issue.”

      The assumed/presumed, just because you had a relationship with someone else in our company, I now have the right to have a relationship with you, devalues the relationship. In the case, outlined in the post, we barely had a relationship–it was developing, then it was passed off without my knowledge and engagement. I actually was not concerned about the sales person, he did OK. Where I felt betrayed was the CEO was so cavalier in his approach to developing the relationship.

      Thanks, as always, for your insights.

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