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Posted on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

Beware of 'bait and switch' networking

By Greg Peters


I wish we had the same thing for "networking traps"

Photo by Cory Doctorow

I've been caught by this on more than one occasion, so I'm going to put out a warning to anyone who is just starting out in their networking practice. Please, be aware of the bait-and-switchers. These are the folks who give networking a bad name, because they invite their victims to an event or to a one-to-one meeting with the goal of wrestling them to the ground in order to sell to them.

I had one gentleman invite Lisa and me out to breakfast "to get to know you better." When we arrived he had a multi-page questionnaire he took us through which included detailed questions about our current financial state. I guess technically he didn't lie. He certainly wanted to get to know us better! It turns out he was trying to get us to sign up to have him be our financial planner. Really? And you think we're going to trust you with our money on a first meeting?

I don't think so.

Then there was the guy who invited me out to lunch -- again, ostensibly for the purpose of seeing how we could network together. When I got there, though, he tried to put the hard-sell on me to join his multi-level marketing downline. He even tried the old line: "This would be your business. Why would you have to consult with your wife before you can make a decision?"

Do people still respond to that kind of manipulation?

An acquaintance of mine told me of a time that she attended what was billed as a "monthly networking event" which included a specific agenda on various networking activities designed to "see how we can help each other." When she arrived, that agenda flew out the window as the host turned the event into an opportunity to sell his line of self-help videos. Needless to say, she didn't stick around for the rest of the session.

This is the Dark Side of networking. This is where duplicitous shills cast their net in hopes of snagging fresh meat to throw into the grinder. They don't care how many people they irritate and annoy, nor how much of other peoples' time they waste. If they can keep signing up even one person out of hundreds, it's all worth their while.

I'm not sure what we can do to combat this blight. Perhaps with those who err from inexperience, it's our opportunity to help educate them. We can help them to see that establishing a relationship is more valuable than a single unwilling sale. Maybe we can help them to understand that an advocate in their corner can bring them far more business than they can on their own.

If, however, they are doing what they are doing with full knowledge of the deceit they are practicing, get the word out. Let folks know that they are walking into a bad situation. Don't shy away because you fear you will lose the good will of the bait-and-switcher. A relationship with them simply isn't worth the trouble.

Am I wrong?

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to


Christopher LeClair

Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

I absolutely LOVE the comment below mine. Absolutely hilarious...yet true.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 3:10 p.m.

So does he have to pay for the free advertising? If not, then I have a couple of businesses I would like to plug under the auspices of being a contributor? This looks like those 'blogs' people write to get links and increase their page ranks. Might as well just do paid sponsorships. Then you guys could hire some editors to catch all the spelling mistakes always has.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

Way back in the day, the economic philosopher Adam Smith, also an astute observer of business networking behavior, made the following assessment: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." Granted, Smith was describing independent business people involved in the same line of work. Still, business networking, both within and between trades, and whether informal or organized, exists to help facilitate the exchange of money. Even when it entails no direct commercial activity, sharks are out there and caveat emptor still applies. Hence the relevance of the comment above about showing a long-term patience when building relationships in pursuit of mutual benefit. There are few instant solutions.

Brian Bundesen

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

I find it difficult to imagine that this approach has much, if any level of success in this day and age, where a potential networking group member can easily research the networking group he is considering joining to find comments on the group from other members. On the one hand, there is a fine line between informing your potential networking partner about your business, and giving that potential partner the 'hard-sell.' I believe that there is a high level of mis-information about what a professional networking group is or is not. This is especially true in the case of those offering Business Opportunities, or MLM's, where people are usually trained to treat EVERYONE as a prospect. Successful networking is based on relationship building. It is unfortunate that many folks simplydon't get that, or don't have the patience to work it the proper way. If you approach networking as nothing more than trying to sell the members of the networking group, you will be quickly disappointed.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:10 p.m.

I sometimes have a feeling of incredulity about other people wanting to decide what is newsworthy, or what I might be interested in reading. Just like with a traditional newspaper, it's pretty safe to say everyone is not interested in everything. I don't write to the editors and ask them why they publish things that don't interest me. I just skip over them and read the sections/stories that interest me. I might be (and am) interested in Networking. I might (and would) be interested in a story (or blog) about Word Etymology or Making Balsamic Vinegar. Other people might not be. I pick what I want. You pick what you want. It's not easy to please everyone. In fact it's impossible. A greater number of choices results in a higher likelihood of pleasing a greater number of people. If someone doesn't like something they should just not read it. The readers will decide for themselves. Writers/Bloggers that get read will likely be allowed to keep posting. Those who don't attract readers will probably fall by the wayside. Somebody, somewhere, is interested in every single thing that appears on every single day.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

I always read these with a slight feeling of incredulity that this is even a topic.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

Perhaps he has a luncheon where you can learn more about it?


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

Sort of like presenting this as a news story when it's really an ad for the author's business?