Beware of 'bait and switch' networking
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 www.thereluctantnetworker.com.