“Networking” is critical for all of us. Both in developing new professional and business relationships, and socially, just getting to know more and different people. We can learn so much new by networking and developing relationships with others.

Networking has always been a bit of a challenge to me, since I’m naturally a bit shy and introverted. Yeah, I know that may surprise a lot of you, but it’s an unnatural act for me to get out and proactively build relationships. Since it’s so important, I continue to push myself and learn more about how to become more comfortable in networking, and building relationships.

In the “old days,” it was primarily F2F. Professionally, we’d meet people at our customers, at events, trade shows and other professional services events. I remember always trying to find a way to eat lunch at the cafeterias of my customers. It was a great way to meet more people and learn. And then meeting after work for a drink. I loved going to conferences and trade shows. Not only could I learn a lot new, but I could dramatically expand my network. But, being shy, it always was a bit of a struggle walking up to someone and introducing myself (Yeah, in case you are wondering, I had the same struggle with dating. Fortunately, some very kind women took pity on me and introduced themselves. But that’s a Facebook post.)

In the past 20 years, we’ve seen the physical networking being complemented, perhaps even displaced, by the networking platforms. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Clubhouse, and others extend our ability to network and build relationships with people we might not normally meet.

But, because of my shyness, I’m always trying to learn and develop.

So I was intrigued to recently receive a “pitch” from someone on this very topic. Someone reached out to me on LinkedIn, promoting his new networking book, offering me a free chapter and wanting me to promote the book (Ironically, despite my introversion, I’ve built a high quality network where people may be interested in something I promote–though I’m still learning).

As I looked at his pitch, I thought, “Let me see how he has networked with me and built our relationship. Since he is an expert, surely I can learn something from how he was worked with me.” As an aside, regular readers will know that I always look at how I am being sold to, particularly for those selling products or services purported to make me a better seller. I figure they must practice what they preach/sell, so examining how I am sold to is a great way to test their approaches and whether I should learn more.

So I sought to understand how this expert leveraged networking tools to “network” with me. I discovered the following:

  1. He originally reached out to connect with me on LinkedIn, on August 23, 2015. There was no note, just a connection request. But that’s no different than 90% of the invitations I get. I’m wondering, since he is an expert, this must be a best practice. I always send a personalized note to each person I want to connect with, offering a reason about what interests me about them. I suppose this must be a bad practice since this expert didn’t use it. So perhaps I should reconsider these intro notes and just send a connection request.
  2. When I accepted his invitation, I sent a thank you note. That’s always one of my practices. Often, it stimulates a discussion or exchange a this new connection, at least a thumbs up. I didn’t get a response. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but now, in retrospect, perhaps thank you responses are not great networking practices. (See how much I learned over 5 years ago without even knowing it–sometimes it takes time for these lessons to sink in.)
  3. I hadn’t heard anything from this expert in the intervening 5+ years. Never a like, comment, or anything on my posts. Never a message. I’m starting to rethink my networking strategies. I’ve always thought interesting content, comments, discussions, and sharing were important in building relationships. Perhaps I’m wrong.
  4. Yesterday, for the first time since August of 2015, I get a message from this networking expert. It’s quite long, it’s announcing his new book on effective networking for introverts. There’s the bragging about it being a best seller. Then he spends some time bragging about his previous best seller. Then offers me the privilege of getting a free chapter. Everything in the note was about him and getting me to do something for him. He did, in the Postscript, asked how I was doing. Here’s another important lesson I’ve discerned based on how he networks. “Networking is all about us and what we can get others to do for us.” I realized, I’ve been so misguided in my networking. I always viewed networking (physical and virtual) as getting to know people, developing relationships, learning from each other, finding ways to help others, and creating value in the relationship. I hadn’t realized how misguided I was.
  5. I sent a response—it would have been impolite and betrayed the “relationship,” if I hadn’t. I thanked him for the privilege of being able to get a free chapter, but passed. He did send a response thanking me for letting him know. It confused me a little, I guess at some point in networking, we are supposed to make it about 2 way communication.
  6. Finally, this morning, I made a surprising discovery about effective networking. Something I had never realized and have gotten so wrong. This networking expert, and “unfriended me.” We were no longer connected, he had apparently clicked on the “remove connection” link in LinkedIn. This was a stunning discovery for me. I hadn’t realized I had gotten things so wrong. Apparently, when the people you are networking with don’t buy what you are selling, you are supposed to abandon them, discontinue the relationship building. This was a shock. Perhaps this is what I’m getting wrong about building my networks. I’m tempted to write him an InMail (since we are no longer connected, I can’t send him a message), apologizing for all my mistakes in networking, but I’m a little shy.

It’s amazing, I learned so much in studying this networking expert’s networking relationship with me. Things I had all wrong about networking. It’s caused me to think, “What else am I doing wrong?” I’m actually tempted to buy his book–after all he’s the expert–and apparently in my networking experience with him, I’m doing everything wrong. I have learned a lot in our brief relationship, but apparently I have to learn so much more……

For we shy people and introverts, it’s such a struggle to learn how to network effectively. I’m thankful for what I have learned from this expert.

Afterword: For those of you not used to my perverse humor, realize my tongue is planted as deeply in my cheek as possible. I’m also “pretending” to be a little more naive than I really am. It’s stunning to see how “experts” actually execute that in which they claim expertise. I suppose a lesson is, buyer beware.