How to be a Business Networking Guru: Lessons Learned from the Cadre Community

A few weeks ago, at the end of September, I had tickets to a Baltimore Ravens game, and I decided to join forces with the other purple-clad fans and go to the M&T Bank Stadium to support my local team – even though it meant missing out on another great social activity: Cadre’s Event of Business Awesome. If you’re not familiar with the company, Cadre is dedicated to forging synergistic relationships between successful professionals to promote the networking of great ideas and skills.

Though I had fun cheering on the players that evening, I was also a little disappointed to be missing out on what was clearly going to be a stellar event – that is, until I read about a networking no-no that happened at the affair. Cadre’s founder, Derek Coburn, wrote about it in his blog post, “You want to push your services at my networking event? I don’t think so!”  I encourage you to read about it there, but here’s the recap: a non-Cadre member named Ajay Sagar attended the Event of Business Awesome, and his behavior was, as Derek writes, incredibly un-awesome. After getting a hold of the email addresses of all the attendees, he sent out a generic message in efforts to promote his own software.

The problem is, his approach here seems inauthentic: he wasn’t trying to do what Cadre encourages, which is to foster genuine opportunities for business professionals that make sense and unfold somewhat organically. Sagar was doing one thing and one thing only: pushing his own agenda. Though I’m sure he meant no harm, his attempts at self-promotion caused a cascade of negative events:

1)    He attended an event, probably at the invitation of a member, only to make him or her look bad because his networking did not align with Cadre’s mission to encourage genuine relationship building, trust, and advocacy.

2)    Although he did his research and found contact information – which is a good thing – he used the email addresses he found to send a canned message in which he claimed to have met everyone, and subsequently put them on a mailing list they didn’t voluntarily subscribe to!

3)    In so doing, he created a stir: people started talking about him, his company, his services, and of course, his tactics – and not in a positive light.

4)    Because Derek Coburn wanted to speak out on the issue after receiving numerous complaints from members, Sagar got his name and company published for all to see online – but not in a good way.

5)    Finally, since his actions were deemed unacceptable and counterintuitive to Cadre’s purposes, he was banned from a great organization that could’ve actually helped to create sales and business opportunities for him had he altered his approach a bit.

Were all those consequences worth pumping up his email list a little? I’m going to have to say no; my guess is his phone isn’t ringing.

How could he have better established himself as a valuable member of the Cadre community? My advice would be to follow up with the people he actually met, rather than claiming to have made contact with everyone at the event, which clearly would’ve been impossible. From there, he could open up conversations with people about how he could help them, either via his own service or through other people he knew that could be of value.

This would’ve put him on the path to becoming a valued member of the Cadre community, putting him and his company in high standing with other members. In turn, this would naturally create business opportunities for him while simultaneously demonstrating his ability to be a valuable resource for introducing amazing individuals to his contacts.

The bottom line? Be an advocate for others, learn to give, and do it for the right reasons – unselfishly – and you will be amazed at what sort of opportunities come back to you. I’m sure of it.

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Relationships build long term business, while transactions are just about the present. Today’s buyers are looking for someone they can trust, someone who delivers.  If you sell for the transaction your customer is treated like a commodity. So you must build the relationship first, then make the sale. This shows your customer respect and will have them coming back to you the next time they have a need.

Remember, a single sale is nice, but steady business is the key to long-term success. So engage with your potential client and dig deeper. Get to know your client, his/her company, and company’s needs.

Respect is at the heart of building business relationships. As one article put it, respect is the “glue that holds together the functioning of teams, partnerships and managing relationships.”

Too often, salespeople go into meetings and focus on their product, throwing information and sales figures at their potential client. But, in the end, clients buy relationships, not products. This means that it’s less about your product and a whole lot more about how you connect and engage with your client.

In the end, no matter how objective your potential client may be, when it comes to choosing a supplier or business partner, most people prefer someone they know.

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