Under the heading of “No Duh!” file away this factoid: men and women are different.
The way we interact in professional networking settings can make a huge difference to our bottom line. What works to impress men might be a turn-off to women. A book I read recently shed light on some interesting ideas I think worth sharing so you guys don’t mess up your networking potential.
According to the research done by BNI founder and Entrepreneur magazine contributor Dr. Ivan Misner and his associates and subsequently reported in his book Networking and Sex, there are a few things that men tend to do pretty consistently that hurt their chances of getting referrals from their female networking colleagues.
First, men tend to try to make networking relationships profitable prematurely. People have to know you, then they have to like you, and then they have to trust you…and THEN you can monetize those relationships. Where women often make the mistake of building the relationship and then FAILING to monetize it, men are far more likely to skip over the “like” and “trust” parts of relationship building, going in for the networking “kill” far too early by asking for business or for referrals or favors before the other person is ready.
So what? Men, be careful not to skip the relationship-building phase of networking, especially with your female counterparts. It’s a huge professional turn-off to them, and once you get the reputation for being pushy, it’s very difficult to start over and get them to like and trust you. So go slowly and be patient for the profitability part of the interaction.
Second, women are much more likely than men to want to use your service before they refer you to others. They’re not as likely to believe you’re as good as you say until they have experienced your professional expertise themselves.
So what? See if you can either give them a sampling of your services in the form of a consultation or a free service so they can experience you themselves. If this isn’t possible, then make sure you have powerful testimonials from women about working with you, and if possible, get them from women who have wide spheres of influence so that your female networking colleagues may be persuaded by the testimonials of women they already know, like, and trust.
Third, you really need to be careful about bragging. Men trust men who tell stories about how awesome and successful they are. For men, this is usually enough to move into the profitability phase of a networking relationship. “I know John, he seems like a good guy, and he says he saves his clients lots of money. I can refer to him.” For women, hearing you brag about how great you are at business is a huge turn-off. Women are more likely to think of you as arrogant and pompous if you brag a lot about your professional successes.
So what? With women, build the relationship slowly and SHOW THEM how you serve your clients, don’t just TELL THEM. Use real world examples of problems you solved and how you did so. Focus on the relationship side of your success stories as well. Women refer to men they trust, and they need to think you’re a good person—not just good at your profession—before they send a valuable relationship to you.
By the way, just because a woman doesn’t brag about her professional accomplishments doesn’t mean she isn’t competent or even totally kick-ass. Society has taught women that it’s impolite and unladylike to brag, so if you wonder if you can trust one of your referrals to a woman you know, ask her to go ahead and cut loose and tell you how awesome she is. You wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to send business her way just because she’s being polite!