strategic consultant to:  

~ serial CEOs & CTOs in software, Internet, technology & digital media
~ experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices

There are boundaries that we might expect in social behavior, especially in professional networking.But sometimes our bad manners show up, and this must flash us a message to watch our actions.

I was attending a going-away party for a long-term client of mine, as she moved on to other adventures.There were the usual roasts and testimonials, and the team was re-connecting with past employees who had come by.Folks were mildly buzzed and having a good time.

Near the end of the event, as I was leaving, a former employee (who had since become an independent consultant) accosted me, moving aggressively into my personal space, saying,

“How’s your business?You are still working with the same kind of clients as before, aren’t you?”

I backed up a few steps, and said I was, and that the business was going fine.

“Well, you can refer me to your clients, can’t you?” he said, thrusting his card towards me.

I had not been in touch with this person in many years, since he had left the company.I demurred that perhaps my client base was not the best fit for his services.

“Sure they are!I work with that size company too!”

As I stepped back even farther, he recognized that I was not responding, and immediately turned to a former executive from the company, and began the same type of questioning.

I was so offended, I was nearly speechless.Now, maybe he was drunk, as it was the end of the evening (this is no excuse).His interaction was so self-serving, so completely un-interested in me or my business, except as a lead source for him, that I took his card and wrote “blog” on it, to make sure I would write about the good manners of professional networking.

So, here goes.

Before you ask for a favor, spend some time with genuine interest in your source.Find out what they really offer their clients, whether their client base is actually a fit for your services, and how your source would best position you to them.If appropriate, discuss referral fees for those clients that work with you.

Give before you get.Send articles, free passes to conferences, or introductions of interest to your source.

Build a relationship.If you are interested in this colleague, create a continuing presence in his or her professional life.

Networking continues to be a hot topic and subject of groups, online matching sites, and books and articles.But the truth is, you only get valuable referrals from your colleagues

  1. ·who understand your work and its value;
  2. ·who trust you not to embarrass them with their clients and colleagues;
  3. ·who know the criteria of your target prospects profiles;
  4. ·who have a real relationship with you over time.

In light of this, the consultant’s behavior at the party was completely inappropriate on many levels, and left the clear impression that he was desperate for business, and did not know how to behave professionally.Now I will not refer him even if someone asks me directly about his skills.He broke all four of the criteria above.And he did damage to his reputation.

So, tread more professionally, be careful how much you drink, and consider the occasion in which (and the person whom) you solicit for referrals to your business.