“What’s in it for me?” A lesson in how not to network

is it me?

Is it me?

Network: A group or system of interconnected things or people. Oxford English Dictionary


What is it with some people? After a strange encounter with a local vendor today, I was compelled to look up the actual definition of the word network. Trade events are generally more appealing when complementary businesses are involved.

I think of it as having fries with your meal, peanut butter with your chocolate, necklace with a dress, etc. In other words, networking adds pizazz to the party. Without collaboration, business functions can be one-dimensional and drab.

As a customer experience manager, I prefer partnering with local vendors for events. Is there a more effective way (and inexpensive) to mutually benefit businesses? This uncertainty brought me to the next helpful definition brought by businessballs.com

Mutual benefit (or mutual gain) is a common feature in successful networking – and this is a powerful underpinning principle to remember when building and using your own networking methods. It is human nature, and certainly a big factor in successful networking, for an action to produce an equal and opposite reaction. Effort and reward are closely linked.

here’s the story morning glory

One of the fun parts of my career is planning and executing store events. At the time, it seemed reasonable that I would canvass the shopping center looking for possible partners. They could provide coupons or brochures for display, donate for a customer raffle, send a representative to the event, all of the above, some of the above (you get the picture).

It was blustery and frigid outside as I trekked through the parking lot when I walked into the first shop. I explained my purpose to the owner/manager and was eagerly anticipating her reply. When she finally spoke, it was not what I expected to hear. She said, “What’s in it for me?”

Really?? Was I hearing things? What did she think was in it for her? CUSTOMERS!

Just to make sure, I wasn’t taking crazy pills, I said, “excuse me?” She then repeated herself as I gaped in horror. I informed the woman she didn’t have to oblige if it was inconvenient. It was only a thought that through her submitting a coupon/donation/whatever, she may be able to make a business connection through our customer base.

silly me

Why did she believe I was trying to do something to her rather than for her?  Why couldn’t she see the mutual benefit proposed? ROI can easily be tracked by the number of coupons redeemed after the event.

To tell the truth, the wind fizzled out of my sails and I wanted to turn on my heel and escape from this un-savvy businesswoman. As visions of running out the door screaming and pulling my hair out (OK maybe this is a little bit of an over-dramatization) she realized her foible and pulled a small stack of coupons from a drawer.

She handed the precious slips of paper over the counter. There was no need to scream as the wind was shrieking for me. Surely she had no idea what reaction her action caused in me. After the encounter, my mojo was gone and I simply drove home.

lesson learned: I’m still not sure

The lesson that comes to mind is to do business with people who want to work with you. When you find someone who is not interested, keep moving forward. Don’t let the bitter betties get you down. Save it for someone who appreciates you and what you can do for them.





2 thoughts on ““What’s in it for me?” A lesson in how not to network

  1. eof737 says:

    I suspect she’s used to people just grabbing from her that her initial response was that… I would give it another go as she could end up being an ally… Don’t despair. 🙂


  2. Pamela Morse says:

    Some will some won’t so what someone’s waiting. ROI is such a popular concept and is being challenged within organizations, so maybe the fad of figuring ” how much do I win?” has gone too far as a cultural trend. Savvy and selfish are too often used as the same meaning.


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