Not every introduction turns into a stream of profitable new clients yet it’s great when they do. Sometimes, things go wrong and the “connector” might get caught in the crossfire. This post highlights a real life business networking example, includes guidance on how to avoid the ricochets plus a top tip to help you recover if it ever happens to you.
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Why do some networkers fail to build profitable relationships?
One obvious reason is personality clashes yet it’s often a small detail that leads to the initial argument. In this case a project manager required the services of a specialist in order for him to complete a large contract he had been awarded. The expert that he usually relied on had taken an unexpected holiday and he thought I might know someone who could help. Sure enough, this particular skill is in a supposedly competitive market yet it wasn’t too difficult to figure out who exactly who could deliver.
The introduction was made yet two weeks later cracks started to appear in this fledgling relationship. There had been a difference of opinion regarding work that had already been undertaken. When one party thought they had completed the work they were asked to return and finish it. Then an invoice for the “extra” work was produced. A discussion that should have started days earlier ensued. The discussion should have started when the first glitch occurred. Regrettably, it didn’t.
Where can you find a networking “tin-hat”?
When someone starts to ask “how well do you know Mrs X?” my complaint radar starts spinning. I’m never panicked or fearful that my reputation is on the line because of the way I make introductions. Yet I know that people often are. I have met people that are overly concerned about what could go wrong. This may be because they have not worked out how to manage the risk. This paralysis means they rarely connect people and build relatively few mutually beneficial relationships whilst their competition clean up.
I recommend the “Switzerland position” which is entirely neutral and it is a position you can take with one simple sentence shared with both parties. Yet it must be said with a smile on your face or a smiley in your message. Are you ready for a bit of Swiss?
“I’m introducing you because I think you can help each other and, as you’re both adults (pause and smile), you’ll probably be able to work out if you can help each other, or not”. You can always refer back to this if the muck starts flying.
What can you do if hostilities commence?
In this example I knew both parties and understood the work that they did. I thought they would work well together and even help each other win contracts in the future. Yet a failure to communicate clearly meant a rift ensued. The first I heard was when one party asked me the “how well” question. If you are ever asked I recommend that pause for thought before you answer honestly and go on to ask if there was any particular reason they needed to know. This gives them the opportunity to make it clear what the real reason for the question is.
Once I understood the details of the issue I apologised – not for the mistake of someone else, I was sorry that it had turned out badly. I then asked if there was any way I could help. My offer was declined, I was just being “warned” about the poor service that had been provided. Within hours I had received a message from the other party who provided a bit more detail – it was two sides of the same coin. I apologised, asked if I could help and the reply confirmed I was just being “warned” about the poor service that had been provided. The irony.
Wrap up: I will find out how this concluded in a week or so and make a judgement as to whether or not I feel comfortable introducing none, both or either of the warring factions. It hinges on their ability to resolve the situation amicably without further muck racking. Feedback is essential when these things happen.
Top Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable making an introduction don’t do it. Trust your instinct. Yet make sure it is your instinct that you listen to rather than an irrational fear of being held culpable for something that is entirely beyond your control. If war ensues and you cannot help either party remember Switzerland and let them know that “you wish you could help yet you’re not in the position to make a difference”.
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