Don’t let the Clinton effect ruin your networking

I woke this morning with an urge to write a blog about networking, and it may seem a bit contrived to shoehorn the US election in to the content, but it’s more than simply a chance to jump on the trending bandwagon. If one thing has been made clear over the last few months it’s the adage of “know, like and trust” on which all networking is founded.

Clinton lost this campaign on the grounds that while people do know her, thanks to her long association with American politics, they also know they don’t like her and they sure as Hell don’t trust her.

That constant recital of her curriculum vitae – the focus on her experience as First Lady, her time as a US Senator for New York and then of course the fact she was Secretary of State – did nothing to drag the voters to her door. Yes, she has a wealth of experience, and undoubtedly she is the most qualified Presidential candidate to ever run, but the events of last night have shown that means nothing when people don’t like or trust you.

I could waffle on for paragraphs about why Clinton lost, it doesn’t matter. She did and the world moves on. Besides, this is not a blog about the US Election. It’s about networking, remember?

It’s almost two years to the day since I attended my first breakfast networking group. I loved it immediately, and joined as soon as possible. I am still a member now of that particular group, although attendance can be a little hit and miss depending on what Eric is up to with his sleep patterns. That said, for having a nine week old baby, I don’t think I’m doing too badly.

But I digress.

Since then I have joined other groups, and see networking as the primary part of my marketing efforts (blogging and Twitter aside). This is because, for me anyway, it works. People get to know me, they see my passion for what I do, they realise I do actually know what I’m talking about (post a cup of coffee, anyway) and that I’m a decent human being. I’m not perfect, but they know I am never going to screw them over, or put them in a difficult position.  They know I can be relied upon and, whether they always like it or not, they will never get anything but the absolute truth from me.

Networking allows people to get to know me, and looking at the results, they end up liking and trusting me. Which is great, as that’s kind of the point.

Admittedly business isn’t about making friends. This isn’t about me trying to find a circle of people I can go have a drink with (though, it’s amazing how many of them do like to go out for the occasional glass of prosecco). It is purely about business – but you have to be a decent human being underneath it all.

I have, on countless occasions, stopped working with someone because I couldn’t trust them. There are people I know now that I cannot recommend because I do not trust them. The reason for that loss of trust may have nothing to do with their business, it may be a purely personal issue, but that is the point – personality and personal history comes in to it. If you are sleazy, underhand, conniving, manipulative, a cheat or a bully then people are going to struggle to recommend you to anyone.

The simple truth is that every referral we pass is a reflection on us. You may well know the best builder in the world, but if he is rude to customers, or has a tendency to trample mud all through someone’s house, then the chances are you’re going to recommend the second best builder. The person you are referring to will ultimately thank you for saving them from a bad experience.

While we may question what the American voters were thinking, it is important to remember that in a situation where you find yourself unable to like or trust one of the candidates, you have to opt for the other one if you want to exercise your democratic right.

When it comes to business, don’t make your potential customers vote for the other guy purely because you’re unlikable or untrustworthy.