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Posted: January 05, 2009

Network without being pushy

Be seen as a valuable contact — not a pest

Cindy Rold

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from being good at following up with people to being too pushy and turning people off?

A client I’ll call Sara is a former vice president for a multi-national corporation and is looking for a job. A key strategy in her job search is networking. Yet she struggles with how often to call people. She’s worried that if she calls someone more than once, she will come across as pushy.

Joseph, a realtor client of mine, sincerely wants to meet new people and expand his network of friends. He also wants to find people who are interested in buying or selling real estate. He’s so concerned people will think he only wants to know them so he can do business with them that it stops him from reaching out in the first place.

This fear of being seen as pushy is common among the people I coach, regardless of their occupation or their position. They want to connect with others, yet they fear their overtures will be misunderstood.

If you have similar concerns about being pushy, what can you do?

Establish a genuine relationship. If you have a genuine relationship with someone, you’re less likely to feel like you’re being pushy when you contact him. The person you’re calling or e-mailing will know that even if you’re asking for something, you care about him and he will respond in kind. You also won’t fret as much if you have to call this person five times before he calls you back, because you’ll feel more confident that he isn’t avoiding you but is just busy.

Stay in touch even when you don’t want something. This is closely related to the first point. When you have a genuine relationship with someone, you stay in touch regularly, not just when you want something. If you only call someone to ask for favors, she might stop taking your calls. She is also more likely to think you’re pushy than if you sometimes call her to say hi, to inquire about her, or to tell her about something you think she would like to know.

Assess what you have to offer and then give something of value. What can you give the person you’re talking to — a referral, some advice, a piece of information — these are all possibilities. It’s not a tit-for-tat ("If you grant my request, I’ll do something for you") but a genuine recognition that the other person has needs and then finding a way to meet those needs.

Get clear on why you are approaching people. If you want to do business with a person, but you ignore that and pretend you want to be friends, she will most likely pick up on that discrepancy and not a relationship of any kind. It’s okay to approach people for multiple reasons at the same time. Just don’t pretend to be doing one thing when you’re really doing another.

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Be sensitive to other people’s reactions. Pay attention to the reaction you get when you ask for something. If the person seems uneasy or hesitant, ask questions to discover what’s causing his response. Perhaps he’s uncomfortable meeting your request. Perhaps he is having problems at work or home. Perhaps you just caught him at a bad time. Be curious and open to discover the real issue. This allows you to deepen your relationship even more.

Don’t be attached to the outcome. If you ask for something and hear no, choose to believe that you can find another way to meet your needs. Your success or failure is not dependent upon one person and what he or she does or doesn’t do for you.

Make requests, not demands. Ask people if they can meet your request. Don’t demand that they meet it.

Be willing to hear no. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. That doesn’t mean that if you do ask, the answer will automatically be yes. It means you have made a request and the person has a choice about how to answer. It’s okay for him to say yes or no. Perhaps he’s too busy, perhaps he’s not comfortable referring you, perhaps he doesn’t need your services.

Be appreciative. Express appreciation even if the person tells you no. Let people know that you appreciate their taking the time to talk to you. Be grateful for anything they do for you.

Follow up. Let the person know what happened. Did you have an interview with his best friend? Did his referral lead you to a deal? You forward the relationship when you let people know what occurred as a result of what they did for you.

Ultimately, the key to being seen as a valuable person, not a pest, is to treat others as you would like them to treat you. Employing this golden rule will make sure your calls and e-mails will always be welcome.

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Cindy Rold, JD, is a success coach, professional speaker, and co-author of 99 Networking Nuggets and The Networking Gurus News, a comprehensive monthly list of business networking events in the Denver metro area. She can be reached at 303-734-9776 or cindy@cindyrold.com. Visit her website at http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

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