networking… the dark side

April 1, 2019

Formal networking clubs like BNI and many similar [ones] started up at the turn of this century. Before that, networking did not need formal arenas; we just ‘did it’.

In the last 15 years or so, I feel the word has created negative connotations and nuances simply because most professions do not seem to understand what it is. Well, here goes… it is simply communicating. You do not go networking one day and not the next; we do it all the time. It is just building relationships, either new ones or reinforcing existing ones. People are afraid to attend any form of gathering because of the three basic fears we have when meeting new people.

  • rejection
  • failure
  • the unknown

Before I help to destroy those fears, let me suggest that every meaningful relationship we have ever built is created through three key steps

  • getting to know the person
  • creating some rapport, commonality, or affinity; in other words, you get people to like you
  • building trust through reliability

Accountants are not known for being outgoing or extrovert so they assume they will be ineffective networking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

what do effective networkers do?

  • they turn up (know)
  • they approach people and groups rather than waiting against the wall (know)
  • they are polite, courteous, and respectful (like)
  • they ask good questions mixing small talk with business talk (know and like)
  • they listen carefully and show genuine interest (like)
  • if they spot an opportunity, then they ask permission to follow up (know and trust)
  • they make the promised call to further the
    relationship (trust)
  • they attend a meeting after the event to build on the first meeting (know, like, trust)

misunderstandings, misconceptions, and errors professionals can make

01           They think it is selling. It is not; the only thing we sell at any event is ourselves. When people like you and they have the need for accounting services you are well in the frame.

02           I repeat—do not think sell, think help. In the eyes of your clients, you get paid for one thing—namely helping solve a problem they cannot. If they could do their own accounts and tax, then they would not need you.

03           BIG change of mindset. Do not ever think this is a selling opportunity but ‘this person hasn’t got an accountant, or, this person isn’t happy with their accountant’ opportunity so I ought to meet up after the event.

04           People do not show enough interest in the other person. Just ask good searching questions; if they like you, then they tell you everything you need to know. Never discuss the relationship with their existing accountant until you feel comfortable they are happy to share their business details.

05           You do not follow up because of fear of rejection. Do not take it personally if they say no to a meeting. They are not rejecting you, just the offer of your help.

overcoming your fears


I have presented to 94,000+ people since I left accountancy (I keep a record!) and I know most people have a number of fears all collected under this heading. But when I ask, “Aren’t most people nice at events?”, everyone says, “yes, they are.” There is a tiny minority of bad-mannered and impolite people—just avoid them. Walk in thinking you are a polite and a fine person and the vast majority are too.


You think you will fail when you do not know the answer or people talk industry jargon and you do not understand. Or if you are quite new or young, you will just feel out of your depths. Do not worry; TED is here to help you!

When you do not know, do not be clever and try and bluff or pretend. Ask TED,

T ell me what you mean by…

E xplain to me ……

D escribe how…….

The issue here is when you are in your office giving advice, you are in total control; here, it is not so easy… so just ask TED!


Walking into that room, often knowing no one is daunting. I hate walking into a room full of strangers, so always avoid it. I simply plan my diary to get there early.

Every room you have ever been in and will go into for the rest of your life is always formatted in the same way. There can never be more than six types of groups, three of which are generally welcoming, three of them, when you see their body language, are not quite so. Look out for the person standing alone, couples, and trios standing in open format. They want you to approach. Groups of 2, 3, and 4+ facing inwards are saying, ‘just at this moment don’t come in please, we’re comfortable’. Look next time and this helps you overcome the fear of the unknown.


Images courtesy: Business Networking: The Survival Guide.