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Monday, May 16, 2011

Networking and Gender – How to Avoid the Traps | BNI

Here is some perspective on business networking with the opposite sex on the eve of Dr. Ivan Misner’s new book, “Business Networking and Sex.” Well, it’s not really quite the eve of his new books’ debut, since it will not be out until 2012, but it’s a hot topic I’ve often heard discussed amongst various networking groups.

The core of networking and really the heart of referral marketing consist of the one-to-one personal meeting which BNI defines as “dance cards.” By contrast, it is not the furious passing out of business cards at your local mixer or chamber event which creates credibility for you and your business; it is the actual personal sit-down, face-to-face interaction you have with your potential referral partner. This is where rapport is created and you learn what drives and motivates the other person. It was recently described in a Los Angeles Times article (Social networking 'success' doesn't extend to offline relationships. that your social and business online relationships do not establish the intimacy and credibility that your personal meetings do. It is much more powerful and meaningful to sit with someone for an hour and discuss each other’s businesses and articulate key concerns and goals than it is to click “like” on someone’s’ profile. The fact is, the face-to-face meeting is not about to be replaced any time soon.

How about networking with the opposite sex? What twists can happen and what are the key considerations when networking with the other gender? Is it the same when networking with your same gender counterpart? A married person and a single person have to measure the obvious potential dangers of networking together. Without careful consideration, you could easily find yourself in an awkward situation which will diminish both your credibility and integrity.

Here are four great guidelines to keep you on a productive course yet safe from the potential pitfalls when networking with the opposite sex.

1) Keep your meeting times early, either during breakfast or lunch time; no after hour connections or a quick glass of wine with the opposite gender. After hour meetings take on a more relaxed tone and can easily drag on longer than intended and you could be sending mixed signals to your potential business partner. All this can be avoided by scheduling yourself earlier in the day and avoiding happy hour.

2) Set your initial meetings for exactly forty-five minutes to an hour; no matter how well it is going, the initial discovery contact should not extend beyond your set time. Let your partner know you have a schedule to keep which will help keep your business meeting focused on the details of each others’ goals. Allowing unlimited time may open the door for your conversation to drift into non-business related topics plus you will not appear to be a busy, dynamic professional. Let your partner know your schedule and stick to it.

3) Watch your filter. Single people; do not let your personal chit chat drift into describing the wild party you attended last week or how many people you are dating. In other words, do not become a distraction or temptation to your partner. Married people; of course, mention your wife and kids but leave out the monotony of your life and complaints about your spouse, save the shoulder-crying for your buddies and do not open yourself up for consoling. The filter is your business persona interjected with some of your personal details which make you human. Share hobbies and interests but do not go beyond that; this will help maintain that emotional boundary and keep you in safe waters.

4) Set the tone. Show how serious you take the other person by doing some background research on them and their company. Have some specific questions ready; this is standard protocol for anyone you network with but particularly important when networking with the opposite sex. Compliment the other person on their capabilities and achievements and avoid the “I love your dress” and “you look so young” type of remarks which moves you quickly off your business agenda. An associate of mine likes to print out the persons’ webpage or LinkedIn profile and use that as a reference to keep his meetings on track and lets the other person know you are a serious networker.

Networking with the opposite sex requires sensitivity and a clear awareness that even though you are both business professionals, being opposite genders poses some potential risks which you should avoid. I have heard stories from both sides on how devastating it can be when one person gives out mixed signals or takes the agenda in the wrong direction. Steer clear of the pitfalls and gain the other persons’ trust and quickly build up your reputation in your local networking community by following to a few simple guidelines.

Lester Salvatierra is an experienced Finance Specialist with First U.S. Finance ( He helps small to mid-size companies lease or finance a wide variety of equipment and special projects for upgrades and expansions. He is also a networking pro and BNI Area Director in Ventura County, CA. Ph: 805-217-9896

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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