Is Your Competitor A Networking Know-It-All?

This question came up on LinkedIn a few weeks ago:

What do you do at a Business Networking meeting when you meet a competitor who seems to know everyone … and you don't…?

I felt compelled to leave this reply:

I tend to use my natural defense mechanism (to be disarmingly charming) to my advantage.

I would befriend this competitor and make him/her my ally. I've had no qualms in the past about saying things such as “It seems like you know everyone here and I don't know a soul. Is there anyone here I should meet? How did you get to know all these people?” etc. Ask questions and figure out how they got to where they are today.

There's no disgrace in admitting a weakness and asking for help.

This may seem counterintuitive, but GIVING a referral is the best way to GET a referral. I'm not saying you must give a referral to your competitor (but don't rule it out). Approach your networking group from the standpoint of “Who can sincerely refer to this person?” Make the referral and follow up. Yeah, it's a little more work, but well worth it. You'll create meaningful relationships and you'll get known in no time flat!

A few days later, I received a message from the woman who asked the question. She thanked me for my “refreshing response,” and said she loved the “really simple, practical ‘woman to woman' solution.”

Since someone else found my advice to be useful, I thought I'd share it with you here and see what you thought of it.

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