Forbes Magazine Interviews BNI’s Founder about Business Networking and Sex
BNI San Diego is fortunate to be near the founder of BNI- Dr. Ivan Misner. With the global headquarters located in Upland, CA, our members will be enjoying the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Misner live and in person when he comes into San Diego to promote his new book: “Business Networking and Sex- It’s Not What You Think.”
Forbes magazine’s Frieda Klotz interviewed BNI’s Founder, Ivan Misner, about how gender affects networking skills and got a wealth of insight into this interesting topic.
“How your gender affects your networking skills”
A friend of mine gives keynote speeches at conferences in a male-dominated industry. She is glamorous, bright and very successful. After each event, she fends off multiple requests for her email address, queries about her opportunities at her company and offers of dinner. The worst part of her job is networking, mostly other people’s attempts at it.
We have all perhaps been on the receiving end of an anxiously-proffered business card and repeated follow-up messages. I certainly also know what it’s like to be in a room with six editors and 140 budding journalists all hoping to talk to them (ie. no fun at all). Whatever your gender, it can be a challenge to network gracefully, but for some reason I had assumed men would be better at it than women — that they might be more assertive and outgoing. My friend’s experiences, and a book coming out next year, suggest that this is not necessarily true.
The authors of Business Networking and Sex (Not What You Think) conducted a survey of 12,000 small-business owners and entrepreneurs across the world, and concluded that women are excellent networkers. I spoke to one of them, Dr. Ivan Misner, to find out exactly why this is.
“Men tended to be very transactional in their networking and women tend to be a bit more relational,” he told me. “Women said it’s better to focus on the relationship. But when it came to the question whether it’s better to focus on business and build the relationship later, men really felt is was better to focus on the business first.” Women show more interest in their person they’re speaking to than in closing a deal, and this approach works: more women than men said that networking had helped their business.
Misner did have some advice for women. “Dress for business at business events.” He said he was shocked by some of the provocative photos people used on their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, and although most women do dress professionally, when they don’t, they fit a stereotype.
For men, Misner’s suggestions were somewhat different.
“Edit what you’re saying using filters, and avoid what’s not appropriate,” he said. Many of the women surveyed complained that men hit on them at networking events. Misner added that men need to learn how to engage women on topics that might interest them — something that women often already do (he gave the example of one woman who reads the sports pages regularly to supply her with small-talk). “Speak to women to relate to them, not to impress them.”
Both genders need to be more systematic about their networks, keeping records and tracking contacts. “Consistently, people who had systems in place did better whether they were men or women.”
This survey dwells on businesspeople and entrepreneurs, and for corporations, where women are notoriously absent from executive positions, the situation may different. But Misner thought the results bode well for women who run their own firms. “Absolutely, positively,” he told me. “Female entrepreneurs should be very pleased reading this book and men should be embarrassed.”
Still, some of my favorite networking advice comes from a man. The British journalist Polly Vernon interviewed Vanity Fair‘s editor Graydon Carter a few back, and asked him how one should navigate New York‘s intimidating publishing circles. Interestingly, his reply also stressed the role of relationships. “Just be nice,” he said. “Things will happen. People think they have to be ambitious. But at a certain age, all you want is to be around nice, decent people. Oh, nice is a cheap word, maybe not quite the right word… Kindness! Generosity! Be that way, you’ll do well in New York.”
Dr. Misner’s networking advice for women:
- Dress for business at business events.
- Put systems in place to track your business.
- Stay in touch and follow up on referrals and friendships made.
Dr. Misner’s networking advice for men:
- Edit what you’re about to say using filters, and avoid what’s not appropriate.
- Stay informed about the best networking practices. Develop systems for tracking contacts.
- Speak to women to relate to them, not to impress them.
Do you have any networking tips or stories to share? Read the story on Forbes and feel free to comment here.