Getting Across The Great Gender Divide In Business Networking

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There have been a lot of books written about business networking and referral marketing. I’ve written quite a few of these myself. There have also been a lot of books written about the difference between men and women. However, it dawned on me that no one had ever made the effort to combine the two subjects. With that realization, a new book project was born.

Over a four-year period, more than 12,000 businesspeople participated in a study focused on 25 simple questions. After analyzing the results of the survey, I was ready to speak about the results from an expert perspective in the book. I gathered together two of my fellow networking experts: Frank DeRaffele, to write from the male perspective; and Hazel Walker, to write from the female perspective. Our combined knowledge and experience came together to bring a unique perspective to this innovative book. 

In a desire to understand the communication roadblocks that occur between women and men in the networking process, the three of us focused on combining our personal networking experiences with the data and interpreting its greater meaning for readers. 

One thing we explored in depth was the following basic question: Are men and women really so different…or do we have a tendency to just focus on what makes us different instead of how we are similar? 

Coming to an answer that we could all agree with turned out to be the single most important concept in the book! 

As it turns out, men and women are alike in many ways—they just seem to get to the same place using different roads. If men and woman could just understand some basic fundamental points, then they can most certainly be more successful when networking and referring the opposite sex.

It’s interesting that our study revealed two very distinct facts, seemingly at odds with one another. The first is that both men and women want to get business from networking and are willing to work hard to get it. The second is that they seem to make things so difficult for themselves by only networking in the style their own gender prefers and understands. 

This is as counterproductive as a relationship between a man and a woman based either on only what the man wants, or only what the woman wants. If they both want to stay married, they quickly figure out what it takes to make the other person happy and do it. 

A lot of men need to get the point where they: 1. No longer offend women, or 2. Are no longer misunderstood by them. Until this happens, they will continue to miss out on their potential to do business with women. (The fact that almost half of the world's population is female should provide great motivation for men to solve this problem!)

On the other hand, though guys may act boorish and offensive at times, most women need realize that, in fact, they play a bit part that enables men to continue that behavior, without even realizing it. They play the part every time they have been offended by an off-color comment, yet said nothing and just sulked away. They do it when they have been ignored, discounted, or rudely referred to…but instead of speaking their mind, just pouted and vowed never to give the guy any business. They also do it every time they have ever worn a sexy outfit to a business function and then felt offended that no one was taking them seriously, or worse yet, asking them out on dates rather than listening to their business ideas. 

Because both men and women make important, money-related decisions based on their assessments of facial expressions, gestures, tone, manners, and even smell, the face-to-face networking process is an opportunity for each gender to learn how to please the other. To grow as a business culture, they must keep up with gender-specific communication styles and preferences. This means adapting to expected behavior—much like when traveling in a foreign land and observing its customs to make for a smooth vacation (not to mention to avoid landing in jail).

Not only does networking play a major role in growing a powerful business, but it also paves the way for a happy and secure life. Surely, anyone can see the benefits of having a pool of amiable friends and associates ready to look out for them and send good things their way. 

Because of this, it is important for anyone working in the business world to understand both the similarities and differences between the networking styles of men and women. At the end of the day, we all want the same outcome; we just have different ways of getting there.

Here are some tips to start you on your way to career-long success in networking with the opposite sex:

For women:

 

  • When asking for help, communicate clearly exactly what it is that you want.
  • When speaking to men, try to impress them and share your accomplishments.
  • When spoken to inappropriately, speak up about it immediately.
  • Convey an image to others that you are a serious businessperson, in all that you do.

 

For men:

 

  • Slow down and build the relationship.
  • Don’t assume women don’t take their businesses seriously.
  • Edit what you are about to say, using filters to sift out what is not business appropriate.
  • Remember that women are at networking events for business gain, just as you are.

What ways have you found that work to communicate more effectively when networking? 

 

Dr. Ivan Misner is a member of America’s PremierExperts® and the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. BNI was founded in 1985. The organization has almost 6,200 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.9 million referrals resulting in $3.1 billion dollars worth of business for its members. Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book can be viewed at www.BusinessNetworkingandSex.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.

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[Image: Flickr user Dave Linabury]

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