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Mr. Shmooze: Is the Fine Art of Networking and Relationship-Building Dead?

Published: September 21, 2005

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I have been accused of being a shmoozer. I am quite comfortable going up to a stranger at a trade show having a dialogue.

But it is getting harder to work this way.

Today, technology has made it easier to be impersonal.

According to Richard Abraham, the author of Mr. Shmooze: the Art and Science of Selling Through Relationships, Cell phones, E-mail, virtual meetings have made it easier to connect with people, but at the same time made it harder to really build relationships.
I get calls from public relations practitioners daily. Inevitably they read from prepared scripts and I listen, but somehow the one-to-one communications gets automated. It just doesn’t work.

However, when I actually meet one of these people and put a face to the voice, the next time they call the communication is clearer.

I must admit e-mail has made my job a lot easier. In the past, I had to make numerous phone calls and wait for replies to just to finish the time- consuming New Products section. What used to take weeks now takes days. So technology helps as much as it hinders.

Abraham believes that despite people’s efforts to provide better, faster, and more frequent connections, the art of connecting with a colleague in a deeper, more meaningful way is lost.

He says people are not computers! And, I for one, believe him.

Take for example the recent RAM Group bankruptcy. I realize they had many other challenges, but the owner lived in New York, while the man entrusted to run the operation lived in Toronto. Sure they had weekly conference calls, but that was an automated process similar to quarterly sales calls at most corporations.

On the other hand, there is Frank Abate, the CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based reseller Infinity Technologies. It recently merged with On The Go Technologies. It is our cover story this issue. Abate is well-known in the industry because he presses the flesh.
He attends almost all vendor and distributor functions.

And, he is glad to do so.

He credits the face-to-face meetings with the leadership team at On The Go with a successful merger agreement. Abate said the initial talks were about reselling philosophy and he thought that was so refreshing.

Now, I ask you, why would Abate find that refreshing? I believe it is because he actually speaks to a lot of people and knows the difference between small talk and real talk.

Another example is the VAR communities built by Ingram Micro and Tech Data. Ingram’s is called VentureTech and Tech Data’s is Tech Select. Both are groups who meet, collaborate and help each other. If a Vancouver VAR needs help a Toronto or Montreal VAR is there at a moment’s notice.

So networking may be a thing of the past, but it also can be an effective way to differentiate yourself in a competitive environment.

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