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Do men or women make better networkers?

Book Review: He says: New book looks at it from both sides

Business Networking and Sex (not what you think). By Dr. Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker, and Frank J. De Raffele, Jr. Entrepreneur Press, 224 pp. Business Networking and Sex (not what you think). By Dr. Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker, and Frank J. De Raffele, Jr. Entrepreneur Press, 224 pp.

This is one of two reviews of this book: One view from each gender. To read the other, from a woman banker's viewpoint, click here. To read the book editor's introduction to both reviews, click here.

Business networking has its challenges. The book Business Networking and Sex (not what you think), provides insight on the ongoing problem of how men and women relate to each other when networking.
 
The book was written by a team: Ivan Misner, Ph. D.; Hazel M. Walker; and Frank J. De Raffele. Misner is founder and chairman of Business Network International (BNI); Walker is executive director of the Central Indiana Region of BNI and an international speaker; and De Raffele is the founder/president of Entrepreneurial Excellence Worldwide, Inc., and the founder/director of BNI of Hudson Valley.

The book is structured in an unusual way. These experienced networkers comment on a survey of business men and women and their networking practices. Responses to questions from the survey are presented in each chapter. After the survey results come commentaries from both female and male points of view.
 
The book makes for somewhat entertaining reading. But by the time all the survey questions have been answered, a consistent theme is very well established: Men are going for the referral or sale without developing a relationship first and women are working on a relationship but oftentimes fail to ask for a referral or sale.

A key take-away: the VCP Process

One of the most informative discussions for me was the explanation of the VCP Process®. This method emphasizes the process of Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. To summarize:
 
V: "The greater your visibility, the more widely known you'll become."
 
C: The importance of credibility can be illustrated in "actions speak louder than words."
 
P: Profitability is reached if the networking relationship becomes advantageous for both parties. This is a basic understanding of why we should network and why the process can definitely not one-sided if the relationship is to continue.

  Gender and Banking
ABA Banking Journal has covered aspects of gender in banking over the last year in the magazine and on the website:

A banker book review of Selena Rezvani’s The Next Generation of Women Leaders

A roundtable discussion among women community bank leaders [Digital Magazine]

• Coverage of ABA’s Women’s Leadership Forum
 
“Gen Y women hold very different goals and values”
 
“What women bankers say about their leadership styles”
  
“The story of Annie, and the lesson behind it”
 

Perhaps it is my male-colored glasses. But it appears to me that the book is more beneficial to men, if the authors' documentation and opinion of how to successfully network are to be followed. There are many conclusions that encourage men to slow the process down. The authors maintain that we men need to work on developing the relationship before asking for the deal. The need for a thriving, real relationship is seen as a necessity for long-term networking success.
 
Indeed, "Men need to become more adept at building real relationships" is the battle cry as conclusions are reached with many of the topics covered. Examples are provided, and mock conversations are shown as illustrations and studies demonstrating the male inability to stay on one real topic for an extended period are given as various proofs--examples, mock conversations, and studies--are cited to demonstrate proof of the male's inability to form real relationships.
 
There is, of course, advice to women, but it is primarily insight on how the male thinks, to improve the female success at networking. For example: "It is important for women to understand that male communication is all about status."

Overdoing the battle of the sexes, a bit

I had not considered that last point, as a man. But to prove their point, the authors hold up the law of the jungle, as illustrated in virtually any PBS nature show. I had hoped we had sort of moved beyond the goals of male animals, but, if  you go by the authors, apparently not yet.
 
Indeed, throughout most of the book, I remember thinking that with all the blanket conclusions being reached based solely on whether one is male or female, how about some analysis of different styles, ability, or natural ease in networking? Part of the book does deal with one's comfort level in networking. But this comes only after stating the accepted norms of "men are more naturally networkers because of their personal experiences or that women are more natural at it because they are better communicators."
 
In my own experience, there are varying comfort levels that are spread throughout both genders, with no real advantage for either.
 
Now, given the book's premise, there will be by definition some "he says/she says" in it. All the usual banter between the male and female authors provides a light-hearted summary of the information being relayed. There are excellent points to learn in this book, but at times the ongoing teasing becomes somewhat old. I found myself eventually looking for a learning point, in place of a punch line.
 
Many of the male-female conversations take the battle of the sexes back to the stone age with men hunting and gathering and women doing their relational best to raise the primitive family and establish community.
 
Okay, fair enough. But after a few chapters, the hunting and gathering analogy gets old. I found myself saying, "Okay, I got it! Please tell me more about how to improve."
 
The worst of male-female stereotypes are also illustrated--the worst of both genders' behaviors. Fortunately, these less-than-desirable traits are shown as the exception more than the rule: The usual preconceived conclusion are that all men are looking for a date, in place of business referrals, and all women are using their feminine characteristics to attract a male for attention and referral success. I was very glad to see these exceptions clearly declared as exceptions.

Go thou and get networking

From the survey results it appears that women spend less time networking but are more successful when they do it. Also anyone networking with a system to track referrals and the business which came from those referrals are more successful than those who have no system. These points as well as others throughout the 224 pages of the book will be of interest to the reader.
 
Being a male and wanting only the facts (as the book maintains), I especially enjoyed the final chapter, Chapter 9, "Your best networking self."
 
This clearly summarized how to successfully network, boiling things down to essentials, complete with lists of to do's for both genders. Those bullet points separated into male and female columns were a thrill to behold as very few words were wasted.
 
Having read the book for this review, I think I probably need to read the book again to improve my relationship building skills. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

If you'd like to review books for our online book column, or have recently read a book that you found helpful that we haven't already reviewed, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Will Taylor

William Taylor is senior vice-president and senior trust officer at Soy Capital Bank & Trust Company, Decatur, Ill. He is a frequent book reviewer for ABABJ.com

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