There's a line from a Peter Paul and Mary song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? that goes "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?" Well, I want to know, "Where have all the good networkers gone?"
In some instances I've started using Skype video as a first point of contact. The conversation starts out cordial. I usually ask the person to tell me about themselves and their business. It's rare that I'm asked that question first. We have a brief friendly interchange and may even discover something in common.
But then it happens. The SALES PITCH! I watched my own eyes glaze over on the Skype video as the person yammered on about the offer. I learned every component, compartment, and crevice of that product. There didn't seem to be much awareness of my state of ennui. No conversation-just a fast moving monologue like a getaway train.
Can you spell dialogue? Communication is a two way street.
Losing hope that it would finally come to an end, I used my media training skills and made a bridge statement to my business. More often than not, I'll have to use a "pattern interrupt" to bring them back into their bodies. It's as if they get lost in the verbal vomiting and forget that there's another person in the room. During one interchange I asked, "Just out of curiosity, what do you think I do?"
Bad networking pervades every venue. How many networking lunches have you attended where people drone on? The worst example was a guest who stood up and read a three page testimonial. Get me the gong! Here's the truth: less is more. People remember less the longer you speak.
Networking is not about speech-making. It's about building relationships. How can you do that if you only talk about yourself? Knowing I'm not alone in this experience, I asked my friend how she handles networking gone amuck. She confided that she now sets limits in her networking meetings. She tells people that she will meet on the condition that they don't talk about their products and services. She only wants to get to know them.
Networking, like public speaking, is a skill. And skills can be learned. Here are some tips to enhance your networking conversations and presentations:
Prepare. Go to the website and learn about the other person. Learn about their customers and alliances. They could be a source of referrals.
Be Curious. Get to know the other person as an individual and not as a business owner. There is hidden treasure you can mine when you learn about a person's life. Uncovering their interest in golf, could lead to an invitation to play and meet others at a country club.
Give to Give. Come from a place of helping without thinking of yourself. Ask how you can help them. Remember the rule of reciprocity. When you give to someone they will feel obligated to give back.
Less is More. To make your message sticky, explain what you do in a simple sound bite. I recently challenged my readers to give their elevator speech in 7 words or less. I invite you to take the challenge. Remember FDR's quote: "Be sincere, be brief, be seated."
Put in the Time. Nobody is going to refer a person they just met. Building trust takes time. Be willing to invest in relationship building. Stay in touch with phone calls, emails, and cards.
Don't Sell. Frequently, the person you meet is not going to be a direct buyer but their contacts could be a customer for you. The time to sell is when someone is interested in buying.
So where have all the good networkers gone? You'll know them when you see them. I met a couple of good networkers last week. It was a real conversation- full of questions, comments, suggestions, energy, smiles, and real interest.
You won't hit it off with everybody but when you practice these six tips you'll maximize every conversation and build a strong network.