Hammering home the point about networking

photo by PPDIGITAL 

Have you ever had a situation where you learned something and you thought you knew it – maybe you even passed it along to other people, and then you saw the same idea with a slight variation and it suddenly made a lot more sense?  Where it’s like suddenly getting hit with the Hammer of Clarity (catchy eh?  I just made that up…)

Yeah – me neither…!  😉

Actually that happened to me yesterday when I was reading the excellent eZine / Blog from Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing

Think back to the last networking event you went to – maybe it was a chamber meeting, or just some sort of after hours social event.

Did you happen to run into someone that just started rattling on about their business?  (The odds are pretty good that you did).  Did you start coming up with creative escape plans that involved Batman’s utility belt or a ninja smoke bomb?

The fact is that most people don’t want to be told about your business, at least not up front – they may get interested and want to ask questions, but the dynamic is very different than getting a sales pitch or a lecture.

What do you talk about at a networking event?

The right thing to do – and I’ve certainly mentioned this before, is to talk about the other person, ask questions…be interested.  The whole point of networking is to make a connection and get to a point where you know, like and trust someone and they know, like and trust you.

Which is great, but what do you do when someone asks you straight up:

What is it that you do?

It’s really a dangerous position.  Your immediate instinct is to tell them.  You want to dazzle them with your expertise, you know they would be a great candidate for your business or you’re like everyone else and you instinctively like to talk about yourself.

Don’t do it.

At least not a long winded explanation.  You can’t just blow off the question, but your best bet is to come back with a very brief, 1 sentence summary that gives them an idea but leaves a lot to the imagination.  You should also immediately (part of the same breath) follow-up with a question on their business or what they’ve already told you.

This might shift the focus totally back to them (which is great) or it might lead to them giving you a quick explanation for your question and coming back with – “That’s interesting (about what you do) tell me more about that?”

It’s still not the time to launch into sales pitch number 3 (or numbers 1 or 2 for that matter).  The best answer here is really what I picked up from the Action Plan Blog yesterday.

Robert’s post is about The Antidote to Pushy Marketing and he covers this scenario in the context of showing enthusiasm for what you do.  Here’s a quote that I thought was really telling:

And if they want to know more about how it works, I tell them a story of a client I worked with and the results they got. Again, nothing about me. Stories are great because people can see that if you helped someone else, maybe you can help them as well.

And you know what? When you talk about your business like that, people become interested. They want to know more.

The Hammer of Clarity ™ point for me was to consistently explain what I do in terms of my clients and use stories whenever possible…try not to use the word “I”. 

I know it’s probably not a huge revelation for you, but although I’ve known not to go on about what I do, I didn’t have a great framework for how to make the points once people were expressing interest.  It’s not a natural style and it’s clearly going to take some practice, but it feels like the right way to explain things.  I’m pretty excited to try it out!

So what stories do you tell about your customers?  I’d like to hear what you do…no really!

Shawn Kinkade  www.aspirekc.com