It's All About You... Or NOT!!
It’s a common misconception that networking is all about ourselves. We try to use the initial meeting as a chance to advertise our business or service as quickly as possible. While self-promotion is certainly the end result of networking, it should never be the goal of the initial meeting. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when first meeting a potential contact.
1. Save the Elevator Speech
We all should have an elevator speech at the ready for when we need to summarize our business in less than 3 minutes. However, the first time you meet a potential networking contact is NOT the time for it. I try to keep my intro to about 30 seconds. I basically give a brief summary of what I do, then immediately delve into information about the other person. If you want to flatter someone and build rapport, SHOW INTEREST. Asking questions and listening intently will leave a much longer lasting impression than anything you could possibly say about yourself.
2. Find Common Ground
Unless you are the most boring person on the planet, you can find something in common with anyone! Identifying a mutual business interest can be a valuable asset in the networking process. Sometimes the connection is obvious, say a REALTOR meeting a loan officer. They have the same target clientele, home buyers. However, the real skill comes in finding a link in the obscure. I recently met with a young financial planner/insurance agent who had cold-called me after finding my card at a real estate office. Although I have more insurance than I need and have my money in good hands, I agreed to meet with him. We talked for over an hour about how he builds his business and ways to make it more efficient. While our businesses rarely overlap, we were able to find common ground in the general world of sales. I have no doubt that in time; I will be able to introduce him to potential business channels, which will eventually build my network.
3. Ask What YOU Can Do for THEM!
There is a question I like to ask that tends to take people by surprise: “What can I do to help build your business?” I have several variations on the wording, but the principle is the same. By asking that question, you immediately take the focus off of yourself and put it on them. The real game changer is when you can eventually find a way to make good on whatever they tell you. You’ll have created an instant raving fan. In the meantime, simply asking the question goes a long way to building rapport.
4. Show That You Are a Value Creator
I love to keep little tidbits of information stored away for just this purpose. I am a veritable treasure trove of useless factoids and a GREAT partner to have in a trivia game! When talking with a new or even existing contact, try to have a nugget of interesting data or helpful business practice to share. It doesn’t always have to be accurate to be helpful. After all, 89% of all statistics are made up on the spot (I just made that up, but it sounds convincing right?). Here’s an example:
Imagine you are talking with a top producing sales person. They have just told you that they work 15 hours a day and are going crazy. You could say something like, “I read somewhere that 58% of top producers use the services of a virtual assistant for menial tasks like data entry. Have you ever considered something like that?” The actual percentage is not important. The crucial part is that you have acknowledged their problem and offered a helpful solution. To be even MORE helpful, have a name of a VA service close at hand, in case they ask for a referral.
Using that tactic will not only show that you are listening and care about their problem. It also shows that you are a valuable resource. You want to set yourself up to be the “go-to” person for your closest contacts. They will show their appreciation when they brag about you to others.
These are just a few ways you can effectively build rapport with a new contact and gain a coveted spot in the memory. Top salespeople meet potentially hundreds of contacts a week. We have to find ways to stand out among the endless parade of faces and countless business cards that are passed back and forth. By directing the attention away from yourself, you create a distinction that will promote you better than you could ever promote yourself!