You go to a networking event hoping to meet clients and great referral sources. And then that obnoxious person attaches himself to you like Velcro. You know who I mean … he goes on and on and on, ad nauseam, about himself, his business, his perfect client. And, because he’s been raised in a cave by wolves, he has no social sense and never, ever, not even once, asks anything about you or even takes a breath to give you a chance to talk. You’re so exhausted when he’s finally found another victim, you run to the exit to escape in case there’s another one of those people lurking in wait for you. Please tell me you’re not that person.
Lots of people get nervous when they’re uncomfortable. They often either become a motor-mouth like the guy above, or their mouths stay shut tighter than a clamshell. If you’re going to be successful at networking and business development, you have to get over your nervousness and find a way to get people to like you. People only buy things (products or services) from someone they like and respect.
So what’s the secret?
Great business developers, salespeople, and networkers are other focused. They’re honestly interested in other people. They’re great listeners but also skilled enough to subtly direct the conversation. To some people, this comes naturally but most of us have to practice to develop these skills. Here’s how you do it:
ASK Develop several opening lines to get a conversation started. Start by always using their name first (we all wear name tags, right?) when introducing yourself – “Hi, Bob. I’m Laurie Glover.” Then find something simple and comfortable to say that’s easy to remember. Some of my favorites are:
- “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
- “So, what are you passionate about?”
- “”What an interesting company name. How did your organization come up with that?”
- “What are you an expert in?”
LISTEN Be actively engaged in listening to the other person. Here are some keys:
- Look at them, not around the room to see who else is there or at your phone. Make them feel important.
- Use words and phrases like “Really,” “I see,” or “Wow,” to convey interest.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Listen for commonalities you can use to insert something about yourself in the conversation.
But be careful. We’ve all also met those people who do what I just suggested and then immediately try to hard-sell you on just how and why you should share your client list with them, work together, or get introduced to someone you mentioned. And we know, just know, they’ve only been asking and listening to us to benefit themselves. We want to wear garlic around our necks to ward off these vampires. Don’t be one of these people, either. If you can’t be sincere, you probably shouldn’t be in a business development role in the first place.