Small Talk To Big Business

 

Remember, small talk is the warm-up that leads to the work out. The workout is talking business. To make this happen, eventually you need to transition from small talk to real business.

When this moment comes, you will know. At some point in your exchange there will be a lull. Use this moment to get at a more meaty discussion on business (whatever that might be).

Be forewarned, however, this is not to suggest that you start to pitch them or set them up for a close. It merely suggests that once you have them comfortably engaged in conversation, you should ease into a more professional discussion of their business or your business.

For example, a nice segue might be, “Water skiing isn’t cheap! What do you do professionally to pay for it?”

Do not try to steer them. For example, a business coach, should not ask, “Do you use business coaches in your business?” A financial advisor, should not open with, “How is your 401K doing these days?” A promotional products person should not jump to “How do you use ad specialty items in your business?”

Do NOT push it. Keep the tone light and the sales probing to a minimum. If you do this right, you will have lots of opportunities to gather future business intelligence, pitch them, and close them. Remember, people do business with those they Know, Like & Trust.

Return To Small Talk

After the professional conversation has run its course but before the conversation ends, touch back on something related to your small talk conversation.

For example: “Great talking with you. Assuming, you don’t get laid up in the hospital skiing between now and then, I would enjoy continuing our conversation over a cup of coffee sometime.”

Why is this important? By returning to “small talk”, you have demonstrated that you were listening and that you remembered. More subtly, however, you are reflecting back to a part of the conversation when they likely delighted in your interest in them.

Great Questions To Ignite “Small Talk”

 

Again, small talk kick-starts the networking process. Small talk, however, is about getting the other person talking. This begs the question: What are good questions to ask in this process?

There is no magic. Planning, however, is paramount. Be like an attorney – prepare your questions before you ask them. In other words, have a small handful of questions ready to go. Each of these relates to the person’s life professionally or personally … Or something about their past.

From there, allow the conversation to take itself wherever. A few of these questions could include…

• What do you do? How long have you been doing it? How did you become interested in that?

• What are some of the projects or assignments you are currently working on?

• Are you from this area?

 Yes – What part?

 No – What brought you here?

• Outside of work, what occupies you? How did you become interested in that?

• What are some business or community organizations you are involved with?

These will give you a start. From here you might want to formulate your own series of questions. Again, there is no magic. It is simply a matter of planning on how you will get and keep them talking.

Beyond Initiate Contact

After initiating contact at a networking event (making eye contact, smiling, and saying hello) one of two things will happen:

1) Nothing will happen; the person will just move along. So what? Don’t take it personally. There are many reasons why they did not stop and none of them are related to you.

2) They stop and are open to expanding the initial contact into a more meaningful connection.

When this happens, ensure to do these three things:

1) Handshake: Offer your hand in anticipation of a handshake, the true first impression. The handshake should be firm, intersecting your thumb web with theirs. Not too firm; a bone crusher might serve to imply dominance. And not too soft; a “limp fish” may be interpreted as disinterest. Remember, it is better to not be remembered for your handshake than to be remembered for a bad one.

2) Offer Your Name: As you shake hands, offer your name and be sure to enunciate your first name clearly. There are two reasons why this is important. First, unless it is someone you know well, offering your name serves to eliminate any potential embarrassment if the person doesn’t recall your name from an earlier encounter. Second, when you offer your name, they are likely to offer theirs in return.

3) Clarify Their Name: If the person does not reciprocate when you offer your name, ask, “What is your name?” Regardless of how you came to know the person’s name, clarify it aloud, saying something like:

“It’s great to meet you. Susan, right?” or “Hi, Susan. Do you go by Sue or Susan?”

These steps will help you better remember their name. In addition, it will subtly imply that their name is important to you, which it is.

Building A Networking Relationship 5 of 7

Getting people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you is dependent upon human interaction. Remember, however, your network (or any network, for that matter) is built one relationship at a time.

There is an Indian proverb that says, “An eagle that chases two rabbits, catches none.” This is true of relationships as well. You will not be able to develop lasting Know, Like, and Trust if you are focused on multiple relationships at any one time. In fact, the more relationships you attempt to develop at once, the less effective you become.

The point to this topic is this: As you are out being involved, do not feel the need to race about meeting as many people as possible … having quick, shallow conversations … collecting business cards and then haphazardly following up with a plethora of people you can hardly remember.

Rather work to have involved conversations with just a few people (and then attend another gathering and do the same). Learn about people. Invest time in who they are. Be genuinely interested. Conduct yourself so that when you follow up, you can do so with substance.

By working to develop relationships one person at a time, you become more effective at developing relationships. In short, people will Know, Like, and Trust you.

30-Second Commercial: Part 6 of 8

Now clearly articulating WHO you are, WHAT you do and WHY you are uniquely qualified is nice. However, in a sense, it is like having a souped up car with no wheels. To complete your 30-second commercial, you need to clearly state WHAT it is you need.

Now I hear lots of 30-second commercials and many of them have a weak finish. This is because they have a wimpy ASK or request. The best way to illustrate this is through an example … An example of what not to do. Do not make your HOW statement something like, “A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career.” Rather, here is a better example.

“If you know of someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career please introduce me to them.”

The main difference between these two is that the second has a “call to action.” If you see or know of this, please send it my way … Or give me their number … Or invite them to my seminar.

The first example … A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career … gives the same information, but it leaves someone wanting to say, “That’s nice.”

It is like my kids. They will say, “Dad, I am hungry.” And my response is, “Thanks. That is good to know.” They know now they need to make a Strong Definite Request. “Dad, can you cook me Mac-n-Cheese?” They are asking for action, which is far more powerful.

Small Talk To Big Business

Now remember, “small talk” is the warm-up and thus it should lead to a work out. The workout is talking business. To make this happen, eventually you need to transition from small talk to real business.

When this moment comes, you will know. Sometime into your exchange, there will be a lull. Use this moment to get at a more meaty discussion on business (whatever that might be).

Be forewarned, however, this is not to suggest that you start to pitch them or set them up for a close. It merely suggests that once you have them comfortably engaged in conversation, you should ease into a more professional discussion of their business or your business.

For example, this might be a good segue … “Well, water skiing is likely not cheap … So what do you do professionally to pay for it?”

Do not try to steer them. For example a business coach, should not ask … “Do you use business coaches in your business?” … A financial advisor, should not go with … “How is your 401K doing these days?” … A promotional products person, should not jump to … “How do you use ad specialty items in your business?”

Do NOT push it. Keep the tone light and the sales probing to a minimum. If you do this right, you will have lots of opportunity to gather future business intelligence, pitch them, and close them. Remember, people do business with those they Know, Like & Trust.

Return To Small Talk:

After the professional conversation has run its course, before the conversation ends, touch back on something related to your “small talk” conversation.

For example “Great talking with you. Assuming, you don’t get laid up in the hospital skiing between now and then, I would enjoy continuing our conversation over a cup of coffee sometime.”

Why is this important? By returning to “small talk”, you have demonstrated that you were listening and that you remembered. More subtly, however, you are reflecting back to a part of the conversation when they likely delighted in your interest in them.

The Golden Rule In Action

No doubt, when interacting with others at networking events you are hopeful of getting things … clients, important contacts, and useful information. Understand this: They are too. You can make an indelible impression on them by finding some way of helping them – even if only in a small way. So as they talk, run whatever they are saying through a filter that queries: “How can I add value to them?” This is the Golden Rule of Networking – Give first and get second.

There is nothing that says that you have to help them right there and then. If you can help them in that moment, great. If not, do not despair.

Just understand that you make the most of building that connection by trying to find some way you can add value to them later. It might be a referral. It might be a contact. It might be useful information for them.

The Proper Networking Mindset

It is vital that you understand three recurring networking themes:

• The Golden Rule of Networkingthink positively slogan on blackboard
• Know, Like and Trust
• Every Contact Has Opportunity

Beyond these, however, you also need to have the correct networking mindset, as attitude is everything:

Believe It Works … Whether you believe networking will work or you don’t, you are going to be right. If you believe in it, you will conduct yourself with confidence and that will draw people to you. If you are skeptical of the activity or its potential, that will serve to repel people from you. Thus, BELIEVE!

You Network Well … Remember: Everything you do is networking… Everything you have ever achieved has involved networking … Everywhere you go is networking … Everyone you interact with involves networking. KNOW THIS … You are much better at networking than you likely give yourself credit.

Be Of The Right Mind … Not every day is going to be a good day. As such, if you are not in the right frame of mind (and cannot get there), save your networking for another day … stay home … off the phone … away from e-mail.

In life, attitude is everything. The same is true in networking. Before you network, get the right attitude.

Creating a Referral Machine: 7 of 7

keep the gearsYou have established relationships and you have empowered that network. Great! Know this, however, there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Far too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it “peter out” or break down altogether because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.

Think of creating a referral machine like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you do not have to exert much force to keep it moving, but it still takes mild effort (and you dare not let it come to a stop, because then it is like starting over).

With creating a referral machine, the establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving, the mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.

Ask … Continue to ask for ways you can help your network. Yes, continue to ask for referrals, but also ask for things that your network might not see. From time to time, someone will become frustrated with their network because it is not referring something that seems obvious to them. Remember those who make up your referral machine do not live in your world. They do not always see it the way you do. Do not be afraid to ask.

  • “Can you introduce me to this person?”
  • “Could you get me an opportunity to speak at this event?”
  • “Would you keep your eye open for this?”

Do not be afraid that your network will be annoyed. Remember, if you do it right they know you, like you, and trust you.

Appreciate … Second, no matter what your network does for you, thank them. If they send you a referral or do anything of value, fall all over yourself thanking them. Celebrate your joy with them.

If a referral goes nowhere, fall all over yourself thanking them. Why? First, the glass is always half full. The fact they are thinking of you is an excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!

Second, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. You dole it out and people want more. And they will do what is necessary to get more. Know this, few people “thank” others. Therefore you will really set yourself apart when you show appreciation towards others.

Clarify … Finally, no matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.

So what? Don’t get frustrated. Remember, the glass is half full. They want to help and they are trying. Take the opportunity to reconnect with them and clarify. One small correction in how they are perceiving what is a good referral for you could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.

Creating a Referral Machine: 3 of 7

keep the gearsThe important first step to creating a referral machine is establishing relationships. This all begs two important questions: (1) WITH WHOM
should I establish these relationships? And then even more importantly, (2) HOW do I go about establishing these relationships?

As to WITH WHOM you should establish relationships, there is no magic or secrets. They are all around you. First, start with the people you already know. Why? The people you already know, presumably already know, like and trust you. Far too often, when people embark on creating a referral machine, they become fixated on people they have never met before.

Think about it. You know tons of people right now – friends from the community or school, former colleagues, existing or past clients. This represents a treasure trove of raw materials with which to work.

Second, develop a list of strategic partners. Ask yourself this, who are the people that do not compete with you, but run in the circles as you would like to be running? What is the profile of a good potential client for you and who might be servicing them?

Third, everyone is connected. Everyone knows someone who might be a good potential referral for you (they may or may not realize it). This is not to say that you need to establish a relationship with everyone. What it does say, though, do not dismiss anyone. Give everyone attention and respect.

As to HOW, we cover that in Part 4.