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.

The Strength Of Weak Ties

A (Networking)In addition to the types of people with whom you network, to benefit your network you also need to consider the extent with which you know people
in your network. This is known as “The Strength of Weak Ties.”

In his 1974 book Getting A Job, author and sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people found jobs through personal contacts. This is
not surprising. After all, it is “not what you know, but who you know.”

The surprise in his research, however, was that the personal contacts used to obtain these jobs were not from family or close friends. Rather a significant majority of people who found jobs via personal contacts did so via their “weak ties”. In fact, 55.6% of individuals reported that they saw their “job-producing” contact only occasionally and 27.8% saw their contact only rarely.

Therefore, when it comes to finding out about new jobs – or, for that matter, gaining new information or looking for new ideas or finding clients – weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties.

Why? Because your close ties tend to occupy the same world as you do. For example, a spouse or close friend might substantially share the same network as you. Thus, they could only refer or connect you to people you already know.

Mere acquaintances, on the other hand, are much more likely to know something or someone that you do not. While you might share a small overlap in networks, most of the people they know are completely unexplored territory for you.

Bringing the concept of “The Strength of Weak Ties” into your business, profession or career means this: Do NOT rely on those that you know real well to build your clientele.

Rather, a better means for fortifying your network is to make a point of occasionally associating with people you know, but not that well. The person from work that you sort of knew from occasional meetings or trips up on the elevator. The person at church that you see every week and can address by name, but you know little else about them.

Thus, from a networking perspective, the most important people in your life are the people who aren’t closest to you. In fact, the more people you know who aren’t close to you the stronger your position becomes.

In summary, what matters in getting ahead is the quality of your relationship, but one measure of quality is to what extent someone is not particularly close to you. Having lunch with your long-time best buddy can be fun. It, however, does little to build your network. If you want to build your network, have lunch with someone you know, but not that well (e.g., the friendly stranger).

Network Pyramid Capstones

DiagramThere are many of these experiments and studies that offer wonderful insight as to how you can both become better at networking as well as have a better network. Here is one in particular.

In the 1960’s, Harvard social psychologist, Stanley Milgram studied what he termed the “small world” problem. He wanted to gain a better understanding of how people were connected to one another.

In one experiment, he sent to 160 randomly selected individuals in Omaha, Nebraska a packet with the name and address of a stockbroker who worked in Boston (and lived in Sharon, Massachusetts). Milgram instructed each individual to write their name on the roster in the packet and then mail the packet to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would get it closer to the stockbroker, and so on until it reached the Boston broker.

On average the packets reached the broker in six steps (thus the phrase “six degrees of separation”). While Milgram initially reasoned that if the packets started from 160 random points, the packets would arrive at their destination with similar randomness. Many of the chain packets, however, followed the same asymmetrical pattern to the Boston stockbroker.  In all, half of the responses that got to the stockbroker were delivered by three people.  Hence, the phrase “six degrees of separation” doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps.  It does mean that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those few.

There is an easy way to explore this idea.  Write down the names of 40 friends and trace them backwards to how they were introduced to you.  This exercise will reveal that what people term as their “social circles” are really inverted pyramids. In other words, a large percentage of your contacts likely originated from a relatively few number of individuals. Those at the tops of these pyramids are your Network Pyramid Capstones.

Here is the consideration for you. If you are working to “jump start” your network or determine where your time is best spent, first, find your Network Pyramid Capstones. Then take one or all of your Network Pyramid Capstones to lunch, breakfast, for coffee or beer or whatever.

That is, really make an effort to develop a great relationship with these people – find ways to help them and be sure they understand how they can help you. These individuals have been instrumental in building your network to this point.  It is likely they will do more of the same in the future.

Networking is Nothing New

S (Old Book)Networking is simply human interaction and it has been with us since the beginning of time. These human interactions are really just the relationships we have with one another. How we connect. Some connections are passing. Some connections are more lasting. Some connections are seemingly lifelong.

Given this, networking is, more or less, really just human behavior. Talking. Listening. Understanding. Being empathetic, encouraging, inspiring, smiling, laughing, and being a friend. Thus, all human behaviors involving other people are relationship-based and is networking.

The wonderful thing about human behavior is that there are patterns to it. While the patterns may not be perfectly predictable – as you might find with a chemical reaction or a physics experiment – there are patterns generally there.

Whenever there are patterns, however, there is curiosity. And whenever there is curiosity, you will find people of science trying to explain the patterns through studying, observing, and examining them.

Human behavior involving our relationships is no different. The social sciences – sociology, psychology, and economics, just to name a few – for years have examined how humans relate to one another, both personally and professionally.

30-Second Commercial – Part 8 of 8

Silver modern StopwatchIf you think about it, considering all these different options and orders, there are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of different 30-second commercials for you. So do not stop at just one. Rather select a handful of the ones that you feel are the most powerful for you and where you are the most comfortable saying them. Go with these.

Like anything, however, you will not get good at delivering your 30-second commercials without preparation, planning and practice.

Write Them: Using something as basic as a small note pad or 3×5 cards, neatly write or type your commercials for future reference.

Review Them: Once you have them written out, keep them handy so that you can practice or review them from time to time (just a few minutes each week is plenty).

Use Them: When someone then asks, “Who are you?”, do not hesitate. Have the courage to launch into one of your 30-second commercials (picking the appropriate one for the time and place).

Refine Them: Your 30-second commercials are always a work in process. You should look for ways to update them, make them more clear or better represent you.

30-Second Commercial – Part 7 of 8

Silver modern StopwatchIt is good to have an effective 30-second commercial, but it is even better to have more than just one. Think about it. There’s a lot to what you do and there is no way you can convey it all in 30 seconds.

So, have different commercials to convey various things. Also, consider that no two people are the same and no two situations are the same. Thus, it only stands to reason that you have different messages to fit different situations and people.

Plus, if you consistently say the same thing, eventually what you have to say becomes “white noise.” So do not fall into the trap of having a “one size fits all” commercial. Here are some considerations for developing some variety in what you have to say.

First, as I indicated earlier, develop a variety of Message Bodies … In some settings be informative or educational (at a stodgy business afterhours) … In some be flippant or amusing (say, at a holiday party) … In others, you might consider something with a little shock value (where you really want to grab some attention quickly).

Next, there is more than one reason WHY people should refer (or use) you, so share a different piece of confidence or credibility building information from time to time. Think about it.

What are the things that uniquely qualify you to be their best option? Perhaps there are things the set your company apart and those things attribute to you by association. Maybe it is the process you use.

Each of these can lend credibility to you in a particular situation … It is important to know how and appropriately insert that one in your 30-second commercial. (Whether it’s you, your company or the process you use).

In addition to using different ways to establish credibility, you can ask for different things in your 30-second commercials.

Depending on the setting you can outright ask for people to refer you clients … Or you might find in a situation that you are best served to ask for connections to strategic partners (accountants, attorneys, etc.)… Or you might determine that it is most appropriate to ask for information (such as details on networking events, job transition groups or background on people).

The point is that this is another way in which you can create some diversity within your 30-second commercials.

Finally, in addition to changing the MESSAGE BODIES, relying on different things to establish CONFIDENCE, and altering the REQUEST, you can also switch up the order in which you execute the framework.

The above framework is a suggested guide. It is not an ironclad rule of thumb, however. Lead with something to inspire CONFIDENCE or, perhaps, your strong definite REQUEST, or even an amusing MESSAGE BODY.

It does not matter how you slice or dice the framework. The key is conveying the message with all the bits and pieces in about 30 seconds.