An eager professional catches your eye at a networking event, introduces themself, and asks “What do you do?”
You answer in one of two ways.
- You rapidly list off all the things you DO. We do this and we do that, and we do something else. It’s a very action oriented answer entirely about your firm and your work.
- You launch into your 30 second elevator pitch. It’s been polished and perfected and it sounds great to the insiders of your company.
The context or the problem!
Specifically, how your knowledge and expertise make a difference to the lives of your buyers.
I did it wrong for years!
Over the past decade I had various answers to this question.
- “We drive revenue fast”
- “We’ll implement your Bullseye Marketing campaign to retain clients”
- “We help your company generate profitable revenue”
- “We’re a catalyst for growth.”
Your services have no value without a problem.
The benefits of your services only matter if they matter to your prospect.
Context is the foundation for any meaningful conversation.
What to do instead?
Before you say anything to the other person, ask your own question to get an understanding of the other person.
(Yes, I know many networking conversations aren’t about actually learning how you help but about getting the chance to share your 30 second pitch in return. Let’s not be cynical though!)
Not getting stuck in that meaningless back and forth will be a relief to you and the other person.
Here’s how you make understanding unfold
Professional: “What do you do?”
You: (Pause for a beat). “Seems like you have a reason for asking about our work.”
BTW! I completely understand that they haven’t indicated a reason for asking, that this is just routine networking chit chat, but don’t you want to change that?
You’re changing the moment from meaningless networking banter to meaningful conversation.
Remember, most people struggle with making conversation with strangers. They say and do what everyone else does to overcome their struggle or discomfort.
Also remember that you and others attend networking events in order to expand your networks.
Be the one who sticks
The most important outcome of networking is to stick in people’s minds after the event.
If you don’t stick in people’s minds, they will not consider you part of their network.
When you say “Seems like you have a reason for asking about our work” you stand out in the nicest possible way and become sticky in their minds.
Get them out of networking mode
What you typically hear after this comment is that something IS going on with them. They didn’t expect this invitation and, like most people, they’re happy to talk about themselves.
They get out of “networking mode” and enter into their real life.
It’s up to you to listen really well. Draw them out with a few gentle murmurs and ‘tell me more.’
Within 1-2 minutes you will know more about them, and you can use what they say to be relevant to them.
No one buys generic or services.
They buy solutions or relief –that is IMPACT–to specific problems or obstacles. In other words, in their context.
If you have something that’s relevant to their current situation, you have a terrific opening for the next call or meeting.
Also important, if how you make a difference to your clients is not relevant to what they just told you, you know it right now.
No matter how much you try, you can’t squeeze a square peg into a round hole. The same goes for trying to force a solution that’s not relevant onto someone.
You offer to introduce them to someone else, and you move to meet another person at the event.
Build up the value of your networking
If you’re going to make networking effective for you and your firm, you’ll need to be enthusiastic about this conversation starter: “Seems like you have a reason for asking about our work.”
Practice out loud with colleagues and associates. Have the other person give some likely responses and then some unlikely ones.
You’ll be ready to make upcoming networking events a true source of potential clients, and you’ll get known as the best conversationalist.
Knowing what to say to understand people is a superpower for being a better networker and a better person too.
Then embrace your next networking event with enthusiasm.
PS: Making a difference is another way of thinking about life changing IMPACT.
Read these two posts to refresh your thinking about what life changing IMPACT sounds like.