Quick, go into your contact database, randomly pick someone and ask yourself the question…”what do I really know about that person”? Chances are your answer will be something about their job, perhaps even something vaguely personal like whether they’re married. Not much.
When many of us network, we lapse into our memorized 30-second commercial about our businesses and our value propositions. There’s nothing wrong with that — except that it usually isn’t memorable. Do people really remember you after a networking introduction? Will they even remember that they’ve met you? If you bludgeoned them with your canned paragraph focusing on business differentiation they probably won’t.
There’s value in a 30-second commercial, but when you meet someone for the first time about the only thing you can hope to achieve is being memorable. Will your follow up call get answered? Will they respond to a future email? Will they hide when they see you coming?
When you’re networking it’s not just OK to get personal, it’s absolutely critical. Let’s imagine that you’re at a networking event and you meet Bob, an insurance agent. Bob’s corporate marketing training tells him to say something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Bob and I help families take care of their loved ones through the magic of insurance and sound financial planning.” Bob is trained then to extol the virtues of his products and the life-changing benefits they possess. Bob also should be trained to expect awkward silence and a quick change of subjects.
The people you remember aren’t the ones who just tell you what they do, they’re the ones who share with you a little about who they are. And if you want to increase the chance of making a solid networking connection, you should be doing some of that sharing. What makes you interesting? What makes you different? What unusual activities do you enjoy? Have you lived somewhere interesting? Why should someone be interested in talking to you? Do you have an embarrassing tattoo that you can use to poke fun at yourself? The possibilities are endless. Just say something interesting about YOU.
Imagine how you’d feel if Bob had said “Hi, I’m Bob — I sell insurance, but I can’t wait until next month because I’m going to Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reef.” Now Bob is a real person with a real life. And you know as well as I do that if Bob had said that, you’d talk about his trip for at least a few minutes. You’d probably also take Bob’s call when he follows up to tell you how the trip went and the exotic Aboriginal disease he’d contracted. Over time, you’d get to know Bob and naturally consider doing business with him if and when the time was right.
Don’t give up on your 30-second commercial – people need to know what you do. Just don’t rely on that commercial to be the reason people want to talk to you a second time. Be memorable, share something about yourself, and let the business come. Networking is more fun that way, it’s less stressful , and you’ll be amazed how much more quickly you can develop a genuine relationship with a new business contact. You don’t have to pretend you’re something you’re not, just strive to be something more than a business card.
Especially if prompts you go get that embarrassing tattoo you’ve always wanted.
© JPECA, Inc. 2011