What’s the number one reason you attend networking functions?lousy-listeners-4

Most people would say that’s obvious. “I want more business”. So they go hoping to meet their next big client.

And their attitude reflects this. They talk about themselves and what they can do never noticing the other party’s eyes glazing over.

There’s an old story about British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli sitting next to a dowager at a dinner, patiently listening to her all evening without saying very much himself.

At the end of the evening, the dowager turned to Disraeli and told him he was a wonderful dinner companion and how much she’d enjoyed his company.

A modern equivalent is Bill Clinton. By giving you his undivided attention you feel like the most important person in the room.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is being interested in them. Truly interested.

So next time you’re at a function don’t talk about yourself. Find out as much as possible about the other person.

Ask them about their story. How they got started. What their dreams are. What challenges they faced (and continue to do so).

Think about how you could help them. Could you put them in touch with someone else you know? Could you introduce them to others in the room? Or suggest other resources?

Maybe you could help them directly with your services. But now is not the time to push that. You’re not in the room to sell!

I know that sounds counter intuitive. But the more you push yourself onto someone, the more they’re likely to run the other way.

Your intent should be to attract people to you.

When the conversation comes to a natural end, and it’s time to move on, decide whether you want to get to know them better and deepen the relationship.

If you do, don’t just exchange cards and move on.

The ball is always in your court.

End the initial conversation by saying, “I’d like to find out more about your business. Can we have a chat on the phone?”

Set up a time right then. If you leave it till later the chances are you’ll never do it.

This is especially important if the other party has expressed interest in your services or suggested referring you on.

Don’t wait for them to call you. It usually won’t happen. You must be proactive.

When you do call, assume nothing.

In some cases you’ll find there are no real synergies or opportunities to cross refer or even use each other’s services.

If you have a newsletter, suggest putting them on it and move on. You never know who they might forward it onto or when their own situation might change.

If you can refer them on, commit to making the introductions and do so in a timely manner.

And if you’ve been introduced, thank the introducer and let them know the outcome. You’d be surprised at how often this simple courtesy is overlooked.

Finally, if they’d expressed interest in your services, don’t sell at this stage!

Gently does it. Listen. Build trust.

Your job is to find out more about their issues. Where they want to get to. What obstacles they’re facing.

Give examples of how you’ve helped clients like them.

My suggestion is to keep this conversation short.   It’s meant to qualify them in or out.

If you feel you can genuinely help them, suggest a longer strategy or discovery session where you’ll delve further into their specific issues and discuss possible solutions.

Decide a time and meet.

This is just an overview of the process we use.

Next week I’ll lay out a more formal structure, including questions you can ask. Look out for it.

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