I’ve gone to a lot of networking functions over time and watched a lot of people botch the whole networking process. People go into “after hours” networking functions, often sponsored by Chambers of Commerce, and bolt right for the food table. They never network, they just show-up and eat. They might as well have just gone through the drive-through.Have you been to any of these functions? Watch people. There’s also a good way to network at these functions. Find the people you want to spend five minutes with and buy them a drink. What you’ve just done is guarantee a few minutes of their time with you.
According to Chien Wang, the self-proclaimed guru of networking, you create a feeling of obligation in someone when you buy them a cocktail. They will stay and talk with you for a few moments while they finish at least half the drink. There’s five minutes you otherwise wouldn’t have spent with someone.
Obviously you won’t want to buy everyone a drink or you yourself will get drunk sharing booze with others at these functions. Carefully pick one or two people who you would like to share stories with and then tell them that you’ve been dieing to hear their stories and are willing to share a drink with them, on you.
Your next step is to ask a few leading questions and let them talk. And talk. And talk.
As DJs we know that people love to talk, because that’s what we love to do. While it’s very difficult for most of us to check our ego at the door and let someone else’s lips flap, you will soon learn that people love you because they think you’re a good listener. Now isn’t that what your girlfriend has been asking of you for all this time?
People’s favorite subject is themselves. If they think you’re interested in what they’re wanting to share with you, they’re going to love you. What they’re really doing is telling you how to market to them. While they talk about their favorite wine, their preferred travel destination or whatever it is about them you secretly are gaining tools to use to market to them in the future.
For example, if that banquet manager tells you how much she loves Sonoma, won’t she be surprised when you send her a travel guide to Sonoma in a year? If another banquet professional talks about her mother’s favorite kind of chocolate you will always be her favorite when you send her a box of the treat on an unexpected occasion, reminding her that it’s for her mom.
By going to a networking mixer armed with a few leading questions, you’re going to suddenly become a big hit because people think you care. Then when you track this information in a database, you’re suddenly going to be perceived as thoughtful. Now won’t they want to refer someone as thoughtful as you when they know someone wants a quality job at a very special occasion?
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