I recently attended a networking event where I ran across a young gentleman I had met several months before. He came up to me and thanked me for some advice I had given him about networking. I remembered him and remembered when I first met him. He was by himself not talking to anyone alone in a corner. When I saw him that first time it made me think about how I was when I started my company.
I worked for a national retail company for 25 years. In that time I always considered myself a very easy going person that could talk to anyone about anything. What I quickly found out, when I struck out on my own, the reason it was so easy to enter a conversation was we all had something in common. We had the same pains, same successes and a commonality amongst our work tasks. All of a sudden I did not have commonality and I was the flower on the wall in most networking events.
Then I found an article I committed to memory but not longer can find. Once I read this and started practicing what I had learned I got off the wall and became a part of the event. So here is what I learned and shared with the young man that day.
- Don’t go into a conversation with the mindset of representing yourself as your company. Your identity is the person you are not the company you represent. When I started introducing myself as Ray rather than Ray Fadool, President and Owner of Dominion Payroll Services Tennessee, the walls started breaking down. I could be myself, talk about any subject and be much friendlier without any thoughts in my mind of how am I going to get my business into this conversation. Low and behold the business topics came up naturally.
- Once you introduce yourself, have a good intro ready. Keep it light! Stay away from politics or religion. Ask them about what brought them to the event. Or something about them. Easy questions are: “How do you know each other?”, “What brings you here tonight?”, “May I join you?” Just as the first name intro will lead to business conversations, so will the light and easy topics.
- Finally, Never Sell! If you go into these conversations with the idea that you are going to find out as much information as you can so that you may one day have these people as a client, you will never have them as a client. The next time they see you, they will say, here comes that guy we met last time that tried selling us something, let’s close the ranks so he has no opening. Once again as in the two previous statements, if there is business to be done it will take care of itself outside the four walls of the networking event you are attending. If the subject comes up naturally and they ask for more information fine but don’t be the one to bring it up.
Getting back to the young man that led me to this topic, after several minutes of conversation with him, he exited and was off talking to another group of people.
So be you at these events. Have fun. It is much easier to be who you are rather than the person representing a company.
Next time…How to Exit a Conversation Gracefully.