I have been in marketing / sales for over 30 years. Yes I started when I was 12 as a boy scout. Even earlier if you count the stories my mother would tell of me talking people into making me a sandwich, cookies etc... I've been making friends for a living or as I call it Networking for a Living for about 8 years.
After all this time I've come to the conclusion that one of the best skills to learn about networking is knowing when to shut up. Most people don't posses this skill. Those of you that have this skill down you have my praise. Those who don't possess this skill will never thank you for having it.
Shutting up is not effective listening. Please know that effective listening skills is in the top 5 on my list of networking skills. But this blog post is about shutting up.
Shutting up is effective MARKETING
You might be saying Chris what the hell are you talking about here? Ok let me try and explain. You may have had an experience at a networking event when you came across someone who ran on and on and on about their product or service. You sat there politely wondering if they would ever stop talking or when you were going to interrupt them to stop their monolog. Those who do this at networking events haven't had this experience before. I am sure you feel that this is the way networking works. I understand why you are lost.
Networking is marketing and not sales. When the day comes that you get this, networking will start to work for you. Effective marketing is about causing engagement. This means you get strangers to take notice and engage with your product and brand. They actually are curious and they start to want information. This means they ask for it. Hey that's interesting tell me how you do that? or What are the options for that? You will see this through your website or social media when they read your blog, complete your form to get more information, like a post, retweet a status update, etc... This is the same when networking.
Let me show you an example:
Networker #1 - Hi who are you and what is it that you do?
Networker #2 - Hi I'm Marvin and I'm with the Illudium Corporation. We are the proud makers of the Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator. It is an exciting piece of technology. The chemistry allows for it to go undetected by modern technology making it easy to install it near your enemies. We have been working hard doing over two thousand years of research and live field testing to make it virtually impossible to experience a backfire. It is well used through out the galaxy. This will allow you to rid your world of pesky obstructions to your view of celestial bodies. Talk about affordable let me how you how easy it is to make one of these babys yours today!! For just a low low down payment you will find the following 12 payment will fly by before you know... (and on and on)
Networker #1 - Hi who are you and what is it that you do?
Networker #2 - Hi my name is Marvin with the Illudium Corporation
Networker #1 - So what is it that you do at the Illudium Corporation
Networker #2 - We help people create explosive situations.
Networker #1 - Really? That is interesting. So how do you do that?
Networker #2 - Thanks for asking. We have a line of well tested tech products that when properly placed and implemented are very explosive.
Networker #1 - Well how explosive are they? (and so on)
In the first example there was no engagement. Marvin took politeness as engagement or permission to do a product dump or as some will say, he read you the brochure.
In our second interaction there was engagement. The first person was interested in learning more. Marvin did a good job of using short well thought of statements to cause interest. This caused the other person to do one of two things. Be interested or not. For Marvin this allows him to save time and energy. If the other person would have said "Well that's nice." Marvin would have known that they weren't really listening. This tactic allows Marvin to save time and energy.
To many people associate networking similarly to commercials on TV. Meaning they get to repeat their company or products commercial over and over again. The fact is networking is just like social media or web marketing. We ask questions, or make statements etc to see who wants to engage. Only when there is engagement or another way to say it is, only when there is interest do we offer more information. The information we supply is still limited. This is done to keep the person engaged.
Minimal Information + No Engagement = Optimal Brand Impression
More information + No Engagement = Negative Brand Impression
Minimal Information + Engagement = Great Brand Marketing
Definition Negative Brand Impression: Experience created by a brand that is perceived as negative with a person.
When you over speaking at a networking event you are creating a negative brand impression. If you aren't sure if you do this when networking try this. When you feel like you have gone on to long and you want to see if you have, then say this, "I'm sorry have I lost you?" If they say anything but not at all or no you haven't, just say, "I apologize I am so passionate about what we do at blank, that I tend to go on and on." Pause and give them the opportunity to say the next thing. If they say well it was nice to meet you, or anything but "Please tell me more about..." then you are one of those people.
One of my favorite friends Mike, when he can tell that he lost me always says something like, "and I was wearing a thong." Just to see if I was actually listening. Its amazing how my subconscious hears the word thong and snaps me back to present. I hope you are laughing and shaking your head at me. Maybe you can develop something less politically incorrect to see if people are actually listening?
If you are one of those people, relax. There is hope for you. Knowing is half the battle and now you know. The reality is once you get this you can make a change. If you learned something please LIKE this post or share it, tweet it, or print it out and snail mail it to a friend! If I can ever help you or your business please ask. I love to help! Let's connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.