Remember my post a couple of weeks ago where I suggested focusing on asking questions and then really, truly listening while networking? Just about 100% of the time I have a networking one-on-one with someone, I ask, “How can I be helpful to you? Who is your ideal client?”
Yes, please, focus on listening diligently to this answer.
It’s important to also have a clear and concise answer ready to go. A good 99.5% of the time, a person you ask these questions to will reciprocate in kind. Clarity and conciseness give me and other people you network with information that might just trigger our mental contact list such that we can connect you with a meaningful person or three. Clarity and conciseness are also more likely to stick in our minds such that you might pop up as we’re having conversations in other networking meetings.
There are a lot of great clear and concise answers to these questions. You could:
- Describe demographic aspects of your ideal clients
- Describe the kinds of problems your business solves or hopes you serve
- Name specific industries you serve or the titles of people who are meaningful to your business
- Go adventurous and ask to be introduced to anyone they think everyone should know
There are at least three really not helpful answers.
- “What I really don’t want is…”
- “Qualified candidates”
Any one of those makes giving referrals challenging. Last Friday, after 15 years of intentional networking, I had a fella answer with not just one of the above, but all three. The problems:
- Not even Netflix, Facebook, or Amazon can say they serve everyone. Even they, megaliths that they are, can narrow their target market into demographic and psychographic specifics.
- When someone tells me what they don’t want in a candidate rather than what they do want, all I’m hearing is what annoys them about their business and their clientele. And I don’t want to send my contacts to someone who is focused on their pet peeves. I want to send my contacts to people who are geeked to get to serve their clientele.
- To my ears, “qualified candidates” is fancy speak for “I only care about the financial part of my business transactions.” Again, I hear no excitement for clientele in this, only bottom line.
I tried, friends. I tried to redirect this fella. I made a direct invitation for him to share what he did want in prospective clients, who he does get excited to serve. And this fella? He doubled down on the answer he was giving. And he used a lot of words in the process.
Ultimately, I walked away certain that I wouldn’t ever consider referring anyone to him. First, I wouldn’t know who to refer anyway because his answer included no specifics. At least, no positive specifics. More importantly, I didn’t feel an ounce of warm or fuzzy or passion in his answer which, on top of a very one-sided coffee conversation, meant that we didn’t build any trust. No trust = no referrals. I mean, would you send one of your contacts to someone you haven’t built any trust with?
If you don’t have a clear and concise answer to who you serve or how a networking partner can be helpful to you, get your brainstorming teams together – or hire a coach! (wink)
Don’t let opportunity in the form of enthusiasm from networking partners slip by.