How not to have a conversation

by Charlie Lawson on April 2, 2012 · 3 comments

Last week, while at a networking event, I met a man called Mark.  Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Me:      “Hello there Mark, I’m Charlie – what do you do?”

Mark:  “I’m an accountant.”

Me:      “Oh.”

At that point, the conversation ended.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t trying to offend him (or every other accountant) – I just literally couldn’t think of anything else to say!

Compare that scenario to this one – from the same event – where I got talking to a lady who was about 4’11”, (and I’m guessing here) was somewhere in her late 50s/early 60s.

Me:      “Hello there Anne, I’m Charlie – what do you do?”

Anne:  “I’m a weight-lifter.”

Me:      “What? Really? Tell me more!”

I couldn’t quite believe my ears – how on earth was this lady a weight lifter?  It didn’t make any sense, so I had to ask her for more about what she did.  So Anne told me that her business was stress counselling – and what she did was help her clients lift weight off their shoulders.  We had a very interesting conversation about her business, which left me in no doubt as to what sort of clients would help her grow her business.

Comparing Mark and Anne’s responses then, the following points struck me:

  • Mark’s was very inward focussed – telling me what HIS role is
  • Anne’s made me think immediately about the benefits her clients get – i.e. focussed externally
  • Mark’s left me with struggling to think of another question to ask
  • Anne’s got me to say – ‘tell me more’ – which meant we had a proper conversation

Many potential networking conversations never happen because of scenarios like the one with Mark the accountant.  If, on the other hand, you can introduce yourself in a way that gets the response ‘tell me more’, you’ll go a long way to making your networking successful.

Have you ever gone out networking and tried introducing yourself in this way?

Charlie Lawson
Charlie Lawson – BNI National Director and Word of Mouth marketing expert, whose passion is to see BNI members succeed in their businesses.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Dionne April 12, 2012 at 18:27

Good post. Hitting a lot of networking events really helped me figure out a solid pitch for Boss Rocket.

My first pitches did not go over well. But by watching people’s faces and their engagement I finally landed on a succinct tagline -daily deals for small business – which many of my competitors created variations off of. Since then I’ve come up with other interesting variations.

The Marks of the world just aren’t realizing that they are their own marketers and when they go out to networking events they have to put on a different hat. Even if he were to have thrown it back “I am an accountant and I need to come up with a more interesting pitch…have you heard any that sparked your attention?”

Of course, having a BNI team to pitch to once per week would probably do Mark a world of good too!


Charlie Lawson April 19, 2012 at 16:49

Great ideas… Thanks for commenting!


Aernout Fabius May 12, 2012 at 09:02

Yes, Charlie made a good point. Taking time and making the effort to place yourself in the other person’s shoes is not easy.

Just before I left the banking industry in 1993, I was appointed sales team leader in what was, in those days, a re-active, not a pro-active looking industry.

Even though I recognised the sales techniques they were introducing to us, I had to resist the temptation to follow my instructions blindly.

When my colleague sales team leaders challenged my point of view, I gave them a very simple answer.

When the customer decides to visit me, he usually has a reason for doing so. My first and primary focus has to be this:

1) What is the customer’s problem?
2) How do I help them to solve it?
3) If I cannot answer the question, do I have someone in my network, who can…


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