“Tell me something about your self that nobody else knows,” the Bachelorette asked Chris in their 1-on-1 time.
“I can be really funny,” Chris N. responds oblivious to the look on the Bachelorette’s face that seems to ask- “is that all you’ve got?”
“I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know you, what else can you tell me about yourself?” She asks him, giving him what would be his last chance to redeem himself before being ceremoniously dumped from the group of potential husbands for the Bachelorette.
“I like Mexican food.” No joke, that is seriously what he said. His last chance to redeem himself, open up, and all he has to say is that he likes to eat Mexican food.
We can all learn a lot from Chris N’s blunder.
(Side note: Let me just start by saying, my wife makes me watch The Bachelor with her. Let me further add, sometimes I enjoy it. For those of you that aren’t fans of the show, it is based on a very simple concept- if you take 25 guys looking for love and introduce them to 1 very pretty girl, and have her eliminate the men one at a time, eventually she will find her true love and live happily ever after. What makes it even more realistic, is that every interaction she has with the men, is filmed for the world to see. Or at least to be watched by girl’s night’s everywhere)
Chris had a problem, after spending weeks with this girl he couldn’t open up to her, in fact when lobbed a softball questions, “what can you tell me that nobody else knows about you?” He totally blew it. He should have shared a childhood memory, an embarrassing moment from high school, or his inability to park straight (actually that is mine, and my wife is well aware of it). Chris’ inability to have a conversation that was more substantial than sharing his favorite foods prevented him from engaging in what could have been a very worthwhile conversation.
I find that many professionals are similarly challenged when it comes to starting conversations with prospects. They have a hard time taking conversations beyond- where did you go to school? what did you study? Do you like Mexican food? Call it breaking the ice or call it having good social skills, it just doesn’t come naturally to most people.
So how can we do a better job of talking to people without coming across like we are forcing the conversation?
Here are three tips that I think might be helpful.
1. Say something to break the ice
Here is how NOT to start a conversation:
“Hi, I’m Adrian Dayton,” as you offer to shake hands. This makes you look presumptuous. #FAIL
or even worse,
“Hi, I’m Adrian Dayton, here is my business card.” #FAIL First off, why are you giving a total stranger your business card? Second, if you can’t think of anything to say to them in person, what are the chances are they are going to want an awkward conversation with you on the phone?
You need to be a little more strategic. Break the ice with something very generic:
“Is it always this hot in Chicago?”
“Did you manage to stay awake for that last speaker? That was rough.”
Obviously these need to be created to match your personality. This will put the other person at ease and show them you are interested in CONVERSATION not just acquiring a new contact.
2. Ask GREAT questions
The first question you ask may have to be a little generic:
“What do you do?”
But if you have already asked that, or you already know exactly what they do then it is time to ask a question that dives a little bit deeper:
“How have you weathered the economic storm of the last year?” “What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?” “Anything exciting coming out of your business in the next year that I should be aware of?”
These types of questions get to the heart of their business, something they are likely very passionate about. Give them a chance to brag about what has gone right- or share frustrations. Either way you show yourself to be more concerned about them than you are about promoting yourself.
3. Get an appointment
You don’t actually have to schedule an appointment on the spot, but you need to schedule some type of follow up that gives you an excuse to trade business cards.
“I just read an article about chimney sweeping in Asia that I think you would find really interesting as it pertains to the trends in the US market. Would it be ok if I emailed it to you?”
“I would love to learn more about how your company is dealing with the challenge of deregulation, could we set up a time to chat this next week?”
Successful networking is all about getting appointments, so remember- the purpose of every appointment is to make another appointment. You gotta keep things rolling.
BREAK THE ICE
ASK GREAT QUESTIONS
GET AN APPOINTMENT
By the way, these same steps work when networking online- so give them a try.
Chris got knocked off the Bachelorette last night, and it wasn’t because he didn’t want to create a relationship. It wasn’t because he didn’t like the girl. It was because he was afraid to open up, and afraid to expose himself. He wasn’t willing to take his conversations below the surface and really talk on another level. Do find yourself having similarly dull networking conversations? Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your networking strategy. Time to get beyond, “I like Mexican food.”