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Bring On the Cheese – A Closer’s Guide to POWER Networking!

March 15, 2009

salesblog6

For the most part I am highly skeptical of sales tricks and in this dubious category I put articles that promise to show you “How to close ANY deal!” (I think it’s the superfluous capitalization and punctuation that really breaks my will to sell). It never occurs to the authors of such drivel that closing “ANY deal!” might not be a good thing; some purchase orders just weren’t meant to be signed.

However, when it comes to networking I make an exception. Just like staying on your toes will help you to dance a little better, are a few simple tips will make you a more competent networker.

As an Englishman, I was have always been turned off by the brazen displays of friendship-for-hire found at professional conferences. For many years, I loitered nervously by the cheese buffet swapping business cards with other wallflower, sales representatives ashamed to talk to the general public like I had some dark secret to hide. “My name’s Dave and I came to this event hoping to meet an accommodating customer who will become a lucrative source of commission checks… or at least give me something interesting to write about in my weekly reports.”

And then the miracle of capitalism happened. I found out about the secret that all my competitors had been using; a method so powerful that only select members of Yale’s infamous skull and crossbones fraternity know how to fully apply.

I exaggerate a little, the networking breakthrough came after a friend at a respectable management consulting firm introduced me to the online world of America’s top Pick Up Artists or PUAs as it’s they’re more commonly known. Search PUA on YouTube and you’ll be exposed to millions of video clips showing you how to meet members of the opposite sex (with a heavy emphasis on men in their early twenties hoping to hook up with women historically thought to be out of their league). As cheesy as it is, it provides a solid guide to working any Marriott breakfast buffet for leads. We continue our shameless pursuit of capitalism…

The Method can be broken down into a few simple rules that are easy to remember even after a handful of Manhattan sidecars:

– The 3 Second Rule – make contact immediately upon seeing someone you’d like to meet
– The 30 Second rule – make a point of insulting your prospective date early on in the conversation
– The 3 Minute Rule – touch your client, touch their wallet.

We may wish to adapt this model a little for corporate America to avoid any lawsuits but it’s a proven framework for success.

Starting at the top, you must introduce yourself within 3 seconds of eye contact… any longer and you’ll be labeled a stalker. You’re on booth duty at a convention – say hello within 3 seconds or get out. You’re queuing for coffee – “Olla!” by the third second or forget it. Within the warped world of business networking it’s expected that you will introduce yourself to perfect strangers; as soon as those little sausages on sticks are served it’s a free for all not seen since the final moments of your high school prom.

Now that we’ve said hello we need to be sure to insult our new friend. Or at least challenge him… quickly followed by the recognition of a reassuring complement.
“You should do something about that dandruff..” isn’t what we had in mind – we need something a little more insightful. We want to move the dynamic of the conversation from “you checkbook – me commission chaser” to a dialogue between two peers and that that means pushing back. I’ve seen sales reps challenge Le Big Mac Boss in a pitch meeting and it becomes the deal making moment when the sales person suddenly became worth listening to. We’re need spontaneity and relevancy. “I wasn’t aware your industry took this seriously?”, “You guys got busted by FDA last week, right?” “Didn’t your CEO recently get chopped for that?” would all be suitably uncomfortable moments assuming they’re followed up by the reassurance of an accepting complement. Do this and you’re in the driving seat.

Finally we need to touch our client. For the more adventurous among you this will mean a pat on the elbow (I saw an American pull this off on a Lufthansa flight attendant in Berlin while trying to score an upgrade and nearly get hit… elbows are sensitive body parts in some cultures). If you can’t break the physical barrier, then at least touch them mentally as someone memorable. If in doubt, part with the double-fisted handshake practiced by your Uncle Tom at Thanks Giving and other family get-togethers.

Networking isn’t enough to see you through your sales career and undoubtedly some people have more natural talent than others. But like ballroom dancing, networking is something we can all learn to do better and it comes in handy at weddings too.

And by the way… that suit looks terrible on you.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 6:31 pm

    I just stumbled on your blog (commenting works!), so I’m not familiar enough yet to have the “facetious meter” calibrated yet. Assuming there’s at least some seriousness to your post, I’m intrigued with the idea of insulting a virtual stranger as a networking strategy.

    I’m inclined to think that one of two things could happen:

    1. The strategy works, and you reach a higher level of credibility with your prospect, faster.

    or

    2. The gambit offends the person (“Who the hell are you to say something like that?”), quickly ending any chance of building a productive relationship.

    I’m also inclined to think that #2 is much more likely than #1. But I could be wrong.

    Discuss.

    • The Closer permalink
      March 16, 2009 12:19 am

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for feedback, it makes writing the posts all the more worth while.

      My answer is a little bit of both – I genuinely believe you need to challenge a client to win their respect and there are mumerous instances that I can recall to back the validity of this approach.

      The traditional sales person is too often brought up with a “Yes Mr Customer” midnset and I think this ultimately undermines the value add of business development. This happens from the first customer interaction when we are taught that the best “schmoozer” wins.

      As a blogger we all know we have to be a little sensational to make for entertaining reading. If I was lecturing on this in a corporate setting I’s switch from “insult” to “challenge”.

      Best Regards

  2. March 16, 2009 4:24 pm

    I’ll preface by saying I’ve never used this formula for meeting, but variations on, and I feel like I’ve learned something worth trying.

    This three-step system of ingratiating yourself reaks of self-confidence to the point where if you’re not comfortable with the shoulder or elbow pat, and aren’t practiced at the two-hander handshake, you could just swipe past them with the giant testicles it takes to try this system in the first place.

    The insult stage is the one that would catch most people off guard, but it sounds no different than fishing. Reel them in with your charisma and enthusiasm, let the interest slack with a gibe, then reel them back by showing your understanding of their business and familiarity with their situation. All that self-confidence and that can translate into trust on the part of the potential client.

    Nice work, Closer.

    • The Closer permalink
      March 16, 2009 10:20 pm

      Awesome feedback – it’s nice to generate a bit of contentious debate beyond the nodding dog agreement and back slapping that passes as corporate sales training.

      Your blog rocks and you should have linked to it:
      http://www.angrylush.blogspot.com

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