I love watching the reaction people have when I respond to their question regarding my occupation. Let me come back to that statement later in this post.. But first, I want to let you in on a secret. No one likes to prospect or be prospected. The alternative? Build rapport with everyone.
No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy. Even in Dale Carnegie's words, let them believe that the idea was their own. I'm not one to teach about techniques, but rather I prefer enlightenment to be practiced. Understand the 'why' and internalize the process, adopting it into who you are. Especially when it comes to the topic of rapport building in networking. What do I mean?
If you look like your using a technique, a system, or a strategy not only have you lost their attention, you've lost their trust. And we just met them.. I like to associate this idea to playing cards in a casino. If the pit boss thinks something is awkward, or you are running a system, you likely won't be playing long. No more "Winner winner, chicken dinner" for you my friend. You can't fake rapport, you need to believe in the process and have a genuine interest in helping the other person.
Ever been on an awkward date where your conversations didn't seam to be going well, but you really couldn't figure out why? Maybe it was the topic, but you would have noticed the conversation going in an odd or uncomfortable direction.. What I'm talking about are the subtle things that people don't notice when they are interacting, such as body position or even more simply the rhythm or back and forth dialogue. With most people we interact with, our non-verbal cues are in sync; hence, why we enjoy communicating with those people. When we first meet someone, we don't have the background of information about the person we have with our friends. Mastering what we are doing, without speaking, is the first key. Listening is the second key, so stop thinking about what your reply will be and engage the person.
Ever have someone that keeps jumping in to finish your statements, most the time they are wrong and take it in an unintended direction leaving you to have to explain the whole thing again? Don't be that guy.
Back to why I like when people ask my occupation.. Being a student of sales I don't offer a pitch to someone, well let me rephrase that. I don't offer a sales pitch to anyone. When someone asks 'what do you do', I simply hover at 30 thousand feet and defect, I return the attention back to them. After all, when someone asks what you 'do', that is what they are looking for. They are waiting for you to ask what line of work they are in so they can give you their pitch. Let them, they will be glowing that you fell into their trap.
When I mention that I experiment in sales and marketing they either give me one of a number of different responses. The most typical one is a look of confusion and then a response looking for clarity leading with a question like, "tell me more about that". Often I get a gaze saying what does that mean or "wait, you are a sales person?". Either way it gives me a chance to mention what I may be working on at that particular time and position it again to finding more commonality. I do not have a prepared elevator speech, even though I can offer a very good one at any BNI meeting that ties directly into what other people do in that meeting. It is about connecting, and it has nothing to do with you.
Most of us are taught that when we've met someone and the conversation is going pretty well, look for the earliest opportunity to tell people what we do. Skip that part. Remember, no one likes to be sold and often shy away from sales people. Networking and rapport building is all about building value for the other person. The best way I have found doing this is finding out who I can introduce the person to that would instantly create more value for them. Then leave and let them talk, for the first 10 minutes the biggest thing they have in common is me, so they talk about me. If that conversation isn't a positive one, you probably shouldn't have introduced them.
I know I have mentioned this before but I get a great bit of humor out of it so I like to reference it when I can. I have had women who wouldn't date me simply because I have a sales background. The most widely accepted and negative perception when it relates to sales is the slick, fact-talking used car guy. Nice way to start out a date right? "You should see this baby take the corners on the back roads, here take it for a spin!" I heard a car salesperson say once, "There is an ass for every seat!" How you break that stigma is by gracefully forging a bond through interests you share with the other person.
In Saint Louis, it always begins with discussing the high school you went to and the people you share in common. There is no inherent gift in building rapport, it is just understanding where it comes from and putting that wisdom into practice. The reason why new acquaintances so commonly talk about the weather is that it is something that affects everyone. That's the essence of what we are talking about. Ask questions until you find something you both like and discuss that common bond. You will always have something in common, shoot, you're at the same event People love to talk about what they are passionate about so just figure out what that is.
Interview two people after a first date.. Ask one of them how the date went and their answer could be, "It was fantastic, we shared so much in common and the conversation was fantastic!" Ask the other person their impressions of the date. "It was horrible, they kept talking about themselves the whole time and what they liked. I hardly said a word."
In sales we remember to let them speak 90% of the time. There is no proposing, pitching, or educating in the rapport building stage.
Now get out there and sell with integrity, appreciation, acknowledgment, wisdom, attention and care. Break the mold of the stereotype. Please, a younger sales person my be looking for a date.