Breaking the Ice
Stuart Selbst / Stuart Selbst
Back when I was a young boy my father, who was a career salesman, had a tie clip that read YCDBSOYA. YCDBSOYA means “YOU CAN’T DO BUSINESS SITTING ON YOUR ASS”. For those of you who know or have met my Dad, you know that he has a personality that is bigger than life. Dad would wear this tie clip and it would become a conversation piece. This $2.00 tie clip opened up conversations and typically led to sale on whatever he was peddling at the time. Even though he is 72 years old and retired, my dad is always striking up a conversation or putting his “spin” on a conversation with someone, somewhere and “embarrassing” my mom, my sisters and yes even me. Without a doubt, this is a skill that comes naturally for my dad. Many people, especially technical people, don’t have this skill without a few snorts of “liquid courage”.
This makes me think about how many MSP business owners have a difficult time networking with other business owners. The hardest part for them is “breaking the ice” or putting out their hand and saying, “Hello, my name is ____________.” I have seen so many MSP owners, when faced with a networking opportunity, practically curl up in the fetal position and start to cry. I am exaggerating a bit but in all seriousness, it is difficult to engage with other people if you aren’t confident in yourself or your company.
So rather than get on my soap box and write about all the things MSPs are doing wrong, I would like to use this post for a bit of training. I want to teach you how to network better and more effectively. But to do that, there is 1 major thing that you MUST know before heading out to that networking event. You must know what you are going to say before you say it.
You must always be prepared to talk to someone about yourself. When I say yourself, I mean your company, your services and most importantly, how you can help them. That is right, how you can help them. One of the things I’ve learned over many years of networking and making a fool of myself is that people don’t give 2 cents about you personally. But, they do care about what you can do for them. So next time someone asks you what you do, answer by telling them what you can do for them and/or your clients. I bet you get a much better response and a higher level of engagement. The reason you will be able to engage with the other person is because you will be putting them, their business and their feelings first. By being prepared to answer their question in this way it will make them feel good and it removes that awkward situation of telling each other what you do and then moving onto the next person to repeat the scenario. It will open up the conversation to deeper questions and better understanding.
I will give you an example. I travel a lot and when I sit down on the plane 9 times out of 10 the person sitting next to me will say hello and ask me what I do. I typically tell them that I am a business consultant and go back to what I am working on. They then ask me, what type of consulting do you do? I say, I fix broken technology companies. From there, the conversation usually goes 1 of 2 places. 1 is that they will tell me all the problems they have with their computers, networks and IT guy. Or 2, that is the end of the conversation. When traveling, I usually hope for the second but it doesn’t always go that way. The point I am making here is that I always am prepared for the question, “what do you do?” with the same answer all the time.
Networking is not just something that you do; it is a huge part of the job of growing and running your business. Once you learn to network properly and get past that fear of meeting people, you will open the doors to great success and amazing referral sources.
In my next post, I am going to write about the proper way to follow up after a networking event to get the highest level of prospective engagement. Happy Networking.
All the best in success,