Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Am I Here!?

Your neighbor, a business owner who knows you also own a business, has invited you to a mixer at the local Chamber of commerce.  You, reluctantly, accept the invitation.  When you arrive, you find yourself walking into a large room, filled with people and pocket filled with business cards.  You ask yourself:
"Why Am I Here!?"
I, personally, have been networking for more that a few years and still, occasionally, catch myself asking this question.  It's a normal question and you aren't the first one to ask it, even in that large room filled with people networking.  Don't worry, the answer is not difficult and you can have fun and leave being able to say the event was well worth your time and effort.

The obvious answer, and the answer that may people settle for, is "I'm looking for a new customer."  The problem with this answer is that it rarely, if ever, works.  Let's suppose that the first person you meet immediately begins extolling the virtues of his widget.  You realize that it might resolve a long-standing problem.  But you're not really going to buy right now are you?  I wouldn't, that's why I leave the checkbook in my desk, not my pocket.  So let's rule out a search for a new client as a possible answer to the question.

So if you are not there to make a sale, what is the answer?  Let's look at another scenario.

You look around the room and see a lot of people you haven't met before.  Therefore, we can answer the question, "Why am I here?" with, "To meet new people."  This leads to another question, "What do I talk about?"
The answer to this question is going to vary and depend on who, specifically  you talk to.  Let's make it easy.  Find your neighbor first, hopefully, he's hanging out close to the door looking for you.  Now you're safe, you're with someone you know and you can comfortably carry on a conversation.
But you can't spend the next two or three hours talking just to your neighbor, this is a "mixer" after all.  Good news, since your neighbor knows you, he can quickly introduce you to someone he knows.
OK, now what?  You already know you aren't going to try to make a sale, so what do you talk about?   Well...  Aren't you the least bit curious about what this new acquaintance does?  Ask her.  Then listen!  Maybe she'll say something you want to learn more about, ask another question.  Before too long your new acquaintance will ask what you do.  Go ahead, tell her.  She may even ask you a question.
After you've been talking to your new associate for a few minutes, it will be time to move on.  But before you do, there's one more critical thing you need to do.  Ask for her business card, then offer yours.
When you turn around, you realize that your neighbor is not there any more, but you see a member of your church.  Since it never occurred to you that he would be at an event like this, walk over to him, say, "Hi," and ask him why he's there.  Don't be surprised to learn the he too is a business owner and also wants to learn about what you do.  You can also take time to ask about his family.  Also, don't forget to ask for his business card.
Look around again.  There's three people you don't know who are talking together but, they're not standing in a tight, closed circle.  They're almost standing in a line.  Go ahead, walk over and introduce yourself.  Ask them what they do.  Again, don't be surprised when you are welcomed into their grout.  (Here's a tip for this situation; don't close the circle, keep it open so others feel welcome to join your group.)
Now keep going.  Introduce yourself to people you don't know, catch up with people you do.  Before you know it, two or three hours have passed and its time to leave.
Now what?  Take those business cards that you've collected and write e-mails to every one of them.  Tell them it was nice to meet them, expand on something you said, ask another question, in some cases you may want to invite them to get together for a One-to-One meeting.
What just happened?  You have just created, and built on, personal relationships.

Let's go back and answer our original question:
Why Am I Here!?

You are there to build on old relationships and to create new ones.

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