I’ve been thinking a lot about how I communicate, especially when promoting my business. I recently joined a business networking group. After totally bombing my elevator speech at the first networking luncheon, I realized that I needed to up my game.
I knew it was all about building relationships. I also knew that if I was selling something—anything—it was about finding common ground, doing more listening than speaking, and then choosing the words that would most relate to the other person’s situation. I just wasn’t very good at it.
After a month of observing conversations and seeing how others were able to connect with me, I was ready to try out my newfound skills at the next business luncheon. I stepped into my confident persona. I didn’t actually feel confident because I was having a very bad hair day. But I smiled, walked into the room, and talked to the first person I saw.
Ironically, she was a hair growth esthetician. Delilah told me all about the miraculous hair re-growth results that her clients were experiencing. She was polished and articulate. She knew the technology. She knew that balding could deeply affect a women’s self-esteem. What Delilah didn’t know was that I was literally the last person in that room who needed her product.
I was blessed with BIG hair—very convenient if you grow up in New Jersey. If you are observant, you will notice that my hair can tell you a lot about what’s going on in my life. When I’m stressed, my hair looks a lot like Albert Einstein’s did in that famous picture. I mention this because, while getting dressed to attend the networking event, my hair was so untameable that my only option for looking professional was to put it up in a makeshift bun.
Although her sales pitch was well executed, Delilah never asked me about the condition of my hair! She didn’t ask if I knew anyone who was balding either. She just kept talking. I politely extricated myself and continued around the room.
Next up was a ghostwriter. Cynthia wrote and edited all kinds of things for clients, who either couldn’t or didn’t have time to write for themselves. She regaled the benefit of having a professional write your blog, marketing material, and Web content.
Then, Cynthia explained what a ghostwriter was. She used hand gestures to outline the shape of a ghost, which she then merged metaphorically with herself. Cynthia chanted: “Ghost…writer…ghost…writer,” each time repeating the hand motions, ultimately exclaiming: “I just write for you.”
I AM a ghostwriter! (And an editor and writer.) Again, I was literally the last person in that room who needed what she was selling. And again, she didn’t ask what my needs were. She certainly didn’t ask what I did for a living.
What’s more, neither Delilah nor Cynthia picked up on my body language. With each, I stood with my arms crossed, nodding, and saying: “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.”
I learned later that Delilah’s technology could also be used for hair removal. We could have talked about that—I know a few hairy midlife women! As for Cynthia, it’s likely that we have different areas of expertise and could have formed a partnership. Given our interaction, I don’t see that happening.
I learned a lot that day, which I know I can put into practice. Best of all, as absorbed as they were with driving home their message, neither noticed the sorry state of my hair!
Do you have any tips for engaging others in conversation in a similar networking situation? If so, please leave me a comment or suggestion.