Have you ever been in a traditional ‘networking’ environment where you’re taught the art of the ‘elevator pitch’? You know, the concept that you should be able to pitch your product or service succinctly in the time it takes the elevator to go from one floor to the next?
This tactic is no longer relevant. Thankfully, people are awakening to the age-old yet oft-forgotten concept that getting to know someone before you vomit your selfish hopes on them is more important.
Yes, there are environments which encourage you to take your one minute or less to stand up and proudly share your pitch. And yes, it’s important to be able to synthesize and express concisely your message and mission.
But, when you leave those rooms with a ticking clock and go into a real elevator, cocktail party, or dinner, what do you do?
If any of your first thoughts is to get the conversation to move as quickly as possible towards determining whether or not the other person might be a customer, I hope you’ll continue reading…
Here’s why this is a short-sighted approach:
Everyone is a gatekeeper to everyone in his/her network. By targeting and sizing up your conversation partner, you’re being short-sighted and forgetting that he or she may be able to open a door for you to the exact person you need to know. However, no doors are going to open if you are pushy, selfish and/or lead with your own agenda.
Your priorities and agenda will change. The average worker remains in her job for 4.4 years, while millennials do so for fewer than three. Additionally, the estimated average lifespan of a business is 10 years. So, if in your interactions you’re skipping the human connection piece and simply jumping into the pitch, you’re taking a short-sighted approach to your relationships. You’re neglecting the fact that you will have many incarnations of your career, and in turn, many different needs and pitches over time.
You will turn people off. The old saying that, “People do business with those whom they know, like, and trust” still holds true. It’s rare that someone will begin to like or trust you based on a quick pitch.
Here’s what you should do instead:
Focus on the other person. Here is a list of the 55 best questions to break the ice and really get to know someone. Consider using some of them when you’re in a new conversation. People love to talk about themselves and allowing someone to do that will give them a positive feeling, which in turn, results in the likelihood that they’ll walk away liking you, which results in their wanting to know you more.
Take your time. There is no rush. Who cares if the elevator doors open and you get out? Keep the conversation going, exchange info and schedule a call or meeting. It doesn’t have to end there.
Leave them wanting more. By asking great questions, being genuinely interested, and authentically offering value, your conversation partner will naturally want to reciprocate. Let them ask you questions that allow you to share more, don’t force it upon her.
Leave breadcrumbs. Sometimes people ask questions to be polite or fill space. Other times they’re genuinely curious. When someone asks you something, consider sharing a thoughtful and concise reply, allowing them to decide whether or not they’d like to know more. It can be overwhelming if you go into a monologue. Trust that you’ll be asked if you strike a point of curiosity.
I help ____ to _____. This is a framework I like to use when someone asks, “What do you do?”. Well, that or, “Whatever I can get away with!” It’s to the point, shares your audience, your value and creates an opening to learn more.
Make it your goal to be friends, not to do business. Talk with people the way you talk with your friends. There’s no need to be stuffy or formal. In fact, I always make it my goal to connect with someone first as a friend, and then I know they’re someone I want to have in my circle for a long time, regardless of what they do, or how they can help me, or I them. It’s all about the long game and enjoying the people with whom you surround yourself along the way.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.