Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Avoid the #1 "Conversation-Killing" Networking Question - PART 2: How to . . . Listen More -- Talk Less

Do you know of any job openings?  
        If the answer is “NO,” it’ll be a short conversation.

“Do you know of any job openings?” is an ill-advised way to open a networking conversation.  In fact, it’s a “conversation killer!”
Part 1 of this 4-part Networking-HOW TO-series explained why!  It also explained the make-up of a good 1-to-1 networking conversation that establishes a comfort level for both people.  But how much should you be talking?  This article delves a little further into the make-up a good conversation.

How much should I be talking . . ? ?
Your purpose in scheduling a networking conversation is to sell yourself, right?  Yes indeed!  You want your contact to think highly enough of you to suggest opportunities as well as introduce you into their network, in other words refer you to people they know. But remember that is only 50% of your task; you also want to learn what your networking contact knows about opportunities and potential opportunities.  You want to learn who he or she knows that could be helpful to you in your search.

Therefore, your conversation needs a balance - one person can't do all the talking or all the listening.  If that happens, you only accomplish 50% of your purpose - if that!

The Make-Up of a Good Conversation  -    A 40%  /  60%  Split
An effective and well balanced networking conversation  =  40% you and  60% them when it comes to talking.  A good conversation sounds like this:  You're talking about 40% of the time and listening the other 60%.
You, the job seeker talk about 40% of the time. This is SALES time.  This is the part of the conversation where you get to talk about you!  You explain your competencies.  You highlight key successes that attract the attention and possible admiration of your listener.  You plant the idea that if you could contribute to the success of previous employers, you can do it for future employers.  You can help them be successful by employing your skills.

You the job seeker listen about 60%  of the time while your  network contact talks. This is the other 50% of the purpose of your conversation or meeting.  Obvious, right?  BUT sometimes, due to nervousness or lack of clarity about our networking goal, we find ourselves talking too, too much.  The $$ cost $$ = lost opportunities, lost information.

So, plan your networking conversation or meeting strategically.  Think of the conversation as having 2 parts as described below:

Part 1:  Set the Stage   -  40% of your meeting
(1)  Small Talk!  In US business, we tend to open meetings with a little - not a lot, just a little - bit of rapport building.  Also referred to as small talk, an inquiry as to your contact's ease in locating the coffee shop you're meeting in, or a bit about the terrible or wonderful - as the case may be - weather gets the conversation started off on the right foot.  Remember, part of your job is to set a comfort level so that the conversation flows comfortably.

(2)  Schmooze!  Begin by telling your network contact why you requested to speak with them.  This is an opportunity to compliment the person about their knowledge of the industry, their reputation for being a leader or a fountain of information when it comes to their profession, a real “Who’s Who” when it comes to knowing “everybody who’s anybody” in the industry. . . you get the point.  A little “schmoozing,” as long as it is sincere, can work to your advantage!

(3) Remember time constraints.  Reinforce your commitment to your network contact that you requested only 20 or 30 minutes of their time.  Keep an eye on the time.  This shows that not only do you respect your contact's expertise but also their time.  When the agreed upon 20 or 30 minutes is up, call time.  Should your contact wish to continue talking, THAT's GREAT! and to your benefit.  But you have done your part in sticking to your agreement.

(4)  Now, utilize your "L"vator speech.  Tell your contact why your are on the market for new employment or an expanded role, and what you bring to the market.  This is, in fact, your “L”vator speech (Refer to my article Crafting Your "L"vator Speech found in the Resume and Marketing Tools articles.)  Note the circumstances that cause you to be looking for employment or, if you are still employed, why you are seeking a new opportunity.  Cite your area(s) of expertise that make you stand out!  Tailor your remarks per each conversation and grab the attention and gain the admiration of each contact you talk with.  Mention some relevant accomplishments and strengths.
Caution: Your goal in networking is to learn.  So set the stage, sell yourself, and STOP TALKING !

Part 2:  Ask Questions  -  60% of your meeting
The point is to get your networking contact to share information; he or she should be talking the most. A good guideline is that he or she should be doing at least 60% of the talking in your meeting!
Design your questions to. . . .
(1) Elicit information, and
(2) Learn about about these 4 Target Areas:  good organizations your contact is aware of; people your contact could refer you to; good professional associations or groups that could you could benefit from; and headhunters (executive search firms) or employment agencies that are effective.

Planning and preparing a good and productive networking conversation or meeting is not hard.  But, it does take some work - work that pays dividends down the road in the form of opportunities!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
nancy@ajcglobal.com              www.ajcglobal.com             AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:  www.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-c-gober/6/14b/965        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

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