This is a quiz.
At your first face-to-face meeting with a colleague, your goal is to:
(a) Get a referral
(b) Get at least two referrals
(c) Get hired for a project
(d) None of the above
If you chose (a), (b) or (c), you’re dreaming. You have only one objective: to get to know one another. Period.
As the old networking adage does, “People do business with people they know, like and trust.”
The “know” and “like” parts come from learning about each other’s personal lives more than your business lives. That starts with small talk: discussing kids, family, sports or even the weather.
You’ll never do business if you don’t like each other. Schmooze or lose!
(Full disclosure. Schmooze or Lose is an expression I “borrowed’ from Susan Roane, a networking expert I interviewed in 2010.)
Do Your Homework
A successful one-on-one meeting starts with pre-meeting research. Google your colleague. Check out her LinkedIn profile and website.
This step is essential. First, you may uncover some mutual connections or areas of mutual interest. This could make your meeting much richer. Second, you’ll look dumb (or at least lazy) by asking questions to which you should know the answers.
Recently, in preparing for a lunch with a colleague, I found that we graduated from the same college. He’d done his pre-meeting research as well so he knew about our shared alma mater.
It was a great way to get started. We spent a good part of the lunch discussing our experiences as students and alums.
We ended up discussing some business as well. But the college connection helped us build rapport.
Relax. Don’t Push.
Spending the entire meeting “schmoozing” and talking about non-business matters would not necessarily be a waste of time. If you’ve established rapport, you can schedule another meeting to discuss business topics.
Ideally, though, you will discuss business. But be careful about abruptly switching the topic from to business.
If your colleague is waxing poetic about her daughter’s high school lacrosse team, don’t change the subject. Let her finish.
I speak from personal experience. In two instances, I was “making small talk” with a prospect. I then got antsy and tried to change the topic to my services.
It didn’t work. The prospect became visibly annoyed. Needless to say, I didn’t get the project in either case.
Look for a graceful transition from small talk to business. If there a pause in the discussion, you might say something like “tell me about your business” or “I noticed on your website that xxx is a client.”
Once she has described her business, presumably, she’ll ask you to do the same.
Above all, avoid questions such as “How can I help you?” That’s a real conversion killer.
You know very little about her business. How COULD you possibly help her? You can’t (yet).
Don’t Forget Next Steps
Before the meeting ends, agree on next steps. Otherwise, it was a pleasant lunch and not much else.
Next steps could include one or more of the following:
- Make the intros each of you agreed to make
- Agree to talk again to discuss specific referrals
- Invite her to view your LinkedIn contacts to see if there are any fits (you have to connect via LinkedIn first)
- Agree to do some research and then reconnect by phone. Schedule the call right then or send an email to set a time.
Finally, send an email thanking her for meeting and recapping the next step(s).