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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
The 411 on Schmoozing
Guy Kawasaki, the managing director of a venture capital firm, columnist with Entrepreneur Magazine and author of eight motivation books regarding business, says that schmoozing potential clients and investors is the best way to establish a business relationship. In his latest column, Get in Good, he provides the following tips for being a successful schmooze:
What’s the Point?
The ultimate goal of being a good schmooze is to do something for someone else. Granted, you probably have ulterior motives at play, but try not to let that be your entire focus. It should predominately be about helping others, so don’t be afraid to offer favors to your new business associates, and don’t expect anything in return. This, of course, is something I feel should be our goal in every aspect of our lives, not just in making new business acquaintances.
Kawasaki believes that the best way to get in the door is to meet people in public at conventions, trade shows, seminars, networking events, etc. I agree that this is the best way to meet people and initially establish the business relationship. I do not agree with his statement that you can’t do so over e-mail or the telephone.
Once you’ve met someone in person, it’s e-mail and phone that are the best way to keep that connection strong. Granted, you want to try and go to lunch with them every once in awhile to catch up in person, but every medium of communication is equally important in keeping that business relationship thriving.
Use Leading Questions
Ask questions that invoke conversation, such as “Where are you from?” Kawasaki emphasizes the importance of listening more than you talk. I agree, but want to add that it is also important that you keep the other person talking. If their answer to above question is simply “Cleveland,” then ask more specific question, such as “I’ve never been there, is it worth a visit?” or “What points of interest are their in Cleveland?” and the like. The more interested you seem in the other persons life, the more interesting you become. Everyone wants someone to chat with.
Don’t Let Business Chatter Dominate
Even if you’re at a business event, don’t let business be the only topic of conversation. And, not only do you want to get the other person talking, but you want that person to see that you are more than just the owner of a home cleaning service (or whatever your job may be). Bring your passions into the conversation.
For example, my own passions include quality time with my family, kids, photography, sewing, scrapbooking and literature. Kawasaki shares that his passions include children, Macintosh, Breitling watches, digital photography and hockey. Right there, Kawasaki and I could have a conversation about kids or photography that would help to make our business relationship more legitimate. It’s about finding common ground to share and connect on other levels.
Brush Up on the World
In order to keep conversations with those you’re schmoozing interesting, it is important that you keep up with what’s going on around you. As Kawasaki says, read voraciously. And don’t limit yourself to business publications. Read the New York Times, People Magazine, National Geographic, etc. Expand and broaden your horizons so that you can always find something to talk about (and you don’t look like a duffus when topics like global warming are brought up).
Keep in Touch
Be sure that you always get contact information for those you meet, especially an e-mail address. Kawasaki recommends that, withing 24 hours, you send them a short e-mail that lets them know it was a pleasure to meet them. Make reference to conversation you had (such as “I’d love to see some of your digital photographs some time”) and make an effort to reconnect at a future date (“Would you like to get together for lunch next month?”).
Also, be sure that you have contact information readily available to every person you meet. Of course, the easiest way to accomplish this is through providing them with a business card, so always have some on hand. And be sure that they contain all of your contact information, including telephone numbers, e-mail, website, and mailing address, and that it is easy to read.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Though, as stated earlier, it’s important to not expect anything in return for the favors your provide, it’s also important that you not be afraid to ask when you do need something. That’s why we make such connections, after all. If you met someone who has a client list a mile long, don’t fear asking for a few contacts to help your up and coming business move a step further. But be sure you’ve established a healthy, reliable and trustworthy representation of yourself, and provide a few favors of your own for your new business associates before requesting them yourself. Otherwise they will only feel deceived and used.
Schmoozing isn’t exactly a word I like, as it seems to imply deceitfulness in some fashion, but you do need to brown-nose a bit in order to get things moving as you network with other businesses and clients. Essentially, though, it shouldn’t be about sucking-up to get in the door, but about being genuinely a polite and giving person. Just don’t let it become something you only do in the beginning of a business relationship. It really should be a practice for everyone you meet and come into contact with… to have meaningful conversations, stay in contact, and provide favors for everyone who is a part of your life, not just those that benefit the success of your business.
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