Humankind is your business. This gender-corrected paraphrase of Charles Dickens holds truer today than ever. Whether you produce world class software or lifesaving cardio stents, it doesn’t mean a thing without the right people placing, using, and buying them. Thus it seems as if the entire realm of commerce revolves around meeting people who don’t know they need you, and convincing them that they do.
Like all things human, such connecting and convincing is a fine art. To help with both the basic and detailed brush strokes, Michael Goldberg, founder of Building Blocks Consulting, presents “The Pool Rules of Networking,” at the Princeton Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon on Thursday, June 4, at 11:30 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Cost: $50. Visit www.princetonchamber.org.
Like many speaker and trainers, Goldberg’s talent grew out of experience in other fields and dawned on him as a bit of a surprise. Hailing from Long Island, Goldberg attended CUNY in Brooklyn, earning his bachelor’s in hospitality in 1988. This led him to a career of several years with giant food chain firms, where he traveled the country opening new kitchens and restaurants. “When you’re young it’s fun and very social to move around and launch the next new Bennigans, Houlihans, Red Lobster, or Ground Round. But after awhile it tires,” says Goldberg.
Having been praised as a speaker and trainer, throughout his old jobs, Goldberg returned to school for a master’s in training and organization development from Lesley University. He then joined Staples as training director, and was later recruited by Training By Design in Boston.
In 2000, feeling the entrepreneurial urge, Goldberg founded Building Blocks Consulting in Jackson and currently specializes in helping sales teams of the financial and insurance sector.
“I remember taking my daughter to a swimming pool.” recalls Goldberg. “And right there — just as at every public pool — were the basic pool rules, all the same as everywhere.” He began thinking about how much more genteel and effective meeting others would be at business functions if certain networking rules were known and practiced by all as standard procedure. The idea sparked a fire, and Goldberg forged a new set of networking maxims that do indeed make swimming with the big fish a lot less scary.
No food in the pool. At any networking or general business event, food is a great lure, and also a great distraction. Granted, being in line at the food table can offer several icebreaking opportunities, but Goldberg points out it can also distract you and cover your best face with chocolate icing. Instead, he suggests getting to all events early, garnering your food before the prime quarry arrives, leaving you hands and mind free for the hunt.
Remember your waterwings. “Come prepared with both your tangible and mental tools,” says Goldberg. Have business cards in one pocket, and a separate pocket for those you receive. Keep pens and index cards, and even a handheld device to make quick look ups. But the best tangible tool is to have your own name tag with your name, company, and logo boldly emblazoned. It instantly sets you apart as a distinctive individual who comes prepared.
Mentally, most people wander vaguely through events without having the answers to some very basic questions. “Before you even leave the house,” says Goldberg, “ask yourself why are you going to this event? What do you hope to get out of it?” Are you looking to find a lot of other people and let them know about you and your services? Do you just want to meet that special one or a few who might become strong clients or leads?
“Remember,” says Goldberg “selling is different from networking, and you do not go to a gathering to sell.”
No cannonballs. When you make the approach, there is a natural tendency to plunge in with mouth open, providing your overwhelmed listener with the patter of little feats. Goldberg suggests a little restraint, and like any good hunter put yourself in the quarry’s place and let them come to you.
Try employing a series of questions that draw the individual out: What kind of work do you do? Do you enjoy it? (66 percent of people do not.) Why do you love what you do? Or what would you change? Note how this technique sets up the introduction of your problem solving abilities, if they are appropriate.
People typically come to networking events to land business, land a job, learn something, get ideas, or just meet folks socially. Asking the individual why he comes here can be revealing. If the conversation continues, you might ask how the individual markets his business. This allows for comparison, and opens the door for the person to ask about you.
“When it comes around to talking about yourself,” says Goldberg, “it is vital to have an elevator pitch at the ready.” Ideally, such speech preparation will keep you from stumbling and hunting or words. But beware of the canned and clever speech that sounds like a well worn ad spiel. Think offhanded. Try to remember that this is merely chatting with other folks. Pitching and deal making can come after the relationship is formed. For now, it’s merely time to mingle and see if you can discover some interesting people. In networking, fate favors the kind and casual.