(post by Andrew Thorp)
This is the transcript of an interaction I had recently with an exhibitor at a conference in Manchester. She was involved (I think) in providing some accreditation for manufacturing industries, not something I’m especially interested in – but we caught each other’s eye as I walked past her stand and the conversation we had got me thinking about how exhibitors (and networkers) manage these interactions:
(AT) Hi there, you caught my eye so I’m going to come and talk to you!
(Exhibitor) Hello, I’m Carole (not her real name).
(AT) Andrew, nice to meet you.
(Exhibitor) What brings you here?
(AT) Well, I’m here as a guest today but I quite often speak at events like these (GQ).
(Exhibitor) Oh right…are you just here today?
(AT) Yes, just today.
(Exhibitor) Where are you based?
(AT) We have an office in Manchester but we often work from home.
(Exhibitor) I see…
(AT) So what’s this all about?
(Exhibitor) Well, we do…(and she continued).
Now, she was perfectly nice and affable but I think she missed an opportunity to ask the Golden Question. At the (GQ) point above, if she’d asked, “Oh really, what do you speak about?” she would have made a friend for life! That’s because she would have got me on to a topic that I was passionate about and the conversation would have opened up. And who knows where that might have taken us both. Instead, it dried up and no connection was made.
In these situations (networking scenarios too), I think 2 things are really needed:
- know your own story (have something really interesting to say about you and your business).
- know who is stood in front of you (get them to open up).
At that point, you’re well placed to find connections between the 2 but it requires good communication skills – great questions, great listening, the ability to improvise (Stephen Fry once said that conversation is “the improvised jazz of language”).
As the conversation evolves something changes between the two parties. It’s like a courtship, a kind of ‘dance’, and when things go well a wonderful sense of connection emerges. This comes from:
- Having things in common (eg an experience / football team / kids / challenges / culture).
- Seeing the world the same way (beliefs).
- Sharing the same sense of humour.
This invariably leads to you:
- Warming to one another.
- Building rapport and trust.
As a consequence, you’re more likely to:
- Find things they offer that you want (or vice versa).
- Know someone (or something) that might help the other party.
Because of the way the interaction is handled, there’s a connection created that’s deeper than “I know what she sells but I’m not really interested.” That means there’s more potential value in that interaction because it goes beyond skin-deep.
Great salespeople don’t perform well simply because they have ‘the gift of the gab’. They’re good at creating connections during an interpersonal exchange and asking the right question at the right time.