By Larry Galler

You are going through the buffet line of appetizers at a social event or business or networking meeting when, while grabbing for just one more buffalo wing, the person next to you starts up a conversation. Soon he asks the inevitable question: “What line of work are you in?”

If you say, “I’m a carpet cleaner” or “I’m a property restorer,” you’ve made a big error. While it is true, almost everyone at that event will give an answer that is a one- or two-word job descriptor: “Accountant,” “IT manager,” “human resources administrator,” etc. Those are all dull answers that attract a nod of recognition and an “uh huh” response.

The conversation pretty much stops there. You’ve not intrigued anyone. The person you are talking to won’t ask a question out of curiosity because they know — or think they know — what you do and what you are, and quite honestly… they pretty much don’t care.

Getting the right response

Ask yourself whether you care and are curious enough to ask a follow up question when someone tells you they are an auditor. The truth is that no one cares what you do unless they are somehow intrigued or curious.

The response you want to get in that moment of meeting is, “That’s interesting; how do you do that?”

To get that type of response, you’ve got to say something that will make them curious — make them want to find out more — something like “I make homes and offices beautiful” or “I help people who have experienced a disaster recover their lives.”

After they’re hooked

When you get the “How do you do that?” question, that’s when you can talk about what you really do, give a brief success story, and then ask, as you exchange business cards, “Would you like to see some amazing photos of my work?” Now you have interested a total stranger in you, your business, and how you can make their lives better, which is what really interests them.

As good as that introduction is, it’s only part of the story. When they leave this event, there is a huge probability they will forget about you. They will glance at your business card as they throw it in that little box that holds hundreds of others they never look at (You’ve probably got one of those also, right?) where it will never see the light of day again. Your business card might as well be in the LaBrea Tar Pit with all the other fossils.

Following up after a networking meeting

Now it’s time to initiate your follow up program. The very next day, send your new contact an email (Their address is on their business card, right?) telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them along with some relevant promotional material. At appropriate intervals, send them other promotional material — glowing testimonials from your clients, tips to help them be more successful that are allied to your line of work, or maybe just a note of “it’s time to change your vacuum bag” or “check the water hose to your washing machine to avert disaster.” If it is appropriate to your business, send seasonal exclusive offers that explain they are “only for people in my inner circle — not the general public.”

I’ve been sending out an emailed newsletter weekly that includes my newspaper column for almost 20 years. Somewhere around 15 to 20 percent of the recipients open it. I usually receive three or four email inquiries a month about some aspect of my services. (If you would like to receive it, just subscribe at my website) This follow-up program has worked well for me and many small businesses that have done something similar.

You’ve got to be benefit driven and somewhat creative, somewhat audacious, and somewhat interesting or they will hit delete the moment they see your email. You want them to see your email and say to themselves, “I wonder what that guy is sending me this time.” If you can do that, some (not all) of them will open your emails, and when they are in the market for your services, they will pick up the phone and call.

I’ve heard many people tell me that networking doesn’t work. But what they are really saying is “Networking doesn’t work for me because I’m too lazy to create an intriguing, benefit-driven, curiosity-building opening statement and a strong, frequent, interesting, and appropriate follow-up campaign that goes on endlessly.”

I know that networking works, but you must remember that a big part of that word is “work”! You’ve got to work at it. It starts with the person you just met asking, “How do you do that?”


Larry Galler has been creating marketing and management breakthroughs for owners of small and mid-size businesses for more than 20 years. For a free telephone strategy session, email larry@larrygaller.com. Subscribe to his weekly newspaper column and newsletter at www.larrygaller.com.