• Career Center

    How to Lay the Groundwork for Future Discussions

    By | October 7, 2016

    We all get the value of social prospecting.  By attending events and not being a jerk you can meet people who can advance your career, become great clients, great friends or your next spouse.  Lots of people get stuck on the being a jerk part.  Social prospecting is similar to dating.  Desperate people don’t get dates.  How do you make a connection before they disappear?

    This isn’t your first rodeo.  You know how to start conversations you know how to keep the conversation going and identify interests in common.  You know less is more and when it’s time to break away.  So how do you make the connection?

    It’s actually very simple.  At parties and events two major bottlenecks are the coat check line and the valet parking station.  (Skip the bathroom line because no one wants to talk when they’ve really gotta go.)

    You see the person you would like to see again as they wait for their Maybach to pull up.  You ignore the attendant calling “Who has the black Honda Civic?”

    One approach is to Establish Your Value.  You’ve learned they entertain a lot.  They don’t know much about wine, you do.  They are traveling to St. Maarten for the first time.  You just returned.  Remind them you talked about this topic.  You have some ideas you would be glad to pass along. 

    Another approach is mentioning Shared Interests.  Enthusiasts with a hobby or special interest like to talk about it with fellow fans.  When they aren’t at shows, exotic car club owners gather in parking lots to talk about cars.  In this example you approach the person you met, explain you had a good time and mention your shared interests as the rationale for keeping in touch.

    These two approaches lead to Asking for Contact Information.  “Here’s my business card” shatters the mood.  Try:  “I would like to keep in touch.  How do I do that?”  Stop talking.  They might pull out a card or write their email address on a cocktail napkin.  They might suggest social media.  At this point I pull out my own card, write “Bryce and Jane” on the back along with our phone number.  I present the card handwritten side forward.  This identifies it as a personal connection, yet they have my business details on the other side.

    But that’s not you.  You like them but don’t want to adopt them.  A simple Looking Forward to Seeing You at the Next Event positions you as a regular attendee at the function.  This might be a museum exhibition opening, art gallery reception or professional society meeting.

    You like these folks but don’t want the evening to end.  Here’s another approach:  We’re Heading Out to Dinner.  Want to Join Us?  You might attend after work events where the food on offer is pretty sparse or the crowd around the buffet is thick with freeloaders.   It’s likely they haven’t eaten either.  You haven’t entered into a contractual obligation to buy them dinner.  New friends thrown together by circumstances know they are picking up their own tab.

    Sometimes you don’t need to solicit contact information.  If you are at an alumni club function, it’s likely the group maintains an online directory of members with contact details.  You might say:  I Had a Good Time…I May Be Giving You a Call.  It’s understood everyone’s contact information is available.  Make sure you do call.  Although you aren’t looking to date them, you want to demonstrate you are true to your word.

    Social prospecting is an art.  Too often we let great opportunities slip away because we hesitated to make the next move.

    Image: iStock/Rawpixel Ltd

    • sludgemonkey

      I see this as a topic that HorniestPartner can knock out of the park.

      • Bryce Sanders

        Think social. Opportunity knocks, but sometimes it only knocks once. Conversations for dating and meeting people socially can easily be misinterpreted. Attend with your spouse or a date and introduce them. Another strategy is to refer to them in the third person. “He couldn’t come tonight. Big trial tomorrow.” It’s been said at the end of our lives we don’t regret the things we did as much as the things we didn’t do.

      • The Horniest Partner

        I can rub one out here, there and everywhere

    • CONomad

      Because nothing says shared common interests than a 23 year-old Associate trying to find common ground with a 48 year-old Partner…unless it involves a room in the hotel where event is occurring.

      • Bryce Sanders

        You bring up a key point, having your intentions misunderstood. Starting a conversation and hitting on someone can be easily confused. There are expressions you can use or facts you can introduce into evidence (My wife and I live in…) that lay the groundwork for a social conversation.

        Years ago, someone in the financial services industry made an observation about conferences. “Brokers, alcohol and hotel rooms are never a good combination.”

        • CONomad

          My point being, that there is little more awkward than when associates try to “get to know the Partners”.

          Trust me…I was that guy. It takes a while to learn a few things:

          A) Observe the culture. Are most people in the office really into golf…better learn to golf. Are there a lot of baseball fans…learn to at least be able to keep up with the local team;

          B) Do not force getting to know people. Building a rapport takes time, and take shared experiences. Sometimes the best time to get to know people is work through your closer networks. Sometimes the after-alumni function drinks off-site, with a smaller group will yield much better results.

    • Bryce Sanders

      You are absolutely right. These things cannot be forced. I’m thinking more about social settings, professional or alumni events where you meet people outside of the hierarchy at work. Your points about the culture are excellent. If golf is the shared interest, you get to know golf. Thanks for your observations about the “drinks after the Alumni event” and small group settings.

    • The Horniest Partner

      I have been to countless networking lunches and other events with bankers, attorneys, insurance and even “thought leaders” (hate that term). I even was dragged to an awful Rotary Club meeting. Not sure if I ever got any bidness from it. I do alright just doing good work for my clients and not trying to be someone I aint.

      • Bryce Sanders

        Absolutely. You meet a lot of people and do the right thing, you raise your visibility and eventually business comes to you. FYI: While at a destination wedding, I met a guy who owned a few car dealerships. He told a story about attending an event where Mitt Romney walked up behind him, clasped him on the shoulder and addressed him by name. (I guess he travels in the right circles!) The guy we met met them explained he was a Rotary Club member.

      • sludgemonkey

        But wearing pants is a prerequisite, I hope you’d agree?