How to Communicate Effectively When Networking
Effective communication can be challenging. If it were easy, there would be no need for books, training programs, or research on the subject. There would also be far fewer divorces–and wars. And yet, communication is vital in business networking. Your success in marketing your business and yourself rests mostly on your skills as a communicator. The clearer and more concise you make your message, the more easily it is passed on by your referral partners.
Three Common Ways That People Miscommunicate
- They talk too much.
- They use industry jargon.
- They speak in generalities.
Any one of these mistakes can cause your message to be misheard, lost, or ignored. Even worse, these mistakes can create confusion or misinformation, and may possibly turn people against you, causing greater harm than if you had not tried to communicate at all.
- The easiest way to avoid talking too much is to listen more. Of course you want to be polite and answer questions that people ask you. However, sometimes we get carried away and continue talking about ourselves long after we answered the original question. Be sure that you reciprocate and ask the same, or a similarly relevant, question to them.
And then…. BE QUIET.
When you ask someone a question, be respectful and give the courtesy of listening to what they have to say in reply.
Remember, a master networker has two ears and one mouth, and they use them proportionally.
- You must eliminate industry jargon from your vocabulary in a networking situation unless you are speaking with someone in the same line of work as yours. It is best to simplify your message so the average person can relate to what you are saying.
Here are some examples of possible responses when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”
- Rather than saying, “I do IT consulting and system hard drive analysis,” you can say, “I troubleshoot and tune up computers to keep them free of problems.” Most people easily relate to computers that are problem-free, while terms such as “IT consulting” and “hard drive analysis” can be confusing.
- Instead of saying, “I’m a marketing consultant,” consider saying, “I help businesses become known in the community.”
Did you notice how the industry jargon is eliminated and then replaced with a benefit statement in these examples? We went from industry-specific, feature-related terms and changed the responses to less-specific, benefit-related terms.
- In business networking, it is also important to make sure that you don’t speak in terms that are too general. General requests are hard for people to fulfill because they don’t bring a specific person or situation to their mind.
If you were to ask a realtor what kind of prospect they want to meet and they say, “Anybody who wants to sell a home,” it is very unlikely that you will immediately think of someone who “wants to sell a home.” If you do know someone who is putting their house on the market, they are probably already working with a real estate agent. However, if the realtor says, “I would like to meet empty-nesters who are looking to downsize,” you immediately think of two or three couples whose last child has moved out. This answer from the realtor is more specific, which helps you think of homeowners who may be starting to consider moving to a smaller house.I know it may seem odd but the more specific you are, the wider the door opens in the listener’s mind. To network your business effectively, think of yourself as a profiler. The more accurately you profile and identify your preferred client, and the more specific your message about your target market, the better the referrals you will receive. Being specific is also very helpful when you ask someone to help you. If you would like a personal introduction to the CEO of the ABC Company, be specific when you ask one of your referral partners to introduce you. “Juan, could you arrange a one-hour lunch meeting for the two of us and Mary Sinclair, the CEO of ABC Company? She’s someone I would really like to meet, and because you know both of us so well, it would be great to have you there.” This request is specific and it gives Juan the details he needs to successfully complete the task and arrange the meeting.
Tips to Help Your Message
A great way to help you get comfortable communicating your simple and specific message is to practice delivering it.
This is the most-asked question at networking events: “What do you do for a living?”
This week, practice your response to this question, and time yourself, honing it until you can answer it clearly and concisely in one minute. It is important to keep in mind that the question is what do you do for a living, not how you do it.
Another good way to craft an effective message is to identify ten jargon words that you have used in networking situations.
I suggest that you make a list with two columns–title the first column “Jargon Words or Phrases” and name the second column “Saying the Same Thing in Layperson’s Terms.” Then figure out a way to replace the jargon word with one that is easily understood by the average person.
A third thing you can do to practice your message is to write out a referral request before presenting it to the people in your networking group. Make the request specific by using the name, company, and description (profile) of the person you would like to be referred to. Create a clear image of what your fellow members should look for and describe what you want them to do on your behalf. As an experiment, you can show your written request to someone close to you and ask them if it is clear, concise, and specific. Incorporate their feedback before sharing the request at your networking meeting.
You have to be specific when you talk about what you do, using easy-to-understand language. Effective communication is imperative to get referrals from your business networking efforts. Your networking partners must understand what you do in a way that helps them identify potential referrals for you and also helps them easily connect those people to you.