Communication is always a challenge. If it were easy, there would be no need for research, books, or training programs on the subject, and there would be far fewer divorces–and wars. But communication is doubly vital in networking. Your success in marketing your business by word of mouth rests mostly on your skills as a communicator. The clearer and more concise your message, the more easily it is passed on by your marketing team.
Here are three common ways people miscommunicate:
- They talk too much
- They use jargon
- They speak in generalities
Doing any of these things is a mistake that can cause your message to be lost, misheard, or ignored. Worse, it can create misinformation or confusion, or even turn people against you, causing you greater harm than if you had not tried to communicate at all. In a networking situation, remember that unless you are speaking with someone else in your industry, you must eliminate the jargon from your vocabulary. Simplify your message so the average person can relate to what you’re saying. When someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?” here are some examples of how to best respond:
- Instead of saying, “I do IT consulting and system hard drive analysis,” say, “I troubleshoot and tune up computers to keep them free of problems.” It’s easy to relate to computers that are problem free, but terms like “IT consulting” and “hard drive analysis” are confusing to some.
- Instead of saying, “I’m a marketing consultant,” say, “I help businesses become known in the community.”
- Instead of saying, “I analyze telecommunications hardware and systems,” say, “I save businesses money on their phone systems.”
Notice how in these examples, the industry jargon is eliminated and then replaced with a benefit statement. That is, we went from industry-specific, feature-related terms to less-specific, benefit-related terms. In networking, it is also important to take care not to speak in too general of terms. General requests are hard for people to fulfill, because they don’t bring to mind specific people or situations that the listener may know of.
Suppose you ask a realtor what kind of prospect he wants to meet and the realtor says, “Anyone who wants to sell a home.” The chances of your knowing someone who “wants to sell a home” are slim, and if you do know someone who is putting her house on the market, she’s probably already dealing with a real estate agent. But if the realtor says, “Empty nesters looking to downsize,” you immediately think of two or three couples whose last child has moved out. This answer is more specific, and it makes you think of home owners who may be just starting to consider moving to a smaller house.
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 your preferred client and the more specific your message, the better your referrals will be. Being specific also helps when you ask someone to help you. Let’s say you’re looking for a personal introduction to the CEO of Company X. When you ask someone in your network to introduce you, be specific: “John, could you arrange a one-hour lunch meeting for the two of us and Ruth Sinclair, the CEO of Company X? She’s someone I’d really like to meet, and since you know both of us well, it would be great to have you there.” This request is specific; it gives John the details he needs to successfully complete the task.
A great way to get used to communicating your message simply and specifically is to practice delivering it. Here’s the most-asked question in networking: “So, what do you do for a living?” This week, practice your response to this question, and time yourself until you can answer it concisely and clearly in one minute. Keep in mind that the question is what do you do for a living, not how you do it. Another good way to work on your message is to identify ten jargon words that you’ve been using in your networking. Make a list with two columns–title the first column “Jargon Words or Phrases” and the second column “Saying the Same Thing in Layperson’s Terms.” 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 network. Make the request specific by using the name, company, and profile of the person you want to be referred to. Create a clear image of what the people in your network should be looking for and what you want them to do on your behalf. As an experiment, show your written request to someone close to you and ask him if it is clear, concise, specific, and devoid of assumptions. Becoming an effective profiler for your business not only helps you clarify your messages, but it also helps ensure the success of your referral marketing efforts. -s
I’d love to hear about your experiences in practicing your message so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below–thanks!