Business and pleasure are strange bedfellows: The saying is they should never mix, yet I’d bet the biggest, most important deals of anyone’s career are made under social circumstances.
Case in point: The Long Island networking scene is based almost 100% around cocktail parties where liquor is freely flowing. To drink or not to drink? It’s all about knowing when to stop. The point is to get out and meet people. If you’re going to have a hard time remembering who they are in the morning, stop. The point is likewise to get out and get noticed. If you’re getting noticed for bad breath, slurred speech or sweaty palms, stop. And stop before these things happen.
A social setting, especially at a first meeting, is the opportune time to ask good questions and be a good listener. Engage your new fish by getting him to talk about himself. Not only will he remember you, but you’ll also gain insight into how he thinks, what he values and possibly even what his challenges are. All of which will give you a leg up when it comes time to talk shop.
It’s also a time to exercise your discretion. In other words, know what to say, how to say it and when. The close is all about “the ask.” Develop your one, surefire “ask,” practice it and get it down to silk on glass. It can be the same for every contact you make, but it must be good.
The absolute worst, though, is the leech. The person who desperately grips your collar with doldrums and anecdotes, which do nothing but monopolize your time and well, piss you off. If you 1. Tell stories that elicit no visible, pleasant facial expression from your audience; 2. Relate unrelated, inappropriate or deeply personal tales and/or; 3. Dare to actually try to get the deal done on the first meeting, right then and there, you are this person. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Finally no hyperbole. Keep the smack talking for the locker room where your friends already know you’re full of it and have decided to accept it. This includes name dropping and bragging about your achievements. Don’t do it. Good: “Do you know [enter name of a VIP]? You might want to get to know him. He was telling me recently about X and I was so impressed with his…” Bad: “So, I know you’ve heard of [enter name of VIP]. Well I do business with him all the time. He loves me! This guy listens to everything I say…”
People respect discipline and self-control. Use them wisely. And remember: The social networking you do in the flesh, with other live people, exceeds in merit what you do with the virtual ones. Proceed carefully and carry a large filter.
Practice your ask on Pat Lempa. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.