Let's spend some time on the subject of networking. With all that has been written about networking one would think that we are a nation of highly skilled networkers.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
"An important lesson in networking is that you have to keep at it. I made the mistake a few years back of thinking that I had built my network to the point where I thought I knew every one who could be of help.
What I forgot is that a network is a constantly changing group of people. People change jobs, move or die. If you do not keep building the network it will shrink and amazingly fast." Douglas Cumberland, Shipping and Transportation Industry.
Unfortunately, many people approach networking from the perspective that the overarching goal is to meet as many people as possible. This follows the premise that everyone one meets might know someone who could be a customer.
In theory that makes a certain amount of sense.
The plumber might know an executive who might have a need for your services. While the scenario is not inconceivable, the larger question is where do you want to spend your time? With a group of plumbers or with people who are more likely to directly buy your products?
It is a matter of playing the odds and where you want to invest your time. The key to successful networking is not only working the meeting in a productive manner, but also making sure that you are going to the right events.
What constitutes the right events will vary enormously depending upon what you sell and who you sell to. Thus, success in networking is equal parts strategic-What meeting should I attend?-and tactical-What do I do once I am there?
Introducing Yourself: How to Prepare Your Log Line
In order to get the most out of the time you invest in networking you have got to be able to communicate what you do in a way that is short, concise and memorable.
Sounds simple, but it is amazing how many people aren't able to do this. When people describe what they do it tends to be either way too technical for the average person to understand, or way too general.
A too technical description of what you do is especially harmful if you're trying to sell to the top-level decision-maker.
Most top decision-makers are fairly far removed from the detailed technical aspects of their business. If they were once technologists, they have likely moved on and are now dealing with a myriad of issues including sales, production, finance and human resources. They have specialists on their staff who deal with the technical implementation issues.
Thus, if you approach them with a highly technical description of what you do, it's very understandable for why they would immediately refer you to someone on their staff.
Conversely, if you're too general, it's difficult to visualize what you do and as a consequence the level of interest will be minimal. Thus, you have to strike a balance between being too specific or too general.
For example, I recently met a fellow at a networking event. I asked him, what did he do? "I make people productive." What type of people? "Everyone" How do you do that? "Lots of different ways."
As much as I might like to, I'm going to have difficulty being aware of situations that might call for his expertise. In a networking meeting you've got to be able to communicate what you do in a way that is short, concise and to the point.
This is what is called your Log Line.
The term log line has its roots in the motion picture industry in which a two-hour movie is summarized into a single sentence.
For example this is a log line: A South Carolina pacifist plantation owner joins the war for independence after a British officer murders his 15-year-old son. As you may have guessed, that is the log line for the movie, The Patriot.
Here is another: A fact-based sea yarn about a skipper of a Massachusetts swordfish boat that finds itself in the path of killer storms. That is the log line for the movie, The Perfect Storm.
What we need to do is to develop a log line that is specific enough, without being confusing to somebody who doesn't have our level of technical expertise.
For example my log line is, "I specialize in working with sales teams helping them make prospecting for new business more productive and less frustrating."
This is readily understandable and encourages people to ask me appropriate follow up questions. How do I do that? What types of clients do I work with? My log line is the first step in ensuring that the person I'm speaking with has a clear understanding about what I do.
To develop your log line write down answers to the follow two questions.
I specialize in working with...Who? What type of Industry? What types of people?
I help these people to... Do What? Satisfy what need? Achieve what goal? Avoid what
Your log line is now mostly complete. All you need to do is combine the two sentences together. "I specialize in working with (Who?) helping them (To do what?)."
You'll notice that my log line follows this format; "I specialize in working with sales teams, helping them make prospecting for new business more productive and less frustrating."
Remember that your goal is to strike a balance between being overly vague and mind-numbingly technical.
A too general log line such as, "We bring good things to life" is as unhelpful to your networking efforts as a too jargon laden one, "We optimize channel distribution strategies to develop linkages and enterprise performance." (The person actually sold magazine advertising.)
Remember that your goal is to be able to describe what you do in a way that is both understandable and elicits further interest.