Some days they just aren’t in the mood
for a sing-a-long.

“I don’t think I want to go, Daddy”

You could have knocked me over with an overpriced movie ticket. I had been so excited about taking the girls to see the “Frozen” sing-a-long movie that it didn’t even occur to me that Kaylie wouldn’t want to go. After all, she ran around the house singing the songs from the movie all the time. At a dinner party over the holidays, we couldn’t stop her from retelling the entire story including the musical accompaniment. When we saw it again in the theater I had to caution her repeatedly about being too loud when joining in. Now she didn’t want to go to one where you were actually encouraged to sing along?

I guess I was a little disappointed.

A similar thing can happen when we first start networking. We meet people at an event and we agree to meet for coffee. We get excited because we think it means there’s a good chance they want to buy from us. Then we’re disappointed when it turns out they don’t.

How can we serve them when they don’t want whatever it is we’re selling?

Here are a few ideas on what we can do to make ourselves useful:

  1. Ask them what they need. Just like a doctor, you can’t prescribe without diagnosis. Instead of selling/telling your services, actually ask them how you can help.
  2. Ask them what their challenges are. Sometimes they won’t know how you can help. Ask them, instead, what challenges they might be facing in the next six months to a year. Maybe you can help.
  3. Ask them about their dreams. It doesn’t have to be all negative. Wouldn’t it be great to help someone realize a life-long goal or dream?
  4. Know what you have to offer. Understand you are more than just your job or business. You have resources you can call upon to put in their service. Know what they are so you are ready to be the one they call whenever there’s a problem.
  5. Keep your networking goggles on. One person’s problems are another’s opportunities. Maybe the person you are speaking with doesn’t need anything that you can provide personally, but you might be able to make a connection to someone who can help. You score points with both parties.
  6. Be a friendly ear. If nothing else, sometimes they just need a sympathetic ear to listen to their problems and plans. Be their confidant and advisor. They will feel closer to you even if it doesn’t build their bottom line directly.

Remember, when you sit down to chat with a networking contact, you don’t get to decide that your solution is what they need. You may know they’ll love it, but just as with my daughter and the “Frozen” sing-a-long, first focus on what they know they want.

They (and you) will be much less likely to be disappointed.