LET ME share with you the first exchanges of a short conversation I had this week with someone I haven't seen for a couple of years.
"Hello David. Are you enjoying retirement?"
"I'm not retired"
"Oh dear, can't you afford to retire?"
I will refrain from naming the individual concerned, only because I believe his foot-in-mouth attempts at a friendly chat were prompted more by nervousness than insensitivity.
But I found myself making determined efforts to end the encounter as quickly as possible.
The experience raises what is, for me, an important aspect of networking: namely that some degree of preparation is essential.
If you are fortunate enough to have prior knowledge of your fellow networkers - The Best of Croydon issues delegate lists in advance - you can target a number of individuals and decide what you want to say to each of them.
If not, you can only make general preparations, but these need not be confined to enquiries about personal and professional well-being.
Current business news and sports stories are always worth researching. You can develop a positive encounter by eliciting the other person's views.
But you must listen to the answers and respond naturally. Indeed; it is a good discipline to encourage the other person to do most of the talking.
That will give you information that will help you to tailor your sales message more accurately when the time comes.
Don't go networking with the intention of selling your product or service to everyone you meet - in my opinion that's a recipe for failure.
Instead, make up your mind to attend a monthly series of networking events over the following year where you are likely to meet a selection of the same people.
Think of each meeting as a link in a chain that will eventually result in your doing business with some of these people - consider reinforcing the chain with interim exchanges by e-mail.
In any case, avoid making assumptions - my conversation, quoted earlier, might have been very different and more fruitful if the other person had started with a more general enquiry: "Hello David. What are you doing these days?"
Croydon Eye is a weekly commentary written exclusively for The Best of Croydon by David Callam and posted in the blog section every Thursday.
David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk
Member since: 10th July 2012
Hi - me and my gang champion and promote the best businesses in the Croydon and Bromley Boroughs. If you are a local business owner, then we'd love to help you grow your profile, profits and get more business.