Why do so many exploratory conversations with a prospective client, a business partner or a conference attendee reveal so much about our own frailties and poor use of time, and so little of value about the other person? If the objective is to profitably grow our business, we must excel at profitably using our time, particularly when building new relationships. We can in most business situations create more money but we cannot replenish the time lost in fruitless conversations, it is gone forever.
There are times when we can be pretty certain we are using our time wisely talking to or meeting the other person (a strong peer referral). There are times when we can be pretty certain when we are not using our time wisely (no relevance, no respect or no credibility attached to the individual).
The challenge for most people is identifying the “high value” opportunities, which currently reside in the middle ground and applying the right behaviour to unearth them while deflecting the rest.
I am talking about those “mysterious” individuals, who you know little or nothing about their past, their work with people like you and the results they might reasonably generate or the future impact they might have. This difficulty is accentuated in
- Networking or speaking requests at large formal gatherings (events, conferences and professional associations)
- Internal meeting and corporate function invitations
- Participation requests in “virtual” groups (undifferentiated online communities, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and so on)
- “Meet and greet” marketing in the early days of establishing a new business or entering a new market
- Amiable characters who find it hard to say “no” or those with high affiliation needs
- Consensual organisations, associations, groups, industries (hospitality, art) and cultures, where rejection is not easily embraced
I am not suggesting that you must be rude, what I am saying is that you must be “healthily selfish”. Otherwise, you have no one to blame when you have so little time to deploy to productive activities. Here are some powerful techniques and responses to minimise time wasted:
1. “Here is my business card, we should meet” (the random conference approach): “I am curious, what motivated you to think I would be interested?”
2. “We should discuss what we might be able to do together” (the random collaborative offer): “Why do you think that makes sense for both of us?”
3. “Tell me what does your firm do” (the passive aggressive random networking greeting): “We build trusting relationships with our peers. Why do you ask?”
4. “Let me tell you about what we found/heard/read….” (the segue to a self-aggrandizing story): “Before you start, can you tell me how I am better off from hearing/listening to it?”
5. “You should come to this [meeting, event, social gathering]” (the invitation dressed as a demand): “What results are you seeking and how would I know it is a success”
6. “There are lots of interesting people, it will be great” (the active encourager statement): “Tell me more, what are their interests and reasons for attending?”
6. “You are invited to join my [Club, Professional association, LinkedIn Group etc.]”: “You are kind to think of me, why you think it makes sense.”
7. “I am interested in your new product or service. Can you show me around or explain it?” (the inquisitive neighbour offer): “I would be delighted to assuming it makes sense for both of us. What motivated you to contact me?”
8. “Your attendance would really help move this issue forward?” (the gather the cavalry meeting request): “Thank you for suggesting it, what do you hope to accomplish with or without my participation?”
9. “We would love to have you attend, speak or contribute to the event” (the meeting planner or worse commercial sponsor scrounging for your time and money): “Great, can you tell me what I will walk away with?”
Have a look over the past month at the time you have invested networking, speaking, attending meetings and events, social functions, follow up and so forth, at the request of other individuals. Ask yourself what was a high, moderate and low value use of your time. What were the distinctions about the “high value” situations (relevance, excitement, accomplishments, interaction with peers, dynamic learning etc.)? What did you omit to do which resulted in wasting your time on moderate and low value use of your time (better qualification, greater control of your schedule, greater awareness of your time leakage, less fear of saying “no”, increased self-worth and so forth)? In this coming 4 weeks, assertively plan your time around finding more “high value” opportunities, and schedule them in the diary. Equally, assertively judge the merits of any informal or formal requests for your time, based on your learning over the past month.
You cannot eliminate all time wasters but you can dramatically lessen the impact if you are willing to be healthily selfish with your time.
© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.