If you’ve ever attended any kind of a “networking” (I hate that term, as it’s one letter away from NOTworking) event, you’ve certainly heard the dreaded yet obligatory question: “what do you do?” Probably even worse is the 45 min lecture some people go into in trying to tell you everything they know, about a topic, industry, or a job you may know or candidly care anything about it! In recent years, there has been all kinds of books, speeches, and resources by so called experts on fine tuning your elevator pitch, 90-second mission statement, or purpose in life. Some of it is useful. Much of it is pedestrian.

SuccessHere is a simple question for an insane conversation: Tell me a success story?

Don’t tell me what you do or how you do it, because that’s often not as interesting. What I’m really intrigued about is the outcome you’re creating for those you call customers, or partners, or members. Tell me how they’re better off because of you? Tell me how their lives are better off because of your products or services. Tell me how you’ve invested time, effort and resources to really get to know them and their needs, how you’re aligning your offering to meet that need, how you’re anticipating their future needs, and in the process, how are you transforming their lives?

Buyer beware – I’m going to be naturally inquisitive so if you say something that doesn’t pass the smell test, I’m going to press you to better understand what that means, or how you did that, or what their alternative options were and why they chose you. By the way, I’m well read and traveled and carry a B.S. radar so save us both the embarrassment and don’t “wing it.”

If you don’t have a success story, work on creating one that you can be proud to share. If it’s too long, cut it short. Brevity is the soul of wit! If your success story is succinct and impactful, you’ll inevitably keep me engaged and wanting to know more. Otherwise, I’m moving on. Not trying to be malice here but so much of the dreaded small talk at any gathering is an utter waste of time. You want to connect with others in a genuine way? Add value to every interaction. You want to attract stronger referral sources and partners who can extend your reach or the distribution of your unique value-add? Connect the dots for me between what you do (input) and why anyone would care (outcome)!

Amazing relationships are derived from great conversations. And great conversations start by being interesting, interested, and relevant. As an old mentor drove into me years ago, “the only job security any of us have is the perceived value we bring to those who pay us, on a daily basis!” Never forget that people always have a choice!

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