The Art of Schmoozing
“It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.” Susan RoAne.
The Guy Kawasaki Theory of Schmoozing version 1.0 was ad hoc: get to know the people that you need for a specific deal. It was short-term and focused.Version 2.0 is ad infinitum–maybe even ad nauseum.
It’s taken me twenty years, but I’ve figured out that it’s much easier
to make a sale, build partnerships, create joint ventures–you name
it–with people that you already know than with people you just met.
The key is to establish a relationship before you need it. And this is why I’d like to provide the art of schmoozing.
- Understand the goal. Darcy Rezac in his book, The Frog and the Prince,
wrote the world’s best definition of schmoozing: “Discovering what you
can do for someone else.” Herein lies eighty percent of the battle:
great schmoozers want to know what they can do for you, not what the
you can do for them. If you understand this, the rest is just mechanics.
- Get out. Schmoozing is an analog, contact sport.
You can’t do it alone from your office on the phone or via a computer.
You may hate them but force yourself to go to tradeshows, conventions,
and seminars. It’s unlikely that you’ll be closing a big order with
someone you met online at MySpace or via Skype. Get out there and press
- Ask good questions, then shut up. The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others
to talk a lot. Thus, good schmoozers are good listeners, not good
talkers. Ask softball questions like, “What do you do?” “Where are you
from?” “What brings you to this event?” Then listen. Ironically, you’ll
be remembered as an interesting person.
- Unveil your passions. Only talking about business
is boring. Good schmoozers unveil their passions after they get to know
you. Great schmoozers lead off with their passions. Your passions make
you an interesting person–you’ll stick out because you’re the only
person not talking about 802.11 chipsets at the wireless conference.
Personally, my passions are children, Macintosh, Breitling watches,
digital photography, and hockey if you ever meet me.
- Read voraciously. In order to be a good schmoozer, you need to read voraciously–and not just the EE Times, PC Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.
You need a broad base of knowledge so that you can access a vast array
of information during conversations. Even if you are a pathetic
passionless person, you can at least be a well-read one who can talk
about a variety of topics.
- Follow up. Over the course of my career, I’ve gave
away thousands of business cards. At one point, I thought I was nuts
because if all those people called or emailed me, I’d never get
anything done. Funny thing: hardly anyone ever follows up. Frankly, I
don’t know why people bother asking for a business card if they’re not
going to follow up. Great schmoozers follow up within twenty-four
hours–just a short email will do: “Nice to meet you. I hope we can do
something together. Hope your blog is doing well. I loved your
Breitling watch. I have two tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals if you
want to attend.” Include at least one thing to show the recipient that
she isn’t getting a canned email.
- Make it easy to get in touch. Many people who want
to be great schmoozers, ironically, don’t make it easy to get in touch
with them. They don’t carry business cards, or their business cards
don’t have phone numbers and email addresses. Even if they provide this
information, it’s in grey six-point type. This is great if you’re
schmoozing teenagers, but if you want an old, rich, famous, powerful
people to call or email, you’d better use a twelve-point font. (These
are the same folks that need the thirty-point font vis-a-vis the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.)
- Give favors. One of my great pleasures in life is
helping other people; I believe there’s a big Karmic scoreboard in the
sky. God is keeping track of the good that you do, and She is
particularly pleased when you give favors without the expectation of
return from the recipient. The scoreboard always pays back. You can
also guess that I strongly believe in returning favors for people who
have helped you.
- Ask for the return of favors. Good schmoozers give
favors. Good schmoozers also return favors. However, great schmoozers
ask for the return of favors. You may find this puzzling: Isn’t it
better to keep someone indebted to you? The answer is no, and this is
because keeping someone indebted to you puts undue pressure on your
relationship. Any decent person feels guility and indebted. By asking
for, and receiving, a return favor, you clear the decks, relieve the
pressure, and set up for a whole new round of give and take. After a
few rounds of give and take, you’re best friends, and you have mastered
the art of schmoozing.
Written at: Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, Orlando, Florida.
February 01, 2006 | Permalink