Major Anthony Nelson on ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ was always stressed because he had to schmooze a financial contributor or ‘make an appearance’ at a party for the sake of his career and he knew that somehow, Jeanie would pop in and screw something up. These days, we do all of our schmoozing and networking online. We just ‘pop in’ via email and Skype. But there’s something to be said for that old fashioned concept called ‘Face to Face Networking.’
The idea of networking and schmoozing is as old as the hills. Over the years the venues may have changed – we’ve moved from cocktail parties and restaurant conference rooms to online social networks – but it’s still the same thing. The idea is to gather together to connect with other people who can either become new business prospects or new business contacts who can help further our careers. What has changed though, is our ability to differentiate between networking, schmoozing and just plain selling. We need to re-learn the value of face to face networking.
In the old days, when Major Nelson had to put in an appearance at a cocktail party to help further his career, he was networking. He was meeting new people, and reconnecting with people he’d already been introduced to, and the purpose of the get-together was to develop business contacts. To create and grow a network of people who could all support each other by sharing business tips and news, business gossip and talking about career opportunities.
The people in the network would occasionally do business with one another but generally they weren’t there to sell anything other than themselves.
Major Nelson also occasionally attended cocktail parties where he would be required to schmooze a potential donor or client. Schmoozing is developing a relationship with a potential prospect, or a potential customer. It means you’re socializing with them and every now and then, in the middle of the conversation, you point out how you might be able to help them, if they were to become one of your customers. Schmoozing basically means ‘kissing up to the client.’ But in no way does it mean ‘Sell.’
If you remember back to some of those old ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ episodes, at some point Major Nelson always felt pressured, usually because General Peterson was pressuring him, to walk up to a potential contributor and try to sell him on the benefits of letting NASA handle his problem. At that point, the potential contributor raised his hand, waved Major Nelson off, and went to the bar for another cocktail. However, when Jeanie stepped in and started charming the client he usually came back around.
We can take a lesson from old episodes of ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ and ‘Bewitched’ and all those other sitcoms where businessmen were always networking, schmoozing, and screwing things up by feeling pressured to start throwing in a sales pitch.
Just because we’re networking online and we can’t actually see the people we’re connecting with, doesn’t mean we can completely relinquish tried and true marketing methods. The first rule of networking is that you’re not there to sell anything other than yourself. Your character and your personality.
Once you’ve started developing a network, then you can begin identifying potential prospects, people who may be interested in your product or service. And once you’ve done that, then the schmoozing begins. You start developing a more personal relationship with the prospect, and you occasionally mention the features and benefits of the product you sell.
But at no point during the entire networking or schmoozing stage do you ever actually sell. When you get to that point, when it’s time to start selling, you do it in a one-on-one setting.
The only way to get that one-on-one meeting is to set up a highly targeted landing page that speaks directly to your prospect, making him feel like he’s the only one who’s ever going to see that page. That’s when you can sell, and not a minute before.
The value of good, old-fashioned face to face networking is that by the time you actually got around to selling you’d established a solid, personal bond with your prospect. They knew you, they liked you and they valued your opinion. It’s possible to do the same thing in the online social networks. You’ve just go to stop letting General Peterson pressure you into selling while you’re supposed to be schmoozing and tell Jeanie to stay in her bottle!