Thursday, November 30, 2006

Horsing Around

I often speak about how important it is to speak to people about their passion if you want to catch their attention and be interesting to them. The power of this approach was driven home for me yesterday in a very amusing way.

For a nice change, I was a participant in a training day, rather than running one myself. This session was a 'VLO' session run by our Regional Partner for the Midland Region, Stewart Evans. The day was focused on sales skills, with one eye on how to encourage guests to join Business Referral Exchange groups.

Towards the end of the day, we were split into groups for a series of role play exercises, designed to make us recognise some of the situations where visitors to networking groups may feel less than comfortable. I was asked to play the role of visitor and approach one of the groups. What I didn't know was that the group had been asked to ignore me and repel me, physically if necessary (I trust that people aren't normally this violent at networking events)!

I approached the group and was immediately met by a sea of backs and elbows (please don't try to work out how that can be physically possible and take my word for it!). Undeterred, I tried to start a conversation but was met with blank faces.

I knew that one of the members of the group, who was closest to me, had a keen interest in horses, as she had talked about it earlier in the day. I turned to her and said,

"By the way, I meant to chat to you about your horses."

Immediately her guard dropped, her face softened and her eyes came alive. For a split second, she forgot the exercise and her role in it and was ready to engage in conversation with me. She then remembered what she was supposed to be doing, and started laughing.

When you meet someone new, you will both inevitably have your guard up to some degree until you get to know each other. By engaging with someone's hobby, interest and passion you will see that guard drop very quickly and you can start the serious business of relationship building.

It's not all just horsing around!

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