Networking is a Conversation, Not a Lecture

herbHave you ever been at a networking event and been cornered by one of “those” types of networkers or salespeople? Mike Sigers (whose birthday happens to be today – happy b-day, Mike!) calls them Herb Tarlek types – what I feel to be a very accurate portrayal.

Herb charges up to you, asks you what you do, barely gives you a chance to answer, then shoves a business card at you and begins his elevator speech (as in boring like elevator music, not short like an elevator ride). You’re no idiot. You can tell he’s not really listening to anything you say.

These are the speed daters of the networking scene – going for quantity in hopes of eventually getting a hit. They’re why so many people hate networking.

Compare them to the other type – the more rare. These are the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwings of the networking world.

You may be sitting and talking to Alex for a while before you realize the time has passed. The entire conversion seemed to be about you and you found her insights fascinating. Before you get up to go, she asks for your business card – which reminds you to get hers. You may not have a need for her services, but you know of at least 2 people who do. And you plan to tell them about her company.

Real networking is about relationships – and in fact, that’s all sales is, too. As a home-based entrepreneur, your success will be directly related to the relationships you build. If you’re doing it right, you love what you have to offer, and know it provides value. So talking about it is not a problem. But to help someone, you have to know what help they need, and the only way to find that out is by asking and listening.

Making sales by talking less. Think about it – it really does make sense…


  1. Oh this is so true! Years ago, when I was a PA for the manager of a sales department, we had two reps who epitomised each end of the spectrum. The Herb Tarlek type did ok, but he had to work at it. The other chap made sales with apparently no effort. I would see him in the showroom, and on the surface one could be forgiven for thinking he was having a cosy chat with customers and not selling them anything at all. Even so, it worked, and importantly, his clients came back again and again because they had a relationship with him, they weren’t just customers.

  2. Vernon – That’s true. But maybe we can reach a few 🙂

    John – Good point. How often have I though “I’ll never get that time back.”

    Kate – Your story illustrates the idea very well. This sums it up it nicely – “… they weren’t just customers.”

  3. Great Post Tony,

    Here’s the 10 commandments I follow for communication:

    1. Genuinely listen to, and thoughtfully consider, what the other person is saying – as opposed to waiting for a gap in the conversation to impose your opinion.

    2. Talk at people’s level of understanding – don’t try and intimidate or impress.

    3. Watch. Communication is 93% non-verbal. Watching someone will often tell you more about them than listening will.

    4. Ask open-ended questions; questions which can’t be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

    5. Empathise. Do your best to put yourself in their shoes and see things through their eyes.

    6. Make the conversation about them, not you. Leave your ego at the door.

    7. Find something to (genuinely) compliment them about.

    8. Read ‘How to win friends and influence people’, Dale Carnegie, 1936; a pioneer and a master communicator.

    9. Remember and use names. People love it when you remember their name.

    10. Don’t over-talk. Great communicators don’t necessarily talk the most. Sometimes the less we say (verbally), the greater the impact.

  4. Tony, loved the article. Great advice. It was also a pleasant surprise to see you include a link to my site in the post. You’re a gentleman and a scholar 🙂 … Josh

  5. Craig – Great list. “Talk at people’s level of understanding…” is one thing a lot of folks miss. As someone who’s worked in the tech industry, I can say that trying to sound smart and impress REALLY turns people off.

    Josh – You’ve got some really great stuff over there, and I’ve really enjoyed the interviews. I’m happy to link to good info 🙂

  6. This is a refreshing post and one that needs to be required reading for new members of MyBlogLog.

    I receive comments from members saying hello and asking me to ‘join my community’ yet it is clear due to the fact their icon has not shown up on my page that they haven’t invested any time in getting to know me or my content.

    There are many who are using icons with attractive Women’s pictures when in fact they aren’t.

    It’s all about relationships, you aptly remind us – on or off line.


  7. Greg – You know, I was just thinking the same thing this morning. There’s the “mass-adders” that add everyone whether they’ve even been to a site or not. That’s a great point.

  8. I’m enjoying the insight and wisdom here!

    I think there should be a blog protocol blog… or somewhere for newbies to learn what is or is not good blog behavior! LOL! I have added people to my blog log who have added me because I thought that was the appropriate thing to do. Opps! Thankfully I haven’t broken too many other rules… (I don’t think)! Thanks for all the great info! 🙂 jennifer

  9. Jennifer – I think the best rule is the ol’ Golden one. It’s about relationships, and treating someone the way you want to be treated is a great way to build a relationship. I think you’re doing fine 😉 .

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