Networking is an essential part of any business. It’s an important opportunity to meet new clients, make new contacts, and generally spread the word about the products or services you offer. However, for many, the thought of networking fills them with dread, especially how to answer everyone’s favourite opening question: ‘What do you do?"
There are different forms of networking; formal business-club style networking events, workshops and training courses are great places to network, and social settings can provide an unexpected opportunity to spread the word.
So back to the question of “What do you do?” and most importantly, how to answer it. The answer needs to be clear, concise and relevant. You need to be factually accurate of course, but also engaging. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that person who talks at you for 10 minutes about what they do, only for you to end up none the wiser! And then there’s the person who gives you very little. “I’m a Consultant.” Factually accurate and very concise, but not engaging and certainly not clear.
Whenever anyone asks me what I do, I try to tailor an answer that is suitable to the situation and the person answering. Great Aunt Pam would get a very different answer to someone at a formal business networking event for example!
So what do I actually do? I could say, “Business Consultancy”, or “Project Management”, or perhaps even “Business Analysis”. It’s also true to say that I am a “Digital Omni-Channel Innovator” and a “Process Transformation Expert”. However, they are all job titles; they don’t actually tell you anything about me, the value I bring, or my achievements. It doesn’t even tell you what kind of clients I work with, and certainly doesn’t give you a clear understanding of what I actually do….Not the best start to a networking conversation!
Here are some answers I have given in the past:
- I’m currently working with clients in the automotive sector to transform and enhance their business; focusing on digital transformation to improve the customer experience.
- Clients call me in to identify opportunities for improvement, and/or define and implement solutions with their chosen Suppliers.
- For example, I have launched two SEAT Stores (selling cars in Shopping Centres), which involved project managing the entire operation, as well as defining the operational processes (how the stores would operate in practice), and I am currently working with Volvo Cars UK on a digital solution to selling cars (online purchases).
I am giving tangible examples of my work to illustrate and demonstrate what I actually do…..
One of my favourite networking experiences was actually the most unexpected. Picture the scene.....
I’m on holiday in Spain. The sun is shining and I’m walking around in the stereotypical Brit-on-holiday uniform of shorts, t-shirt, flip flops and sunglasses. My husband and I visit a well known beach club. The music is playing, we’re enjoying a bite to eat, and generally having a lovely day. We end up speaking to some people on a neighbouring table.
And then comes the question.... “So, what do you do....?”. I don’t know what these people do (we haven’t really got passed the “lovely weather and good-food-here” pleasantries), so I’m unsure how to pitch it. I talk about examples of my most recent work, why I enjoy it, and why clients choose to work with me. Brief, but detailed enough to describe my work, making sure I avoid tangible job titles that people may not understand. It worked. My audience were engaged and a more detailed conversation was triggered. I ended up leaving the beach club that day with a verbal booking for some consultancy! One of the group had a Supercar and Executive Car Hire business in another European country. He needed someone to come in as a fresh pair of eyes, to identify opportunities for improvement and transformation, and to work with his local team to innovate. I followed-up the verbal booking with a formal proposal via email, and everything was confirmed! It just goes to show, you should always be ready to network!
For those readers who like a list, here are my top 6 networking-know-how tips:
- Be concise, but not too concise!
- Be clear - avoid job titles and anything too nondescript or vague.
- Be honest - NEVER over-exaggerate what you do or what you have achieved. You never know who you’re talking to.
- Be engaging - enthusiasm is infectious.
- Illustrate what you do with examples, but be mindful of client confidentiality.
- Be yourself - people buy from people, so make a genuine connection by being a genuine person.
And most importantly, always carry a business card in your beach bag!
Good luck with your next networking adventure….