It’s all about what you DON’T say, that counts

Pete Caputa recalls a recent experience at a networking event, where he interacted with someone he feels just shut him out, prematurely.

Pete, I think he was pretty clear in telling you what he didn’t like: you weren’t listening to him. He didn’t come out and say, “I don’t want to talk to you because you won’t listen to me,” because that might seem rude, but instead he said, “I don’t like your approach,” which is to talk and not listen. He gave you a chance to try a different approach.

In the beginning of the interaction, you spoke a whole lot of words without saying very much. Then you asked for his card. Then, you hit him with the “statement formed as a question” which is the most annoying cheap salesman tactic ever. He spotted it and clearly told you to stop, saying: “When I come to these things, it’s mostly just to meet people and socialize.” When you didn’t seem to get the message and asked him to be specific, he did just that: “You asked, “You’re not interested in growing your business?” Who says no to that?” He just told you how lame your statement-as-question was. Again, he gave you an opportunity to listen and try a different approach.

What’s wrong with the statement-as-a-question form?  It’s like asking someone, “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” That’s not a question you can answer. It’s not even a question: the answer doesn’t actually tell the asker anything new about the person of whom it was asked. That’s classic cheap sales manipulation tactic 101. Force the mark (er, prospective customer) to say what you want them to say, so they’ll be more pliable and will continue to give positive responses. He’s been around the block one too many a time to fall for that schoolboy stuff.

As he said, he’s there to meet people and socialize. He likes to get to know people. You opened with “hi, who I am doesn’t matter, but I want to sell you something” whether it be more clients, new leads, whatever. He’s learned that when people use that approach, he probably doesn’t derive enough benefit from them. So, he already passed you by–not looking at you, taking a defensive posture, etc.

If you were him, and someone came up to you and did as you did, who would you feel was being the jerk? The person who persists with the same approach, refusing to listen, or the person who’s being approached?

In the end, you ask: Are you open to different approaches? If not, how does it hinder your success?  I turn that question around and ask: Are you open to trying different approaches? If not, how does it hinder your success?

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  1. Thanks for the response, Dossy. I hear you. I could have adapted more to his style and probably should have asked more and better questions.

    The thing is that I wasn’t trying to sell him anything. I had a specific opportunity for him and he actually probably would have gotten paid if it was a fit. I also could have connected him with a few prospects. This is what I do. I am not looking for anything in return. And I don’t want any money for doing it. If he can help one of my clients, than I look good for introducing him. If not, no harm done.

    He did have an opportunity to talk. There were a handful of awkward pauses that he could have filled. His body language said “I don’t want to talk to you.” right from the beginning.

    This was a networking event. People are there to make connections. If he’s not interested in talking, it’s his loss. Not mine.

    Here’s my style: You either get it or you don’t. I don’t have time for people that don’t. Regardless of style.

  2. “Here’s my style: You either get it or you don’t. I don’t have time for people that don’t. Regardless of style.”

    It seems to me that his style is exactly the same. He was there to meet people, not find work. Perhaps he’s learned that when you make real connections with people and form friendships, work naturally follows. However, if you’re just out looking for work, you’ll constantly be looking for new work, and you won’t have as many friendships.

    It’s all a question of what you value and how you prioritize your time, I guess.

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