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Prospects are Not Human!

April 3, 2012

Stop labeling every human you meet at a networking event as “a prospect” in your mind. You’ll miss some great opportunities to make meaningful connections.

I went to a breakfast meeting this week, where I witnessed the following:

New Shareholder at Firm: Hello, I’m John. I’m at Arrow, Bear & Claw (*no, this isn’t a new English pub – this is a fake law firm name used as an example. God knows I can’t do a shout-out and tell you what firm this guy REALLY works for!) — how about you??

Unknown Stranger: What’s Arrow, Bear & Claw? Me, uh, I work for a company in Houston.

New Shareholder at Firm: Arrow, Bear & Claw!?! We’re a law firm! Don’t you know us? We’ve been in Washington, D.C. for years. Opened our office here two years ago.

Unknown Stranger: No, sorry – I don’t know you. How big is the firm?

New Shareholder at Firm: We have 4,500 attorneys world wide, We do everything from IP to Product Lie. (yes, he said “product lie”)

Unknown Stranger: Oh. Hmmmm, sorry. These are good breakfast tacos, aren’t they?

New Shareholder at Firm: Yeah. Not as good as El Arroyo, but they’re ok.

Unknown Stranger: Yes, well, I see a friend over there. Nice to meet you.

New Shareholder at Firm: Yep, me too. Later.

Unknown Stranger looks at me, rolls his eyes, and walks over to another group of people.

Here’s just a few things wrong with this conversation:

In a networking event, when you’re wearing your name and the company (or firm) you work for on your nametag, you should NOT introduce yourself repeating what’s already there! How about a more conversational line? “Wow, breakfast tacos! I sure like these at business breakfasts, way better than fruit and yoghurt!” It shows you are 1) human and 2) not aggressive about business, 3) not a vegetarian (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).


Wait to see if the person acknowledges your company/firm name from your tag. If not, make sure you inform the person, so they know who you really are. Use this as a chance to feel out the person’s thoughts on your company: “So, it’s pretty obvious (you point to your name-tag) I work for A, B &C – that’s a law firm and I’m a product liability attorney. Are you familiar with our reputation?”


Don’t sound incredulous if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know something – whether it be the biggest company in town, the biggest news story of the day, the most famous rock star on the planet….. If you make them look stupid or uninformed, you are NOT winning any friends! “Ah, we’re a law firm here in town. Been around for 40 years in quite a few countries, just expanded to Austin around 2 years ago.” You want to continue the conversation, not piss them off!


Instead of contradicting their opinion, use it as an opportunity to expand your conversation. Him: “These are good breakfast tacos, aren’t they?” – see – he likes the tacos! “No breakfast taco is a bad breakfast taco: some are just better than others! Have you ever tried some of the new food trailers opening up all around town??”


At this point, I SHOULD make a comment how you didn’t get their card. But really – do you think this guy would ever be interested in talking to you again? I don’t think so. If you find out later it’s someone who would really REALLY help your business or career, it could be salvageable. (more on that in a future post).

Your goal at any networking event is this: meet, greet, and get to know new people. Not prospects: PEOPLE. If they become prospects, wonderful. If not – you’ve met an interesting (probably) person who you might be able to help, and who may be able to help you.

That’s it. Go forth and multiply – er, meet people!


From → Legal Marketing

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