“Too many people looking for jobs save their elevator speeches for job fairs and interviews. Remember the first rule of sales: ABC (Always Be Closing). Give your elevator speech to everyone — at family gatherings, in the waiting room of the dentist, at coffee hour at your church or temple. You never know where the next job is coming from.”
That was from a classic Harvard Business Review article.
This past week I attended Talent in Emerging & Growth Markets conference being held in Istanbul, Turkey. I was honored to serve as the co-conference chair as well as one of the Day 2 keynote speakers.
The sponsors put forth an amazing array of talented HR professional from around the world. A few of the speakers who were senior level HR representatives who have since become independent consultants. This was precipitated by HQ moves or restructuring, or other things like that.
Every interaction counts
They all did amazing presentation but they used this opportunity to show their ability to traverse this new landscape of HR and show what they are capable of. They also used this time to talk about their new business and their expertise. In other words, they flocused on how they could be of help.
Listening to the presentations, I couldn’t help but think of how lots of times people wait to prepare for the big interview. They review their CV, they have the internal conversation, and then they play the potential interview over and over in their mind. However, there are numerous opportunities every day — like at this recent conference — where you can make your pitch, providing you are networking properly.
When I arrived in Saudi Arabia over a year ago, I had a conversation with an event producer who was one of my LinkedIn contacts. The conversation centered on an upcoming conference, and I was asked to review the topics and any ideas I may have.
In this part of the world, every conference is produced by independent seminar producers. I must say that it is a more efficient process than some of the U.S. conferences, and, the national SHRM conference.
A game-changing conversation
Here, there are no industry sponsored conferences. When I found this out, it provided the framework and approach for the conversation with the seminar producer. As we discussed the upcoming conference, I volunteered to review the topics and give my thoughts.
However, I also used the “ABC” of networking. At the end of our conversation, I was one of the seminar speakers — but my initial offer was simply to be of help.
That conversation changed the trajectory of my involvement in HR in the Middle East and Africa. Now, I get so many requests for speaking opportunities that someone joked that I needed a person to manage my conference schedule.
I have participated — either as conference chair, panelist, or keynote speaker — in 11 events in all parts of the world, and that does not include all the other ones that I had to turn down.
Always be closing, always be helping
The first time I heard the phrase “Always Be Closing” was in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, when Alec Baldwin says: “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING.”
In the business climate today, we have to take advantage of every opportunity to spread our message. As I advise people, no one is going to come to your house, knock on the door and say, “I have this terrific opportunity for you.”
Every interaction could change the trajectory of your life. I’m not saying that you should be a walking commercial about “You — the product,” but always offer to help others first. Let that cement the relationship. If the opportunity arises, build a narrative around your quest. If not, don’t fret because your mission was to help.
I know that some may say this is about hyper-aggressive tactics, but if you re-read how I approached it, I was really a lot closer to “Always Be Helping.” I wanted to help someone produce the greatest conference, and, I also wanted to be a part of the greatest conference.
That’s what it is all about Game, Set, Match.
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This is by no means manipulation because I am often asked for my help and I am overly generous with my time. In the back of my mind, however, I would really like to close. After a conference in the UAE a few weeks back, one of the producers mentioned their conference for next year and wanted some time to discuss how WE might make it better. I was ready, as always, to be of help.
Relationships are built over time.
Always let circumstances gradually unfold, as opposed to the old concept of taking action now. Always be known as the person that is willing to help. The more you help, the more opportunity comes your way.
I have taken Fridays as “give back day” since that day is the beginning of the weekend here. Over the course of the week, I arrange calls with job seekers, give career advice, or catch up on phone calls. My mission: Giving it back to one and all — one conversation at a time.
This takes a fair amount of listening, and I have come to realize that lots of the time what we just need is a willing ear. That’s what I learned from my daughter: “Dad, I just need you to listen and not try to solve everything for me.” To build a relationship takes time, patience and endurance.
What do you need? And how can I HELP?
One of the reactions I get a lot over here is that people will connect with you and, within the hour, want you to find them a job even if their area of expertise is in no way close to what we do as a business. But even with those types of requests, you should take to time to follow-up to let them know of your observations.
It only takes me 30 seconds to do this. I find that the reply from them is always heartwarming because they appreciate you taking the time to respond and giving direction.
We have become so busy in our lives that we sometimes do not return phone calls and do not answer emails. Some will not even respond to text messages. As I say, no one is that busy, even if it takes a few days to respond.
Giving back always makes good sense
We should all give back even if we feel that we have nothing to give. That response could be the one that could change the trajectory of that person and/or help them to clearly think through whatever they are working on.
Remember, “Always Be Closing” really means “Always Be Helping.” And as I finish writing this, I just received an email from one of my Friday conversations with a famous TV business news personality.
His message is short and sweet: “Thank you again for your call last week !” Case closed.