How to schmooze
BBC Radio 4 is running a serialized reading of a book about a crime journalist in Tokyo. Today, we heard career advice given to a journalist on how to schmooze the police.
Is schmoozing a smart way to get business?
The advice made me think of people who believe schmoozing is a substitute for performance.
In strategic terms, schmoozing is a silly way to compete. It is a race to the bottom as the only thing the differentiates one schmoozer from another is money and time. Money buys schmoozing; time accumulates schmoozing. In short, schmoozing lacks the ‘inimitable’ quality of skill and performance that is only be amassed by a long standing team getting good at something.
Of course, schoozing is also what statisticians call a mediator. We can have all the skill in the world but if our customers don’t know we have our skill, they cannot buy from us. So we need schmooze to deliver. And if we have never schmoozed, it is likely that we have developed skills that are not of great interest to our customers.
I think this where the confusion comes from . If one person has 5% skill and no schmoozing, they make 0%. If another person has 1% skill and schmoozing, they make 1%. I know plenty of people who refuse even to develop skill because they figure they can schmooze and 1% will do their customers fine. After all, the customers have no choice. It is 1% or nothing!
Is schmoozing a competitive way t
o get business?
This recipe works fine; until someone else enters the market who can resource a schmoozing campaign. Schmoozing is easy. It only takes money and time. People will always drop in for a free meal , a free drink or a sympathetic ear.
But schmoozing gets more and more expensive as people who have what you want ask for more and more. And why shouldn’t they? Your job is to schmooze and schmooze and schmooze and schmooze . . . You are going to schmooze until the cupboard is bare. And of course, that is fine when you are a professional schmoozer and it’s someone elses cupboard. What if it is your cupboard?
Hospitality vs schmoozing
Schmoozing is not hospitality, I might add. Genuinely welcoming someone as a guest and giving them appropriate amenities and refreshments for the time of day and the nature of the transaction is not schmoozing. It is simply normal.
Schmoozing shouldn’t be a substitute for a mission
A business should compete though on it’s chosen competitive strategy. What is the problem that this business is trying to solve?
When the business strays from that goal, when it hires people to schmooze who don’t understand the mission, when the mission is not mentioned and if is mentioned clearly isn’t understood by HR who drew up the job specs, then the business is in trouble. Their schmoozing is going to be very expensive.
Yup, the 1% guys can be very persuasive. Yes, we may feel under so much short term pressure that we are tempted. Yes, our competitors may seem to offer nothing but schmooze. Yes, our customers may seem so thick that they want nothing but schmooze and seem to sign anything if the dinner is good enough . . . do you really believe that?
Mission, schmoozing and profits
Come one. Let’s roll up our sleeves and do a proper job. What is the problem we are trying to solve? Let’s solve it. I know we have to make money too. But do you know that even in the most aggressive profit making business, the economics is simply a constraint that allows us to do better.
When we ask how can we do what we do for the money our customers can pay, we find imaginative solutions that please even us.
If we are journos schmoozing cops, of course, they don’t pay (and hopefully neither do we). But we can ask ourselves about the rhythm of their day and why and how talking to a reporter helps them do their job. Schmoozing suddenly becomes a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot more wholesome.
Doing a good job is sweetly pleasurable.
Don’t have a mission?
P.S. Can’t put your finger on the mission? Articulating the mission is called leadership. It’s not a one off; it’s a process. The mission flexes and morphs as the world unfolds and the people involved change.
The leader is the touch point who represents our collective understanding and will. They reflect back to us what we are asking for and when we see ourselves in them, we learn and change what we say and do.
And the process begins again.
We are all leaders, too, because the minute we say and do something, we are reflecting a conversation back to someone else. They see themselves and they learn and change.
But sometimes we can’t get the sound-bite. That’s what psychologists and life coaches do. They let you practice on them till you get the pithy phrases right.
And get used to editing them and developing them on the fly as you interact with others.
We all have a mission
I’ve never met anyone yet who doesn’t know their mission. As they talk, I watch their eyes. Within 10 to 15 minutes of patient conversation, their eyes will light up. All I do is point that out.
Move towards whatever make your eyes light up, millimeter by millimeter The world will thank you. Everybody is waiting for you.