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The Lost Art of ‘Shmoozing’: Five Ways to Revive an Oft-Neglected Skill

Published: August 19, 2005

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‘Mr. Shmooze,’ a new book by Richard Abraham, shows how to build strong, emotion-based, profitable relationships.

RISMEDIA, Aug. 19, 2005-Cell phones. E-mail. Virtual meetings. While these tools have made it easier to connect with prospects and colleagues instantly, they’ve made it harder to, well, connect. That is, connect in a deep, meaningful way.

Somehow in our quest to provide more, faster, better information, we’ve lost sight of the truth that people are people, not computers. And ironically, it is our emotions, not our data, that drive a transaction. Sales consultant Richard Abraham addresses this issue in his new book, Mr. Shmooze: The Art and Science of Selling Through Relationships (The Richard Abraham Company, 2002, ISBN: 0-9741996-0-5, $19.95).

‘Shmoozing’ is all about interacting with people in a way that creates feelings of warmth, goodwill, pleasure,” says Abraham. ‘Just the facts, ma’am,’ doesn’t go deep enough, emotionally, especially when your product or service is a commodity. The best news is that when you create joy for a living, you don’t have to ‘sell.’ People want to do business with you because, in the process, you make them feel good about the relationship and about themselves. It happens as naturally as breathing.”

Abraham’s book conveys his lucrative philosophy in the form of a story told from the point of view of an intern working with Mr. Shmooze.” This larger-than-life character-a real-life composite of the greatest salespeople the author has encountered in his own career-amazes the narrator as he sails through his unconventional business meetings spreading laughter, humor, and even joy.

So what can you do to transform yourself into a Mr. Shmooze”? Abraham offers the following words of wisdom:

  • Figure out what really matters to the prospect. (Hint: It usually has nothing to do with the business at hand.) Capitalize on the opportunity to enter the prospect’s emotional world. Mr. Shmooze helps his client see that his prospect’s passion in life is his son, a talented golfer. Rather than simply inviting the prospect to play golf, he should invite the prospect’s son. Then, Mr. Shmooze brainstorms with the client to come up with ways to make the outing really spectacular-incorporating shirts and golf balls imprinted with participants’ names, an impromptu group lesson from a pro, and videotapes of everyone’s swing, mailed a week after the event. “The point is that by paying close attention to your prospects and clients, you can figure out what really drives them,” says Abraham. “You’ll find clues in the photos in his office or the things he brings up in casual conversation. The key is, be alert.”

  • Practice the art of elevation. In every interaction, seek to elevate the prospect’s experience to a memorable level that goes above and beyond the ordinary. Let’s briefly revisit our golf story. You’ll notice the basic idea (a day of golf) is not earth-shatteringly unique. But Mr. Shmooze’s version contains details that “kick it up a notch.” A run-of-the-mill salesperson might well have come up with a golf outing and a gift of golf balls. But by including the client’s son and personalizing the golf balls, the outing is elevated to an exhilarating new level. Likewise, the book’s “Dinner la Shmooze” chapter demonstrates how a business dinner becomes an event to remember when it’s elevated with a surprise car wash service, a gift of wrapped steak knives, and several ice-breaking games that have people bonding like mad.

  • If you’re thinking the dinner story is over the top, price-wise, relax. You can shmooze without spending a fortune. Abraham admits that “Dinner la Shmooze” is a bit exaggerated-but its purpose is only to get you thinking about the myriad of opportunities that exist for value-added schmoozing. There are plenty of ways to elevate a client or prospect’s experience with you that don’t cost much, if anything. You can call him on his wedding day or attend his daughter’s soccer game. (Both examples are from Mr. Shmooze.) Or if you discover that your client loves Thai cooking or Afghan hounds-based on books or photos you saw in her office-you can e-mail her a link to an Asian recipe website or send her a book on exotic dog breeds you found on clearance at the bookstore. These small gestures can make a big difference. “I have a colleague who called on a prospect who happened to be a huge Chicago Cubs fan,” relates Abraham. “After my colleague left the meeting he happened to walk by a store with a Cubs tie in the window. Naturally, he bought it and overnighted it to the prospect. It’s very likely that that $20 expenditure, plus postage, won him the account.”

  • Do your follow-up shmoozing immediately. Read Mr. Shmooze and you discover in the very first chapter that, the minute the protagonist leaves a meeting, he’s on his cell phone with his assistant asking her to send things to his clients, prospects, and colleagues: Braves tickets, real estate license class schedules, articles from the Internet, and so forth. In proper schmoozing, time is of the essence. “There’s a graph we show clients that illustrates the recency effect,” says Abraham. “It shows that within a week a potential buyer has forgotten 90 percent of what a salesperson shows her. And in fact, a lot is forgotten in the first 24 hours after a meeting. But if you send someone a book or a tie the very next day, you go a long way toward overcoming that effect. Plus, if you make it standard procedure to do your follow-up shmoozing right away, you won’t forget to do it.”

  • Don’t limit your schmoozing to “people who matter.” Everyone matters. Read the book and you’ll notice that Mr. Shmooze shmoozes everyone, not just potential clients or people with money. He generously tips bartenders, gives expensive cigars to carhops, gives restaurant hostesses cosmetic gifts. Why? Because these are the people who carry out those all-important “little details” that elevate the entire experience to a higher level. By shmoozing service people you not only motivate them to do a good job for your prospects, you set in motion a “compound interest” effect that can benefit you in the future. “You don’t know who the waiter’s parents are, or, for that matter, what the waiter himself will be doing when he gets out of college,” reflects Abraham. “And it really doesn’t matter. You can’t build goodwill with too many people.”

By now you may be thinking: isn’t all of this shmoozing a little, well, manipulative? That’s the wrong question, says Abraham. You’re going to be interacting with these people anyway, so why not do it in a manner that makes their lives a little better? What’s not to like about accentuating the positive? The best news of all is that, in a time when so many people suffer from the all-work-and-no-play syndrome, shmoozing is a form of play. It’s as fun for the shmooz-er as it is for the shmooz-ee. Try it. You’ll find that not only is it profitable, it’s rewarding on a very deep and personal level.”

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