In 1996, Tom Cruise (as Jerry Maguire) exclaimed to Cuba Gooding, Jr. (as Rod Tidwell), “Help me help you!” He said it over and over again. The line became a classic and is one of many memorable quotations from the movie.
When I first started networking in earnest a few years ago, I did so to determine my next career move. I recall sitting down with one contact in particular. I told him all of my standard stuff – you know, the lines that I had thought through, rehearsed, believed about what I wanted to do next. Once I finished with my diatribe, this fellow looked at me with a blank stare and told me that he had no idea what I had just said. Needless to say, I was crestfallen. In my mind, I had been crystal clear. He then uttered Jerry’s line: Help me help you.
Later that same year, I decided to start my own consulting firm. Again, I was very clear – in my own mind – about what I would be consulting on. In fact, I took FastTrac® NewVenture™, one of many entrepreneurial training courses that I now promote as President of Kauffman FastTrac (funny how things come back around, eh?), to flesh out my business concept and launch my company. The very first exercise that the course requires would-be entrepreneurs to complete is a business concept statement – that is, to write a clear, concise and complete explanation of the business itself. Basically, the what, how, who, why, where, when definition. I eagerly scripted my first draft and, very pleased with myself, presented it to my peers for their enthusiastic response and applause. You won’t be surprised to learn that things didn’t turn out quite as I expected. They looked at me sadly and said, “huh?” Back to the drawing board.
Today, the tables turned on me. I received a call from a customer. He was mad. We talked for a long time. I offered several solutions to try to address his concerns. He didn’t like any of them. Finally, I said, “what is it that I can do to make you happy?” Silence. Basically, I had invoked the Jerry Maguire request and he did not know how to respond. I really want to help this client – his business is important to me – but I don’t know how to do so without his input.
The message in all of this is that when you want something, when you seek to explain yourself, when you require others’ input, you must be clear about the information, answers and outcomes you are aiming for. Whatever your objective is, the more clarity you have about the end game, the vision, the goal, the more those around you can help you to achieve your desires.
In each of the aforementioned scenarios, we eventually worked things through to solution. I got clearer in my descriptions; my customer got clearer in his mission. In all cases, arriving at the right answer took a circuitous route, but we did it.
As you enter networking discussions, sales meetings, negotiations, do so with some end in mind. It is perfectly acceptable to iterate to the right answer, but the clearer you are walking into the discussion, the faster you will achieve your goals.