We go to workshops and conferences to learn new things. And to meet new people who share our interest, right?

That networking goal was front and center at a workshop I went to the other day. Tiffany Largie is a business expert; she told us to act as if we were in a room full of prospects. Because we were.

So at the lunch break I intentionally sat with a couple of guys I didn’t know. Asked them about their businesses. And listened. And listened. And listened.

I am not kidding. For an hour, these guys talked about what they do and how they do it and the challenges they face. One of them actually started his Me-Me-Me-I-I-I by telling me about his high school sports experience and then … well, there’s no need for you to sit through the whole story.

The point is that in that hour, neither one of them asked me a single question. Or expressed a shred of interest in what I do or what brought me to the event or how I might help them. Or even whether I might need their services!

(As it happens, one shreds paper and the other hauls away junk. One look at my office would tell you I could be their ideal customer!)

Maybe I should have been more assertive. I could have jumped in and started telling them about my business even though they didn’t seem to have the least bit of interest.

But I started to get fascinated by this phenomenon. Which was a repeat of a speakers’ meeting a while back. Where I sat with a bunch of guys I didn’t know, asked one of them, “Tell me what you speak about …”

And proceeded to listen to serial monologues. That never turned into actual conversations.

So what do these episodes have in common? Well, me, for one thing. Maybe I’m just not that interesting? That has occurred to me.

But you’re reading this – you must think I have something worthwhile to say. And there are plenty of people in audiences, on Facebook and at real-life meetings who would agree.

After some reflection, I don’t think I strike most people as boring. I’m pretty sure this is a gender thing.

Yes, I’m familiar with the stereotype of chin-wagging women. And it’s true – when I get together with girlfriends there’s a lot of conversation going on. The research would say my friends and I are pretty typical. In that context, we women can talk.

And. The research also says, “Despite the widespread belief that women talk more than men, most of the available evidence suggests just the opposite. When women and men are together, it is the men who talk most.”

You can read the details here. The gist of it is that context counts. In public settings – business meetings, conferences, networking lunches – men dominate the conversation.

Now I’m not out to criticize men. (I’m on record – I like men.) I do want to point out that this is a big issue for your business, especially if you’re a man. And even more especially if you’re out to sell something to women.

Because no matter what product or service you offer. And no matter who your prospect is. The number one thing you need to do is listen.

Before you tell us how great you are, how valuable your work is, how desperately we need you … you need to listen. Ask questions. And listen some more.

Truth is, most of us, men and women both, could stand to be a lot better at listening. I actually do an occasional workshop about listening skills. Sadly, there’s very little demand for that.

People want to speak better; they don’t even know they need to listen better. So consider this a nudge.

If you want more sales. More revenue. More profit. You’d be wise to do more listening.

And what’s the first step toward better listening? Yep. Stop talking.

Now maybe you are a great listener. Or maybe you have a tale like mine about a time when somebody talked your ear off. Tell us about it. Or weigh in on the question: men or women – who does more of the talking?