Have you ever sold products? Stood in front of a board of directors and pitched an idea? I have. In sales, there are two types of salespeople — salespeople whose goal is to sell some 'stuff' and salespeople who solve the client's problem. Guess who is more successful?
Why is it then, when most unemployed executives network, connect, and interview, they focus on selling 'stuff' and not solving problems? I call this the Sales vs. Replenishment Model. And it works perfectly when looking for a job.
Replenishment is just what it means - you are there to replenish an open position. And you try your hardest to fashion yourself in a cookie-cutter way to fit into that replenishment model. What happens? You usually fail. Most accomplished account executives know that you can only replenish inventory for so long until your client smartens up (or someone else pitches them a better solution) and cuts/eliminates your order.
True Sales is the ability to listen, learn and understand what issues, problems, and opportunities your clients have and then try to help them solve them with one of your inventory. This clearly applies to your job search. You need to do a massive amount of research prior to your meeting, ask a lot of questions during the initial meeting, and then (and only then) do you present possible solutions to your lunch partner's issues. One might say that this is a cookie-cutter approach to — but there is a lot less shoving a square peg into a round hole.
Bottom line — if you try to replenish, you lower yourself to every other salesperson out there hawking their stuff. If you endeavor to solve one of the company's problems or present an alternate way to do things - you will instantly catch their attention and make a major impression.
Your chances to get that job have now risen dramatically.