|Friends, a photo by Toyamarie on Flickr.|
Geography and the culture attached to various locations make this a topic that's important to consider. If you're in the urban Northeast, how much time do you think that you're allotted in a first meeting to become acquainted before you're considered a time-waster? My bet is that it's a far smaller slot of time than you would be REQUIRED to invest in many other places before you can have the favorable attention that helps you and the other party proceed.
This step is not necessarily long in duration, but you are likely not to succeed if you try to skip it. On the flip side, certainly you don't want the roller blinds sliding down over the other person's eyelids with big X's on them that mean "My listening capacity has been reached." They don't necessarily need to know your life history - if they are genuinely interested they will volunteer information about themselves as well. It will be an exchange as you get to know one another. The fact that they continue asking you questions without bringing forth any information of their own means that they are interviewing you. They are controlling the conversation, and you haven't built a relationship. Friendship goes two ways.
Do you have to be blood brothers in order to work well together or to do business? That depends upon the intensity or perceived risk in the relationship you are going to pursue. If you are giving a speech, you only need to grease the skids a bit - enough to cause the audience to pay attention to your message. If you are eventually going to ask them to part with a large sum of money in exchange for your products and services, you had better be sure you know what they really want and need. They will only share the information that is key to your sales process if you first earn their trust and demonstrate genuine interest.
Certain relationships and joint tasks require a high level of connection. As the risk and investment go up, so does the requirement for relationship first. If you were going into combat with someone and risking your life, you would want to be absolutely confident that they have your back. And you would understand their need to be confident in you as well.
Certain behavioral styles require a fair amount of relationship building before moving ahead, and others want to cut to the chase and get to the facts more quickly - this is behavioral style that is individual and unrelated to geography. If you are alert in the moment, focused on them instead of on yourself, you can observe the behavioral cues that tell you to speed it up or slow it down. Pace yourself with them if you want to help the two of you to be on the same page.
People do business with people they know and like. If you do well at this part of the process, the rest becomes easier. If you don't do well in this part - if you fail to establish rapport, or break rapport - the rest is moot.