By Wendy Mantel
The email ended, “What do you think?”
This remarkable question had a lot to do with networking and a little to do with expertise.
I met the author last year at an HBA event when she mentioned a business opportunity about which I expressed keen interest. Subsequently, I was invited to meet several senior decision-makers, develop a proposal and move forward with a substantial assignment.
Over the months, we discussed various things, some confidential. I already had gotten new contacts, a large assignment and incremental new business as a result of meeting this person. And there was more.
When the email came along, I knew I had received two gems you can’t buy: trust and respect. This is crucial for business and doesn’t come overnight. To be asked what you think is special. You have to earn this question. Here are some ways to get there.
You’re thinking, “Networking, ugh”
Many people hate networking—that’s because it’s misunderstood. Networking is not about getting something of value. It’s about giving value to another person(s)— time, attention and interest; an idea; an article, etc. It’s the pay-it-forward idea. Successful networking is about building rapport.
Listening with your whole body
How many people do you know who are good listeners? Most of us just squeak by. The other person is talking and we’re busy formulating a response, missing important details and cues.
When we listen intently, we block out distractions and focus on the other person(s), paying attention to conversation content and non-verbal signals like facial expression, body language, tone of voice—I call it listening with your whole body.
Get out of your head and into the other person’s. This can breed amazing results.
Avoid questions with one-syllable answers
Asking questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no” creates dialogue. Listen for things on which to comment. It can be almost anything.
“You went to Syracuse? How’d you like it?”
“What do you know about the speaker?”
Be yourself—Everyone else is taken*
You don’t have to be liked by everyone to be successful. Strong, genuine brands are often polarizing. People love them or not and have strong loyalties either way (think Coke and Pepsi). The key is authenticity and consistency in behavior.
This is true of people. Those who value your “brand” can be your most important contacts.
Close with class
Be gracious. Tell the other person how much you enjoyed talking with them. If you don’t get to say goodbye, send an e-mail. It could be the start of an ongoing dialogue.
The next time you try networking, don't panic. Remember: while first impressions count, last impressions can last.
*British author Oscar Wilde