If you’re like me you have more professional development books, CD’s, podcasts, and DVD’s in your library than you can keep up with. After surveying my inventory, getting intentional, and weeding out the items that no longer interest me, I’m on a sincere quest to get caught up. Today I was listening to one of the National Speaker Association’s Voices of Experience CDs (September 2011 if you must know — yes, I’m that far behind). I was listening to the segment in which Brian Walter, CSP interviews fellow NSA member Jim Mathis, CSP.
During the interview, Jim mentions that he likes to shake things up when he presents. You know, to get his audiences really thinking. So he often asks thought-provoking questions. Here’s one: “How are you punishing people for doing business with you?”
Even Walter, the interviewer, did a double take. What’s more, he kept circling back around to the question to make sure he had heard it right: How are you punishing people for doing business with you?
Mathis explained that people and businesses that really care won’t find this question odd or crazy at all. They’ll understand its irony and take the time to think about it carefully.
How are we making it anything but easy and pleasant for our customers (and prospects) to get information, get in touch with us, communicate with us, get their questions answered, place an order, get what they need quickly, solve issues, and so on?
As I listened I began thinking about this question in terms of networking, connecting, and building business relationships: How are we punishing people for networking and building relationships with us? What are we doing that makes others feel uncomfortable, confused, frustrated, disrespected, alienated, offended and sorry they met us or know us?
I noodled on this for a bit and composed a list of 27 things that have made me feel uncomfortable when networking — and that I know I may have been guilty of and could change or improve on. Maybe some of these will resonate with you.
- Do I make it easy for people to approach me and talk to me? Or do I give off a vibe that’s unfriendly, standoffish, or disinterested?
- Do I fully understand that networking is about connecting, being generous, and building long-term relationships, NOT going for the quick sell?
- Do I remember that networking isn’t about me, but about others?
- Do I present and conduct myself professionally – in my appearance, grooming, demeanor, words, and behavior – so others get the impression I’m serious about my work, building relationships, and serving my customers impeccably?
- Do I always carry (and generously utilize) those exquisite little miracles known as breath mints?
- When attending networking events do I mingle, reach out, and introduce myself to others? Or do I bolt for my seat or cower in the corner, feeling sorry for myself?
- When introducing myself do I say my name clearly, slowly, and confidently?
- In case my name is tricky to pronounce or remember, do I cheerfully offer tips that will make it easier for others say, learn, and remember?
- Am I patient when people don’t remember me or my name? Or do I get offended or defensive?
- Am I kind, polite, and gracious to everyone?
- Do I show up with a smile and a great attitude? Or am I known as an Energy-Sucking Black Hole of the Universe?
- Am I following good business protocol and etiquette, not to be stuck up or superior, but so others feel comfortable in my presence?
- Do I know how to explain to others who I am, what I do, and who I serve?
- Can I do #13 in a way that doesn’t take an hour and leave others feeling bored, trapped, exhausted, or flummoxed?
- Do I act needy or cling to those I already know like a life preserver? Or do I reach out and engage in conversation with people I don’t know, thus opening up to possibilities?
- Do I go to events prepared with a few conversation-starters in mind?
- Do I uphold my end of the conversation, thus avoiding awkward and uncomfortable silences?
- Am I a courteous and attentive listener?
- Do I know when it’s time to move on from a conversation and excuse myself graciously?
- Do I set intentions and goals before events and meetings so I’m clear about how I can help make it a positive and valuable experience?
- Do I promise to be interested, not just interesting?
- Do I have clean, up-to-date business cards with me (always) so I have an efficient way to share my contact information?
- Do I remember to offer friendly and gracious (never salesly or pushy) follow-up notes or emails?
- Do I use social media authentically, respectfully, and courteously?
- Do I promise (cross my heart and hope to die) not to add people to my email or blog lists unless they have knowingly and willingly opted-in?
- Do I promise (with an equal amount of sincerity) not to trick people into having coffee or lunch with me so I can put an unexpected and equally unwelcomed sales pitch on them?
- If I say I will do something for someone, do I keep my word and actually do it?
What else would you add to this list? What do others do in networking situations that is a turnoff and feels like “punishment” to you? As you reflect on how you network, what could you improve on? What best practices and habits can we adopt as networking protocol and best practices to make the world a kinder, friendlier and more respectful place to connect and do business?
Ready to become more purposeful, polished and productive in your networking? The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business is a “content-rich must-have for your business-building library“ according to business etiquette and protocol expert Jan Goss. For less than the cost of most networking meetings you can gain access to hundreds of secrets, tips, and ideas that will prevent you from punishing the people with whom you are trying to network (and maybe even prevent them from punishing you). The book is available, both in print and in digital form, from all major online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, iTunes and others. For bulk discounts for your employees or members, please email me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com.