Oct 6 2011

LetsLunch Networking Tip #3: Rapport First Ask Second

A guiding principle of being a good salesman is to focus on building rapport with your prospects.  Having strong rapport increases the likelihood they’ll buy your product especially when they feel a connection they don’t have with another salesman.  Building rapport is part of the game and it’s also critical to networking.  Each time you meet a new contact you are creating a relationship.  If someone doesn’t feel a connection with you they’ll be less willing to help.  This is why you should focus on fostering each relationship before asking for anything.  Here are some tips for building rapport with your lunch match and other people you may network with:

  1. Find a Common Interest.  People connect with someone who shares a similar interest whether it be cartoons, sports, video games, tech innovation, sailing, or brewing beer.  We tend to like people that are similar to us which makes feeling a connection that much easier.  Discussing your shared interests will help make your next lunch and future interactions flow smoothly.
  2. Repeat, Approve, and Relate.  Most people like to know the person sitting across the table is engaged in the conversation.  You can show you’re listening by briefly summarizing what they said (repeat), make a suggestion that you agree (approve), and relating it to a personal experience (relate).  This strategy can be very effective at showing you’re engaged but it can also come across as a little fake when overused.
  3. Don’t be afraid to Swear.  The LIGHT use of curse words can set a casual mood and make it easier for your lunchmate to relate.  Guy Kawasaki covers this in his most recent book, Enchantment, and recommends you: swear infrequently, when you can’t control it, when the audience supports it, and if you keep it tame.  He also emphasizes that swearing can be a huge risk so look for cues from your match before dropping a shittake…definitely avoid the F-bomb.

Above all else, be yourself.  People find it easier to relate to someone who is genuine.  Feel free to share your rapport building tips in the comments and help us improve the networking experience with your tweets and shares.

Sep 22 2011

LetsLunch Networking Tip #2: Bird in hand worth two in the bush

Now more than ever, you should be working to expand your professional network by attending meetups, pitch events, and scheduling LetsLunches; but what about the network you already have in place?  Maintaining a robust network is as equally important as building one but most people leave the new relationship as a simple invitation to connect on Linkedin.  You should never overlook the network you have in place as a source of new opportunities but avoid being that “friend” who only calls when they need something.  Here are some tips on ensuring your network is always operating at full capacity.

  1. Be visible and relevant.  Frequently update your social profiles, tweet on a relevant topic, blog, and even consider producing a quarterly personal newsletter.  Being consistently visible to your network increases the likelihood of your contacts offering suggestions or providing opportunities.  Be careful not to over share as some people will lose interest or miss your important updates which could do more harm than good.
  2. Target individuals.  Make a habit of contacting and following up with a specific number of contacts per week.  Being visible is great but being personal is invaluable.  Having direct contact by phone or email lets you connect directly with the individual and makes them feel more obliged to help you.
  3. Give, Give, Give.  Michael Roderick, a NYC LetsLuncher, blogs on business strategies which includes his G.A.T.E. strategy where the G stands for Give.  Always look to suggest connections, potential partnerships, or new job opportunities that will benefit your contacts.  How often do you come across jobs that you aren’t qualified for but you know someone who’d be perfect?  Not only does this help your contact but it also shows your potential employer that you have the company’s best interest in mind.  These gestures will build rapport with your contacts and will make asking favors easier in the future.

Frequent contact is a key to maintaining a strong network which is ultimately the difference between success and obscurity.  Feel free to share your thoughts on maintaining your network by leaving comments below.

Sep 15 2011

LetsLunch Tip: Be Prepared

Put the phone away
Time is money.  It’s also finite.  Meetings, blogs, tweets and full inboxes devour every precious second of the day but there’s always time for a meal.  Why not spend that time meeting someone who can help you connect with a new partner, find that next deal, or even offer your next job?  Efficiently allocating time is a critical aspect of productivity in the workplace and it should also be critical to your next LetsLunch.  Here are some tips for getting the most from your lunch hour:
  • Consider reviewing the restaurants menu in advance so you know what to order before you get there.  This will increase the time for telling your story or pitching an idea rather than selecting the right Maki Roll.
  • Review your match’s Linkedin profile and be especially familiar with their company.  If your partner doesn’t have to spend 15-20 minutes explaining their business model, they can spend it understanding how they can help you.
  • Put the iphone away.  We all know we’re incredible multi-taskers, despite what studies say, but spend your hour focused on the conversation and drawing connections to your network.  You’ll get more out of the meeting and make a better impression with your match.

Hopefully these tips will help you maximize the value of your next LetsLunch.

Feel free to share your time saving advice in the comments.