People do Business with People they Like

Stephanie Barney
Contributing Writer
Spark Service Academy

Its true.  That is how we make many of our personal choices.  We choose friends by deciding who we have things in common with.  We also do this with business relationships. How do you get people to like you?  You find the things you have in common. When I have something in common with another business owner, it gives us a reason to talk, which leads to extended conversation, an eventually to a business friendship.  So, although a business relationship is based on trust, it all starts with start with finding common ground.

This is the entire purpose of networking events like luncheons and mixers.  Too often, we go to a networking event thinking that it is an opportunity to sell our product or service to those attending. Herein lies the mistake; because no one goes to a networking event looking to buy products or services. Networking opportunities are so that people can get to know each other, or look for common ground, to decide whether they want to do business together in the future.

This means that networking is really just ‘getting into conversations’ with people who might be potential clients, or might refer us to potential clients. Although many of us feel that we are naturals in the conversation department, there are a few ‘rules’ when it comes to professional conversations.  You may only get one chance to make a good impression, so keep these things in mind when networking.

1.Do not start any conversation by talking about your product or service, unless you want to be perceived as an aggressive, narcissistic sales person. In fact, you shouldn’t even mention anything about your business in the first 5 minutes, besides your name and the company you represent.

2. Start by making small talk about sports, kids, hobbies, music, or current events until you find a topic you have in common.  Enjoy socializing first, and Segway into business later.

3. Avoid ‘loaded’ topics that may lead you or your conversation partner(s) into an opinionated discussion. The top three topics to avoid are: politics, religion, and childbirth.   Laugh if you want, but these subjects almost always result in someone feeling awkward.

4. After you have found common ground, then ask them what they do. (Keep in mind that this may not happen in your first conversation with them).  When they are talking about their company, shut up and really listen, asking questions that are appropriate. Ask for their business card first, and then offer yours ever so casually as a natural part of the exchange. Most of the time, your conversation partner will look at your card and then ask you about what you do.  At this time you can talk about your business without seeming pushy.

5. If you had some great conversations, follow up with a handwritten card, an email, or a visit.  If you choose to visit, know that this is not a sales call for you.  Your purpose to visit is to strengthen your business relationship. Ask them to tell you more about how you can look or listen for referrals for them. Again, it is highly likely that they will reciprocate and ask you more about your company.  Trust takes time, so do not expect new business acquaintances to buy from you or refer business to you right away.

6. Remember that good conversations can happen anywhere: at a sports event, in a waiting room, or in line at the grocery store.  Each opportunity to network is a golden opportunity to earn the business of your conversation partner, as well as referrals to any of the 250 people they know!

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