Networking Soft Skills Tips – The Surprise
by Kate Nasser |
A recent one-on-one networking breakfast underscored for me once again the critical importance of soft skills (also known as people-skills) in networking and actually in every aspect of business. It also showed me that despite many available online soft skills networking tips like the following links:
– 10 Networking Tips http://businessknowhow.com/tips/networking.htm
– Sharpen Your Soft Skills http://tnj.com/business-news/sharpen-your-%E2%80%98soft-skills%E2%80%99-for-career-success
– Soft Skills the Competitive Edge http://dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/softskills.htm
there are still 3 critical soft-skills steps that people often overlook.
The Story, The Surprise, and 3 Critical Soft Skills Tips
I had heard a consultant speak at a local meeting and was impressed with his content. He does business innovation consulting and provided excellent examples that clarified his points very well. I spoke with him briefly after the talk, we exchanged cards, mentioned networking in the future, and I went on my way.
When his office contacted me to set up face-to-face networking, I accepted. The goal was “to exchange innovative ideas on business and see how we could help each other if at all”. It sounded interesting and normal to me. My expectations were set for at least a cordial information exchange and possibly some remarkable moments of creativity based on our different yet equally valuable skills.
What I experienced instead was domineering person who came with an agenda of getting leads from me to achieve more sales. As I tried to focus on information exchange he suggested more than once that I was not action-oriented and was thinking negatively. He told me that I undervalued my client list from which we could make money together. He was doing everything to achieve his sales goal and was failing with every word that came out of his mouth. As his drive to increase sales drove him to deliver more of these subtle insults, my attitude changed.
Interestingly enough, he was able to pick up on my attitude shift. As we ended the meeting, he tried to remedy the situation by saying that sometimes he gets too pushy. I was ready to move on with my day when he surprised me with the following remark as we left the restaurant: “Sometimes I forget that I must build a woman’s excitement. We men, we just like to drop our pants and have sex. You women need a lot of foreplay!”
As he tried to fix his poor people-skills, he made things worse. Moreover, his attempt highlighted an unprofessional sexism that I have not encountered since the 1980’s.
He knew that I was The People-Skills Coach and yet never thought he would have to invest some time before I would connect him with my customers? The referrals I make reflect on me and my brand. My customers would expect me to connect them with other professionals who know how to build valuable relationships through:
- Asking pertinent questions
- Interacting by adapting to their personality type, culture, and pace
- Delivering services, products, or advice with care and consideration for their business needs and success
His style is non-listening, brash, bold, controversial, pushy and comes across to me and possibly to others as desperate for a sale. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with going for a sale or with companies entering into a joint venture to deliver services to the same customers. Yet this consultant skipped one important step — building a relationship. This was not a big networking event where you circulate to connect with many people and then follow-up later. This was the follow-up later where you invest some face time (building the relationship) to give and receive value.
Investing a bit of time to learn about others does not mean that you aren’t action oriented. They are not mutually exclusive. As Monica Diaz wrote in The Biggest Challenge (http://OtherEsteem.org/blog/), “Openly recognize effort in others. See the path they are on, not only the results they are reaping.” Thanks Monica, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So Monica’s advice is on my list of 3 critical soft skills tips for networking success:
- Recognize the other person’s path; not just the results you or they want. Otherwise you may come across as selfish, insensitive, and greedy. Do not label differences as negative or non-valuable.
- Learn your personality type, how to spot others’ types, and adapt to others. This does not mean being a fake. You can be authentic and show who you are and also adapt to others. This is the ONE thing that has given me tremendous success in business and in life. I am writing a book on this so stay tuned for easy to follow steps on adapting to other people while still being authentic.
- When setting up a one-on-one networking meeting, clearly state what you want out of the networking meeting. Many online tips tell you to know your goal in networking. Yet a goal is not always the same as an exit outcome. What do you hope to have at the end of the meeting? In this story, if the consultant had clearly stated that he was looking for sales leads I would have connected him with a couple of organizations that hold events specifically for that purpose instead of having a breakfast meeting with me. He has a better chance of getting what he wants with people who want the same thing.
So what would you do in a situation where you said the wrong thing or acted inappropriately? A simple direct apology showing ownership of your faux pas and regret for the impact it had on someone else is a solid start toward repairing the damage. For long term success with networking, sharpen your people-skills to be prepared for the diverse people you will meet. More people than ever are networking both online and face-to-face. It both challenges your current soft skills and gives you the chance to make them stronger.
To sharpen your people-skills, ask yourself what are your pet peeves about networking? What don’t you like and what would you prefer people do when networking with you? Ask your friends, colleagues, and family what they prefer. Share your people-skills networking tips with the networking universe in the comments section below. I certainly value your insights and I know that other networkers will value your questions and experiences as well.
If you are in career transition, see my 2 minute motivator “Transitions the Easier Way” (link at top of this page). It’s a fun upbeat video that you can watch free as many times as you like.
Thank you for visiting my blog and come back soon.
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach