Networking Soft Skills Tips – The Surprise

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
Sharpen Your Soft Skills
Soft Skills the Competitive Edge

there are still 3 critical soft-skills steps that people often overlook.

By: Jaimelondonboy, Networking Personality

Networking Soft Skills By: Jaimelondonboy

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!”

The Surprise

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.

The Surprise of Soft Skills.

The Surprise of Soft Skills.

I network to explore innovative solutions to real business challenges and to contribute my deep people-skills knowledge and insights on business issues.  I do not network to have someone label my thinking process as an exaggerated need for foreplay.

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:

  • Listening
  • 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 (, “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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

9 Responses to “Networking Soft Skills Tips – The Surprise”

  1. Great Post Kate.
    Networking and relationship building is all about finding the right fit.
    If you have not done your homework and have not taken the time to learn what motivates the other person, you are likely to be trying to push square peg into a round hole. The harder you push, the poorer the fit. By focusing your networking activity on learning more about the other person including what information they need AND how they want to receive it, you have a much better chance of building a valuable connection as opposed finding yourself in the midst of an embarassing or uncomfortable situation.

  2. Kimb Manson says:

    Great post Kate, Good thing it was you meeting with this yahoo, there are way too many people out there who look at networking as a way to advance themselves, and thier ego’s without giving one ounce back. I choose to make networking conncections that are a mutual benefit. Much like my twitter and facebook, personally if I do not have an established relationship with the person I won’t follow for long. I need to spend my networking investment time in building the right relationships. I have had a few occasions where people connect just to get to know one of my conncections. Luckily I can spot them right away. Networking should not be about the quantity of connections but of the quality of them.

  3. Liz C. says:

    Oh my God! Kate, this is too much…WOW. I can not believe this guy. But, you are such an amazing person that I believe it was necessary for him to meet someone like you (hopefully this guy will learn one day). I admire you and I say Kudos to you by being able to be a professional at all times. I would have been crying and very upset about what he said. I think I have so much to learn…I am just getting started here.
    Take care and thanks again.
    Liz C.

  4. Marleen says:

    Great experience and post, Kate!

    Thanks for the reminders.


  5. Jaynine says:

    Your blog left me sitting with my mouth hanging open thinking “I’ve met this guy”. I think we all have met this type of person. He clearly did not know how to network.

    Thanks for sharing great reminders. I retweeted this so my list can read it and have either have a good laugh or crawl under their desk realizing it was written about them.

    Jaynine Howard, USMC (Ret), PhD (ABD)
    The Debt Free Business Coach

  6. Another great contribution Kate! Your post is so timely it is unbelievable. We experience so many outdated approaches to networking either in person or through new media, that the social (Getting to know) portion is often omitted. Thanks for lifting up excellent examples of how to effectively connect and highlighting the “Shake Your Head” and “Never Will I Forget” example of a DON’T.

  7. Leah Kaiz says:

    Such a great post Kate. It is amazing the types of people you come into contact with when doing business and networking. I think one of the keys to creating synergy is being genuinely interested in what other people have to say and finding out who they are. In this rush rush society where there is much disconnect because we often read well thought out emails etc, it is always most telling when you meet people in person, read their body language and really hear what they have to say. It is only then that you will know if you can truly create a valuable relationship that can lead to shared business. Anyone who treats their customers properly would want to be careful about exposing them to just any networking possibilities after all it is our reputation that will be remembered. I’ve noticed too that sometimes in our haste to feel ‘connected’ many people often say “yes let’s join together on a project.” And only after more interactions realize that may not have been the best fit for them… it’s always important to use those soft skills feel people out and make sure they share the same goals and values you do when it comes to business.

  8. Amy Hall says:

    Wonderful Article! You have clearly articulated the power of relationships, ‘people before profits’. Everyone should be care-full of who they recommend their clients work with. Our people connections are our most valuable resource.

    Amy Hall

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