In the end, it all comes down to relationships. As the saying goes, it’s all about who you know. Relationship building skills are absolutely essential in today’s business world.
That's why the most successful people seem to have an uncanny and innate ability to create a strong connection with everyone they meet. They’re likable, build rapport quickly, and establish trust with ease.
However, you don’t have to be born with these skills -- in fact, most people aren’t. Communication, social, and emotional skill sets are learned behaviors. It only looks effortless because those best at have practiced thousands of times throughout their lives with all of their friends, family, and acquaintances.
With effort and considered practice, you’ll be able to master these skills and connect with anyone easily -- no matter where you happen to meet them. Whether with management, colleagues, clients, friends, partners, investors, or even your own family, your relationships can and will improve dramatically.
If you’re looking to improve your network, earn a promotion, make a career change, or improve your skills in sales or client management, today can be the beginning of your path to those results. We’ll start at the beginning: how to become a conversation starting pro.
Use the following seven tips (along with specific actions to take) to start up a conversations when you are standing in a line, at a dinner party, or a business conference.
1. Get Your People Plan
Just like a business needs a plan, you need one for your relationships. Hope isn't a successful strategy when it comes to building an extraordinary network of people.
You need to look for opportunities to meet new people every single day, everywhere you go. You never know who you will meet -- your next employer, employee, partner, client, etc. You can’t build relationships in your office if you keep the door closed or head home every time you complete your work for the day.
How you interact with others will make or break your success.
So start engaging more with people. Go to lunch with your colleagues. Join professional organizations in your industry, volunteer with charity or nonprofit organizations, and take advantage of opportunities to attend conferences and other events. Get involved with a consistent group of find like-minded people that want to grow their careers and businesses.
Your to-dos: First, commit to going to one to two every week, which will involve only 2-4 hours of your time. If you work the room correctly, you can meet between 4-8 new people an hour. Imagine how many new professional contacts you will have in one year!
Secondly, create your influencer plan. It's list of 20-30 people you really want to meet. Then, find ways to interact and connect with them.
2. Use Storytelling in Your Conversations
Adept storytellers captivate strangers using compelling stories that are vulnerable and tell the other person important information about them. Everyone has a story to tell and a history.
People want to know the "real" you. Don't hide or try to put on a front. Your story reveals your truth and who you are. Developing a narrative will help build rapport and develop the foundation for deep, meaningful professional relationships. Stories can also illustrate your unique approach to business and can help establish your authority.
Use the below framework of three questions to think about what stories in your life you should use and what they communicate to others.
Why is this story important to me to share with others? Will it educate, impress, entertain?
Why will other people care to hear about it? Is it related to them? Does it connect the dots?
Could this story be helpful to others? To understand me better? To understand something else better?
Your to-dos: Use this framework to come up with your stories and use them.
3. Be Interested in Others
It’s important to tell your story, but it’s equally critical to discover the stories of those around you.
Ask the right questions and give new acquaintances time to open up so you can really get to know them. People love talking about themselves and they will appreciate your interest. They also want to talk about things they care about the most. You’ll be surprised at how quickly strangers or people you barely know will open up to you.
Your to-do: Remember to get to know the people you meet and create an emotional connection with them. How you ask your questions is a key part of this. Be casual and unassuming. Some good starter questions: “What are you working on right now?” and “So what you brought you to [event]?” These questions will give you key insights into who the person is and what their goals might be.
4. Be Authentic
Some people feel like they have to act or behave in a certain way in order to be accepted by others successful. Unfortunately, copying or mimicking what works for someone else almost always makes you you look insincere. Instead, show the real you and be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to share your successes, challenges you’re facing and fixing right now, and your overall goals and ambitions.
Your to-do: Practice sharing parts of yourself that are vulnerable in your conversations. You'll find your conversations will be significantly more engaging. For example, don’t be afraid to talk about family or passions that you’d normally reserve for conversation with friends. Those close to you already know quite a bit about you -- share with others!
5. Lead With Generosity
Relationship are like a bank account. If you make more withdrawals than deposits, you have an overdrawn account, which isn't good!
You will find you get more of what you want when you first help others get what they want.
Before you ask for anything, understand what the person's challenges are and what they need help in. You can then suggest resources that could help them -- such as contacts, books, ideas, etc. Then, ask them for help with your challenges and people they have in their network that you should meet. Remember, they may not be able to help you directly, but their network may.
Takers are a dime a dozen. Givers are a rare commodity. Be a giver and stand out in the crowd!
Your to-do: Lead with generosity and try helping people first before you ask for anything.
6. Never stop learning
The best way to have great conversations is to stay current on local events, news, new restaurant openings, and what's "hot" in your city. Subscribe to blogs and other media. Use that knowledge to entertain, educate, and engage. Also, try to meet restaurant, hotel, bar, and other managers so you can start building relationships with these key people in your city.
Your to-do: Subscribe to blogs, newspapers, newsletters, etc. that can keep you in "the know" not just about your industry, profession, or the world, but with your local network Share that information with others in conversations and on social media. Be the go-to person for what's happening in your city.
7. The Backbone of Success is Failure
You will meet people that you just can’t seem to connect with. You may not be able to find anything in common with them or one of you may simply be having a challenges day. Don’t allow a few setback to prevent you from an extraordinary future. Keep focused and practicing these skill sets. It will pay off in a big way.
Your to-do: Every time you leave an event or situation, focus on what went right. Celebrate your small victories in the moment. During the next day, look back and see what you could improve on. But don't beat yourself up about misses.
Look at these situations like a 3rd-party anthropologist with no attachment to the outcome. You'll learn more and get much more motivated to keep trying new relationships and, ultimately, build a promising and large network.
Every relationship starts with a first conversation. Practice makes perfect when it comes to these starting nodes that will build a network you can rely on. Use the tips and implement the to-do items, and you’ll quickly see new opportunities open up in your life!