The secret of successful networking? Be nice!
14th February 2011 by Sean Malone 15 comments
I’ve discovered the secret of successful networking: the thing which underpins all successful business networking. I made my discovery last Thursday when I had the fortune to meet the rudest man in the world and the nicest woman, all on the same day.
Here’s my story.
A colleague of mine persuaded me that our VirtualStudio.TV concept would go down a bomb with a big-shot PR company in London. And so, after much preparation and polishing of shoes we landed ourselves in front of the reception desk of our new potential client.
Now, here’s a question for you: have you ever found yourself in a hostile situation and become instantly aware of everything that’s going on around you? Picture me standing there in this reception space and super aware of the abrupt way the receptionist is managing our arrival. I also start to notice the lack of eye contact, the mess behind the desk and the pretentious artwork on the walls – I hate myself when I do this.
Enter Mister Big (25 years old and he’s not big) he says, “I was rather expecting one of you, not two.”
He has a beautifully cultured voice which must have cost his parents thousands. He oozes insincerity as he assures us that although someone, not him, screwed up the meeting room we can still have a “chat”. Big Shot takes us to the staff eating area. My colleague unpacks the laptop, whilst I make small talk.
“How’s business?” I chirp.
Big replies, “I’ve got a lot of important meetings today. Is this going to take long?”
I flash a look at my colleague and pause before making up my mind.
“Err no. This is not going to take long at all - because we’re leaving.”
I start to help my colleague pack the laptop. Big is clearly caught off guard.
“No, I’ve told you I want to see what you’ve got.”
I put on my best cheesy smile.
“I’m terribly sorry. Clearly we’re not the company to help your agency achieve its strategic communication objectives. Goodbye.”
We retrace our steps, leave the badges with the Velociraptor on reception and head back to Cambridge.
(Yes? Can I help you? )
Does my story have a happy ending?
Yes it does. Because when I return to our studio in Cambridge I spot a young woman in her car trying to find a parking spot. I direct her to a spare bay and she parks her car. She then gets out of the car and gives me the shock of my life. Wow, she’s about six foot, two inches tall.
“Is this VirtualStudio.TV” she says.
Wow again. She’s got a cockney accent so thick you could cut it with a bread knife.
“Err yes, you must be…”
Tall Woman flashes her white teeth in a beaming smile and thrusts her hand towards me. She envelopes her palm in mine and delivers a decisive hand shake. “I’m Linda (name changed) and I’m here for the free one hour presenter training.”
I take Linda into the VirtualStudio.TV offices and introduce her to the team. Everybody does the “wow” thing and stares up at our new found friend.
“Don’t worry” says Linda. “Coz everybody looks like that when they first meet me.”
We do the training with Linda, show her the studio and everyone gets so excited that we eventually make a free video of her too. It turns out that Linda is a qualified accountant and as sharp as a tack. She asks questions about our products, services and prices. Our answers are rewarded with more eyes and teeth from Linda, handshakes all round and then she’s gone.
Thirty minutes later we receive an email from Linda. She thanks us for the free one hour training session and gives us detailed feedback on every aspect of her first visit to VirtualStudio.TV. She likes us and promises to do business with us. And we like her too.
What’s the point of my story?
Thanks to Linda I’ve reminded myself that the bedrock of successful business networking is not something you can bottle, buy, or download from the internet. It’s called politeness and good manners.
Thank you Linda.