5 steps to becoming unforgettable
Tracy Hooper and Alice Tang, ChFC
Many people have the mistaken idea that building trusted connections is a time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is networking with confidence, building likability and trust by elevating your professional presence, and keeping connections alive through regular interactions. By investing just 5% of your time, you can strategically stay in touch. The result is that you will be top of mind whenever people need a referral.
Work the room with confidence
Confidence is at the core of professional presence, whether in person or virtually. Many of us have experienced the dazzling impact of working with a consummate professional or watching someone navigate effortlessly at a business event or on a virtual group conference call. You may wonder: Is confidence in their DNA? Are they extroverts? Are they fearless? Not necessarily. They’ve learned and practiced key skills to become confident, polished and effective.
Network with confidence
Introductions with impact: Before you meet someone, look them up on LinkedIn ahead of the event and connect with a personal note, “I look forward to meeting you at the conference next week.” Or ask the event coordinator if there is a list of attendees beforehand. Meet people with a smile and look them in the eye. With handshakes on hiatus, put your right hand over your heart and say, “I’m not ready to shake hands yet, but it’s great to meet you in person.” Offer your first and last name, as it’s part of your personal and professional identity. If your name is difficult to pronounce, think of a mnemonic device to help people understand or remember it.
If you’re meeting someone virtually, prepare by lifting your laptop so that it will be eye level with the person on the other side of the camera. A few thick books or an empty box works well. Have good lighting, test your mic and put a note on your door, “On a Zoom call.” Then, look into the lens and bring on that smile. Resist the urge to “talk to the screen.” Yes, you’ll notice facial expressions and body language, but people won’t feel like you’re actually looking at them. You can glance at the screen occasionally but then look right back up into the camera. It’s a subtle but significant way to connect with people.
Entering a conversation: Even with social distancing, you can “work the room.” Wait for a slight break in conversation or when people laugh and ask, “May I join you?” No need to apologize with, “Sorry to interrupt.” If you’re already in conversation, you can keep a safe distance and still welcome someone else. Extend your hand to bring them in, and say, “Come join us. We were just talking about …” People will remember this gracious gesture, which immediately welcomes them to be part of the group.
Exiting a conversation: Acknowledge what the other person has said, pause, and give a farewell gesture such as a quick wave, a tap on your own chest or take a slight bow. Then, add a parting comment: “Great to see you,” “May I connect with you on LinkedIn?” or “Good luck with your presentation.” And then move on. On video calls, say, “I promised our call would be 20 minutes, and we’re almost there. May I answer one more question for you?”
Practice the 60/40 rule: Talk less, listen more
What is our favorite thing to do when we meet a new contact? We talk about ourselves. The 60/40 rule means that you should spend 60% of the time listening to the other person and 40% of the conversation speaking about yourself. We all want to be listened to because it feels good. To make your new contacts feel good about themselves, you need to ask great questions and listen with full presence. When people walk away from a meeting feeling good about themselves, they remember both you and the meeting better — an efficient way to build your likability and trust.
Make the most of one-on-one meetings in person or online
Before any one-on-one meetings or business gatherings, take some time to research the people who will be there. LinkedIn is your friend, as it often includes a person’s awards, promotions and a list of the conferences they’ve attended. There’s no better way to make a great first impression than to approach someone you’ve researched and say, “Taylor, congratulations on your promotion!” They’ll be delighted that you’re interested and will naturally want to introduce you to others.
Be mindful of your words, as some can dilute and confuse your message. Examples include fillers such as “like,” “you know” and “umm.” It’s better to pause thoughtfully than to fill up the empty spaces with fillers. Avoid using words we say to avoid seeming aggressive, such as “just” (“I just have a quick question.”), “kind of,” “a little” and “pretty” (“I’m pretty prepared for the presentation.”).
Words to use include powerful phrases that give you authority, credibility and inspire others to have confidence and trust in you and your firm. Examples include “In my experience,” “Our firm is known for ...” and “Our most successful clients tell us ...”
Follow up after meeting a new contact with the seven-day golden rule
Out of sight, out of mind. The key here is to deliver your promises over a period of time. This way, you stay in front of them every week, biweekly, or monthly before you meet again.
Have a process to follow up after you meet someone. Everyone’s life is busy. Don’t assume that people will remember you after a wonderful conversation. If the relationship seems worth exploring in the future, pull out your smartphone to set the next meeting for 90 days later. And, in the next 90 days, have a plan to stay at the top of their mind. Otherwise, say thank you and move on. In our experience, fewer than 5% of people follow up after a meeting.
The seven-day golden rule means that within seven days of meeting new contacts, you should connect with them again. Send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn using a personalized invite if you’re not already connected. You can follow what’s going on in their world and vice versa. More importantly, their network is opened up to you. It will be easier to ask for strategic introductions once you have gained trust and respect in these new relationships.
Your network grows through confident and consistent interactions that build trust. By taking 30 minutes a week and 5% of your time to stay in touch with your contacts, your network flourishes and so will your net worth.
Create a 90-day action plan to stay in front of your centers of influence
After meeting new contacts, decide if they will become one of your top 10 centers of influence (COI) or your prospect list. Set aside 30 minutes each week to touch base with everyone on your COI list through interactions that don’t need to be time intensive. For example:
- Tag them on social media
- Invite them to an event
- Send a card
- Call, text or leave a voicemail
- Take them out for coffee, lunch or dinner every 90 days. If you can’t meet in person, have food or coffee delivered to them and schedule a video call.
- Send them a referral
- Connect them with another COI who serves a common niche
Thirty minutes over 90 days — or 13 weeks — comes out to 6.5 hours. Your target number of touches to each COI is at least once a week, or 13 times in 90 days. Ten one-hour meetings with your top 10 COIs takes 20 hours, including preparation and travel. Between your weekly touches and meetings, you’ll invest 26.5 hours, which is 5% of your work hours in 90 days.