Tis the season to network isn't it? Royal Ascot, Henley, Wimbledon, evening races, cricket...with the long days and nice weather, corporates everywhere are making the most of the events available. And why not? But how can these soft skills be fostered and developed in professional service firms?
How important are soft skills like networking?
As someone who is regularly on both sides of the corporate entertainment fence, I have been thinking how these soft skills, that so many either take for granted or brush aside, are central to success - be it for career progression, for business or in day-to-day life.
Networking = building a rapport
Having lived for many years in South America - where relationships are key - I am convinced that building a genuine rapport with someone is as important as it ever was. This is true wherever you happen to be. Relationships are more than just the networks you create through them, they are actually getting to know the people who you work with. They stand alone outside of any network.
The "how are you?" at the start of a conversation in South American usually sparks a discussion - the kids are fine, a few problems with builders, otherwise great - rather than the often programmed "fine". It is as if we are programmed to ask and programmed to know that the person asking hasn't bought into the words he is asking. Knowing what makes your colleagues, clients, business partners tick is important. After all there is a whole CRM industry built around it!
The first rule of networking
I was at a conference a recently and the person next to me asked who I was. I replied with my name and company. And he repeated, "no, who are you?", fishing for a more complete CV. What he meant was "are you worth me talking to?". He didn't find out if I was. I was so put off by his line of questioning that he lost me. Taking a genuine interest in people - with no agenda or end game - is for me the first rule of networking.
People do business with people.
How many pitches are lost because "we just didn't click"?
Whether you click is, in part, indefinable - sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. But I do think there are ways you can increase your chances. Soft skills like any other can be taught and polished. Being genuine seems to me to be a good place to start.
If you'd like to find out how Client Talk can help your professionals develop their soft skills - including networking - please get in touch at email@example.com.