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Opinion: Change your mindset to build new business relationships

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The global pandemic limited our networking efforts as live meetings shut down in favor of virtual meetings, and Zoom calls replaced coffee. Most of us could use a mindset-tweak as we explore using both opportunities of live meetings and technologies. This is especially relevant for business owners, as we rely heavily on relationship building. Here are four mindsets to examine, as well as do’s and don’ts as you make your way back.

I’m an introvert
COVID-19 was an introvert’s heaven. There were no demands to attend networking or social events. If you dread “reentry,” it might be because you are too self-conscious. When I attended my first national event, I felt like a fish out of water until I learned something life-changing: When I focused on myself, I was miserable, but when I got interested in others, I had fun.

What to do: Make the conversation about them. Strive to be interested rather than interesting. People love to talk about themselves, and if you ask open-ended questions, they’ll talk and you’ll learn.

What not to do: Don’t take the “head fake.” If someone gives you a compliment, simply thank them and turn the conversation back to them. Don’t get so enamored by their admiration that you lose your focus.

I’m tongue-tied
If you struggle to find something to say at social functions, it affects your self-confidence. If you’re faking a smile while heading to the cash bar to fade into the scenery, it’s because you haven’t prepared properly.

What to do: Use business and events publications, and other resources online, to research the event and the people attending. Find people to introduce yourself to and see where their business has made the news. Use that information as a conversation starter.

What not to do: Don’t hover around the food bar. Eat before you go so that your focus is on meeting people instead of filling up on the buffet.

I’m a follow-up failure
If you go to a networking event and don’t leverage your efforts, it’ll always feel like wasted time. It doesn’t have to be that way. Find a way to connect after the event using social media.

What to do: After an event go to LinkedIn and connect with a key person you met. If it’s an expert, make sure to introduce yourself at the event and then follow up on LinkedIn. When you ask for a connection, make a comment about something relevant you learned. Go to their thread and do a few “likes” with some comments. Slowly, this expert will recognize you.

What not to do: Don’t pitch your products or services, even if someone seems interested. Instead, set up a separate meeting for that purpose. The same rule applies to connecting with people on social media. Don’t immediately ask for a phone call so you can pitch your services or you’ll likely get blocked.

Let’s make a deal
We all go to social and networking events hoping to gain business opportunities, but if you’re going with a motive to make a deal, you need to slow down. Rather than asking, “How can I win?” You need to ask, “How can I help others win?”

What to do: Get curious. Ask questions to find out what their interests are, what resources they need in the future and who they need to meet. I often send links of short articles or podcasts when the other person has shared a particular interest or situation that calls for outside resources.

What not to do: Don’t connect two people by email unless you have their approval and interest. The worst introductions are email introductions without permission. Don’t say, “You need to meet Kim.” Instead, say, “I know a person who could help. Would you like an email introduction?” Be sure to also ask Kim if it’s OK to be introduced by email.

To build solid business relationships, take advantage of the world of both live events and technologies.

Marlene Chism is a consultant, author and LinkedIn global learning platform expert. Her books include “Stop Workplace Drama,” “No-Drama Leadership” and the soon-to-be-released “From Conflict to Courage: How to Stop Avoiding and Start Leading.” She can be reached at marlene@marlenechism.com.

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