Be personal, positive, curious and respectful
Start with a human conversation. It’s okay to have some goals in mind when you have a planned or even spontaneous meeting with someone—to have your eyes light up when you realize someone is in a position to help you. But as any salesperson can tell you, you won’t get far if you cut right to the chase and dump your conversational agenda on this person. Conversation is about establishing common bonds – the more personal, the better! Work is decidedly NOT personal. This person is not a company or a business opportunity.
Be positive. Don’t speak ill of other companies, products, jobs, or people. It always reflects on you. And when you’re on the phone, smile—it will come through loud and clear. Smile if you’re at a party, meeting or seminar–even if you don’t get to speak to someone, they’ll remember you for your affable disposition, and will be open to a conversation when they run into you next.
Be curious about the person you’re talking to. Spend at least half the time listening. Learn about their needs and challenges, personally and professionally. Learn about any challenges their company and industry face. Offer to help.
Be respectful. You are not competing with your contact. You do not need to demonstrate how much you know. A well-placed and thoughtful question will demonstrate how smart and how interested you are. But it’s also possible to be inquisitive and curious without being respectful (e.g., taking a challenging tone). You’ll know if your tone is respectful if it conveys that you believe that the person has important things to say that you would value knowing.
Show a little respect and the world is your oyster!