There are two types of people that we run into in the business world: the people that are easy to talk to and have a conversation with, and the people that you can legitimately form a connection and relate with. The latter offer real, genuine interactions. These interactions typically won’t add much to the conversation in terms of business opportunities, but they’re a chance for the participating individuals to be real and not so robotic. It humanizes the conversation.
When the client doesn’t know you, you’re just a faceless technician to them. It’s easier to be unforgiving when a mistake is made. However, when you share that you’re someone who likes to play board games, has four kids, enjoys traveling and camping, etc., you become a real person to that client. You will have created a relationship with them that matters, and they will think about your connection any time you interact together. The faceless person can be replaced, but the genuine person is far more difficult to let go of.
People these days just don’t listen enough. When you don’t listen, it’s hard to be authentic. You can’t connect and get value out of the conversation without listening. When you are listening, pay attention to where the other person is going with the conversation, and then add to it. Don’t interrupt! Many people are guilty of “keyword listening,” in which they spit out a canned response once they hear a specific phrase from the other person. Focus on truly listening and understanding what they are saying, and wait for your cue to respond.
Not only should you focus on the way you listen to the conversation, but also the way you speak. Make the person you are talking to the hero of their story; when you do this, you can instantly connect with them. Don’t stress out if you aren’t well-versed in the other person’s interests. There are ways to keep the conversation going, even if you aren’t familiar with the topic. For example, if they’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, ask them basic questions such as “How are they doing this year?” “What’s their toughest matchup?” They will love that you are paying attention to what interests them and asking to learn more.
The tech-y people reading this right now are probably disinterested, and I get it. You don’t want to hear about people’s lives or what they do – your passion is technology and that’s what you enjoy. However, remember that your passion for technology can really only be fulfilled when you see that technology being used. It’s not just what you can do with tech, but what you can enable someone else to do with that technology. When you are able to deploy an awesome solution that enables another organization to be more successful, there’s a great deal of satisfaction and pride that comes out of that.
The value of authenticity is that you are now a human being to the other person, just as they are to you. Ask yourself, do you really know the client, or do you just want their money? You can have both when you work on developing a relationship with your client. When that connection is established and further cemented over time, you will have created a longstanding business relationship, as well.