What is a connection? The term is ubiquitous in business circles. How many connections do we have, personally or on LinkedIn? Does it matter?
In business, what matters is how we treat our connections. When done right, with respect and transparency, then we get to leverage our connections for good purpose.
What does it mean to be well-connected?
At Fio Connect, we certainly feel like we all have large networks and strong relationships. But we decided to take an introspective look at how we work and live, and challenged each other to start by reimagining connections.
Our last blog focused on developing new business connections – turning the people you meet at a tradeshows or networking events and forming meaningful connections with them. Now we need to take a step back and realize that connections are not about business at all. They are about human interaction. We are not merely connecting with a company or business opportunity. We are connecting with people.
To be truly connected with a human being requires no ulterior motives. It involves empathy, transparency, honesty and kindness. It’s giving first, without expectation of receiving. This is the foundation for a truly meaningful connection.
Rethink your intentions.
If your first intent is to connect for new business opportunities, it’s nothing more than rhetoric for revenue.
How do we reimagine a world of more meaningful connections? When friendship occurs before business, or when a business relationship turns into a lasting friendship, we can see the authenticity in our connection. This should be easy – it should be a very genuine and organic process.
Here are some myths about making business connections, and ways to overcome them to ensure that all our connections are genuine and meaningful.
Myth #1: Business is a zero-sum game.
If I am winning, then I am not losing (someone else is losing)!
This is a common trap that is easy to fall into, even if we are doing it subconsciously. It is human nature to be suspicious of another party's ulterior motives. How many times have you thought, "Their price is so much better than their competition...that must mean their quality is terrible, and they're going to let me find out the hard way!" Believing someone else holds a hidden agenda is a surefire way to shield ourselves from meaningful connections.
Instead, we could choose to approach too-good-to-be-true scenarios with curiosity instead of with immediate suspicion.
Perhaps we discover that the vendor has found an innovative, low-cost, scalable way to offer their product or service, and they are eager to pass on the benefits of this innovation to their customers. Perhaps they are confident that their patent production is secure, and that their R&D is well ahead of the field, so they are making great margins despite low pricing. Perhaps, just maybe, you are the beneficiary of a truly good deal, one where the seller and buyer are both extremely happy with the resulting transaction. That would be a case of "I win, you win" rather than "If I win, someone else has to lose!"
Myth #2: Only extroverts are good at networking.
I'm too shy to go up to a stranger and start selling myself and my business.
Good news – that's not what networking is about!
Probably the most underrated component of good networking is a technique called active listening.
If you're not comfortable sharing your own inner excitement about the latest wonderful thing your company is doing, that's ok! Start by asking someone about their world. Then engage in active listening, meaning really focus on what they're saying, and respond with deliberation only when appropriate. Make eye contact, and occasionally reiterate some of the details back for clarity. Ask further questions with genuine interest in the answers. When people feel heard and understood, they start to let their guard down and automatically become more comfortable with you. It engenders trust and the opportunity to connect more deeply.
Myth #3: You can't mix business with personal.
Either your business will suffer or your friendship will fall apart when money enters the equation!
This cynical thinking does a disservice to your own capacity. There is no reason why you can't maintain both a professional relationship and personal friendship with someone you’ve met through business. If a challenge arises in either the personal or business aspect of a relationship, have the confidence that your connection is good (because, of course, you have started with the right intentions), strong enough to withstand the challenge, and will hopefully grow even stronger as a result of overcoming challenges together. Through healthy dialogue and open communication, you can avoid imbalanced conflict and "what's your agenda" type of traps.
What are some other common myths you've run into surrounding business connections? What have you learned? Please share with us in the comments below.