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A Different Kind of Networking

Dean Petrulakis     LinkedIn     Twitter

Senior Vice President, Business Development

Rider Dickerson

I was having breakfast with a client recently.  This is nothing new.  I have many breakfasts, lunches and dinners with clients.  The breakfast meeting was a really good one.  We talked about business opportunities and discussed ways we might be able to help each other grow our respective businesses.  We talked a lot about networking and building trust with clients, and that developing new business is a process that requires more than cold calling.  It was a nice conversation and a mutually beneficial meeting. However, it’s what happened after breakfast that may have forever changed our relationship—in a good way.

My client is from St. Louis, and we were having breakfast in Chicago.  We wrapped up our meeting around 10 am so she could have plenty of time to hop in her rental car and make it to the far northern suburbs for an important noon client meeting.  I had a noon lunch meeting as well and had planned to spend the next hour or so catching up on emails that had piled up during our meeting.  We walked outside, shook hands and discussed my plans to come visit her and her colleagues at their office in St. Louis in the fall.  The sun was shining, and we were both excited about the rest of our respective days.

As I turned to head to my car my client had a look of utter shock and disbelief on her face.  She looked up the block and didn’t see her car.  For a moment she thought maybe she parked on another block, but that was just wishful thinking.  She had indeed been towed.  As panic began to set in, I assured her we would figure out where her car was and go get it.  I even chuckled a bit in disbelief myself.  She would later tell me that chuckle and my statement put her at ease.

As we drove to the impound lot to get my client’s car she was still visibly frustrated by this crazy turn of events.  It took her 4 or 5 phone calls just to learn where her car was, and now she was most likely going to be late to her important meeting.  After finally learning where her car was she laughed and said to me “Well this certainly takes our relationship to a whole new level! Talk about networking.”

We shared a good laugh, but inside I couldn’t help but think how this whole episode would have never happened if my client and I didn’t arrange this breakfast meeting and take the time to meet with each other.  Sure, we email, text, and exchange phone calls.  However, we both are big believers in personal interaction.  We know that business is still earned, grown and solidified in the face-to-face interactions we have with our customers. True bonding and rapport cannot happen on LinkedIn or Twitter. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big believer in the power of Social Media and developing a network of connections on the outlets that are most appropriate for your business.  But, all of the activity on those Social Media platforms can’t replace the dynamic of actual networking and personal interaction.

It’s easy to sit at your computer, tablet or smartphone and fire off tweets and status updates on LinkedIn or Facebook.  It doesn’t take much effort to be honest.  I do it all the time.  I have made many good connections as a result.  However, those relationships are strengthened and cemented in the three dimensional world of networking events, conferences, business meetings, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Heck, you may even be in a position to rescue a client in need one day and change your relationship forever.  I know I won’t forget this day.  I’m pretty sure my client won’t either. 

 deansignature

 Dean Petrulakis

Rider Dickerson

Senior VP Business Development

 

Listen Up

Dean Petrulakis     LinkedIn     Twitter

Senior Vice President, Business Development

Rider Dickerson

 

I’m 43 years old.  Yet I can remember back to my days as a know- it-all teenager when my dad gave me a lecture about listening.  He said 4 words that have stuck with me my whole life—“listening is a skill.”  I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, and I’m sure I told him I understood even though I probably wanted him to stop talking so I could go back outside and play basketball.

Many people talk about having sports figures as their role models, but for me it was my dad.  He was my role model.  I wanted to be just like him.  I looked up to him.  I guess it’s funny that he is a lifelong salesman and I am now a successful sales professional myself.  One thing is certain—my dad couldn’t have had the successful career he’s enjoyed as one of his company’s top sales reps if he didn’t spend his days listening to his clients more than talking at them!

All these years later I find myself hearkening back to that lecture from my old man.  I have 3 children, one of whom is a 12 year-old boy. I can’t even recount how many times I’ve recited those same 4 words to my son.  He insists he’s listening, but I know he isn’t.  He might be hearing me or his mother when we lecture him, but he’s not listening.  He’s young.  He hasn’t learned what it means to truly listen.  I can’t blame him.  I was probably the same way, but I feel it’s my obligation to teach him to learn earlier than I did that listening is one of the most important skills he will develop as he continues to grow and eventually become a man himself.

American philosopher Mortimer Adler wrote more than 30 years ago something that holds true today:

“Is anyone anywhere taught how to listen?  How utterly amazing is the general assumption that the ability to listen well is a natural gift for which no training is required.  How extraordinary is the fact that no effort is made anywhere in the whole educational process to help individuals learn how to listen well.”

I spend my days in my role as Senior Vice President of Business Development at Rider Dickerson, working with clients in many industries, and my clients have needs that are very specific to their business goals. It’s my job to ask questions and listen so that I can learn what their challenges so I can discover how I can help my clients.  Even better, if I ask the right kinds of questions and listen intently I should be able to help the client identify problems they didn’t even realize existed.  Imagine the value you could deliver to your clients if you listened with such clarity that you could uncover underlying issues for your client—just think about the value you could add.

So the next time you are in a personal interaction with a colleague, client, friend or family member, make a concerted effort to pay attention to your listening habits.  Are you really actively listening to what the other person is saying, or are you waiting for them to finish what they are saying so you can spit out your next thought?  If you find yourself falling into the latter, try this little tip—wait for 3 seconds after the person with whom you are speaking finishes his or her thought before you respond.  The little gap of silence might seem odd, but you won’t risk the chance of interrupting the other person, and you give yourself the opportunity to absorb what was just said to you.

Remember, listening is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice to improve. Start today!  

 deansignature

 Dean Petrulakis

Rider Dickerson

Senior VP Business Development