I recently took a training on advanced networking and one of the things I talked about as my desired outcome was more techniques on forming stronger relationships faster. The training was with Performance of a Lifetime, a program which involved a lot of improvisational work as the primary method to work on those networking techniques.
The reason I brought this up was because – as a management consultant – the more you move toward partner, the more you’re involved in the sales process and speed to relationships aka first impressions gain even more weight than they have when you you start out in your career. The thing is I’ve focused a lot on sharpening my delivery skills, paying deep attention to what the newest developments are (e.g. Excel training, RPA, Cloud ERP or anything else for that matter), so that I can be indispensable, or at least as close to that as possible. I usually describe my relationships from client delivery work as forged in fire. Nothing strengthens relationships like being side by side in the proverbial trenches. But that’s not worth a whole lot when you need to establish a connection in 30 minutes to have a shot at landing your next deal.
So what’s the secret sauce to expediting these relationships? It’s being real. It’s getting past all the superficial stuff that will make you indeterminable from another in the client’s mind once you walk out the door.
Now what does being real look like? Luckily, being real comes in many forms. It may be sharing a passion of yours like playing ice hockey, studying martial arts, or brewing your own beer. Maybe you share a struggle in your personal life the other personal can relate to or maybe they just show some empathy. Be more human. Be curious about what makes up other humans instead of looking for the next opening for you to talk.
What’s funny is this notion of being authentic sometimes creates confusion when it comes to how one dresses when they go to work. I personally have felt in the past like a lot of people worry more about dressing the part instead of learning how to do the job, and I made up in my mind that wouldn’t be my story. This idea of a bunch of carbon copies running around makes you cringe even more when you overhear clients trying to “spot the consultant”.
On some level, you could argue (and I have in the past) how you dress is superficial, but at that same time, it’s all people have to judge you on at first. The way I think about it is you don’t want the way you dress to be the reason someone overlooks or dismisses you, so it’s a fine balance. If you’re interested in exploring this further, shoot me an email and let me know and we can get more into that a different day.
To bring this back to the original point – when you start getting beneath the surface you not only establish a more memorable connection but you get a feel for what makes people tick, personally and professionally. This makes you a better management consultant and a more well rounded human being.