Regardless of how unlikely it may first appear to be, anyone could be a valuable business contact. The most obvious question being, ‘How can you know who they know?’ You can bet that the first time you make the mistake of dismissing a potential contact as unimportant they’ll probably be having lunch with your dream prospect every week. You just never know.
Besides, it’s good business practice to treat everyone as a valuable business contact. It reflects well on your own professionalism and, if you are inclined to think along these lines, it’s good business karma. If you contribute to the networking pool in a positive way, word will get around and people will appreciate your effort – eventually it will pay off and you’ll get referrals back. And if nothing else, it’s good practice.
To demonstrate my point further… I know of a client who was in the habit of leaving potential suppliers and job candidates waiting in reception with his PA, posing as a common secretary. She was instructed to engage them in conversation and try to get a sense for them as people. She had a keen understanding of the business’s culture and could sense who would ‘fit’ or not.
The client felt that if the supplier or candidate was able to make a good impression on someone who they had no reason to believe would have any influence on the decision making process that it was a more honest glimpse of their usual business demeanour. The client believed that anyone could turn on the charm and be professional when it counted… he wanted to know what they were like when they thought it didn’t matter.
The client said he wasn’t just concerned with their skills or knowledge – these he knew they had or he wouldn’t be seeing them – he wanted to know about their personality, their professionalism and their ability to represent his business in a courteous manner. ‘It doesn’t matter how good they are at their job, if they’re rude, that’s all my clients will remember.’
So no matter where you’re at or what you’re doing, sat in a prospect’s reception, at a networking function or answering your own phone… you never know the potential business value of the person across from you or on the other end of the phone. Treat everyone as a valuable and important contact. At the very least, people will appreciate and admire your professionalism and, just maybe, you might be speaking with your ideal referral or someone very close to them.