The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best way to make fruitful connections?” is written by David Gaines, chief planning officer at Maxus Americas.
It’s no secret that making fruitful connections in business can be a daunting task. Yet your success in establishing them can be the lifeblood you or your business need. Looking back on my career, I’d have to say that some of the best advice I ever received was to treat networking the same way I would approach a first date. While the two situations are completely different, the principles are the same: Be a good communicator by listening more than you talk, have a curious interest in what the other person is saying, and be sure to ask appropriate follow-up questions.
If you seek out connections in a genuine way, they will most often feel flattered by your interest and be more willing to open up and further engage. Everyone—no matter how old or experienced they may be—loves to be admired, appreciated, or feel that what they are saying is interesting and intriguing. This type of interaction allows you to get a better understanding of whether he or she is someone you’d enjoy being around, or if the interactions are just excuses for more caffeine or alcohol.
I first applied this way of connecting with people I worked with in the earlier days of my career, as I was still unsure as to what exactly I was supposed to be doing. Asking questions and being curious about my colleagues’ backgrounds served as a learning tool that stopped me from running my mouth for too long and exposing my ignorance. Over time, I realized that such a personable approach to making business connections has served me incredibly well, as it achieves several key networking objectives: It builds trust, expands your reach, generates new ideas, and opens the door to future partnerships or beneficial interactions.
The old truism that people do business with people they know, like, and trust really does hold. In today’s digital era, it’s becoming a premium for technology to dilute real human interaction in favor of speed and convenience. Occasions where we favor face-to-face interaction are becoming more rare, which questions the value of these types of connections. What’s important to remember is that while digital convenience has made us more efficient in many ways, it still lacks that human lens often needed to make it trustworthy. Our ability to gather information about a product or a company has become incredibly easy, just as a 10-second Google (GOOG) search will prove, but our ability to navigate the search results and build off of what we’ve gathered requires that people layer.
Getting to know people in an honest, personal way—be it someone you are courting, a potential client, or your boss—cannot be replaced with texts, likes, or emails. The art of a good conversation, regardless of the scenario, will always include the same recipe: Listen, be curious, and ask questions. For me, being genuine was the way I’ve made the most valuable connections in my years of climbing the ranks to now leading planning across the entire Americas region for our agency. And if you approach people in a similarly sincere way, you will get more than a full Rolodex—you will make real, valuable, and fruitful connections that can help you or sustain your business for the long term.