The importance of listening and note-taking in professional networking

You’re at a conference, armed with many a business card, but something’s not right. You have an engaging business and a strong pitch, yet people aren’t showing interest in what you’re offering. You may be wondering, “Why am I not connecting with these people? They’re the perfect customers!”

If that’s the case, ask yourself this one simple question: “Am I listening to what they’re saying?”

The business leaders around you are doing the exact same thing you are, which makes it hard for you to be memorable if all you’re doing is talking. If you take a step back and just listen, even take a few notes on what they say, the professionals will start to take interest in you because you actually care about what they’re saying. Over the long term, this level of listening can help you build a professional relationship with key players and even potential customers.

Catching – not throwing – the pitch

One thing our CEO Eric Taussig has learned is to hold off on directly pitching while going to events and meeting other professionals in the industry. That may seem like a crazy idea, but the keyword here is “directly.” Instead, he listens to people and talks to them about everything but Quickskill. If someone were to ask about our company, he’d be happy to discuss what we do. But he’s more interested in what other people have to say about their organization and what they do. He’ll get a business card, take a couple notes and then move on. Over time, he fosters the idea that he’s not just looking for business but expressing interest in what his peers deal with on a daily basis. When people look back on their conversations with him, they see him as someone who cares and are more likely to seek him out when they need something.

“When you’re paying attention to people, you’re getting to know them.”

Listening to people has benefits that extend beyond demonstrating interest in what others have to say. Lifehack pointed out that when you’re paying attention to what people are saying, you’re getting to know them, understanding all the small details that make them who they are professionally and personally. You see them first and foremost as people, which they appreciate. They may have issues that you can help address either through your service or just your own personal experience.

It takes skill and patience to listen, especially when many of us freak out when we don’t look at our smartphones every 30 seconds. As Entrepreneur Magazine pointed out, when you look at your contacts in the eye, ask relevant questions and listen closely; you’ll stand out because you’re not distracted. Those are the building blocks of any professional relationship.

Memories backed by note-taking

Of course, with so many people running around at a conference or other event, it’s possible you’ll forget some of the contacts you’ve made, even when they seem interesting enough to reach out to again. A common problem our customers run into is that they come out of these occasions somewhat empty-handed: They have a full deck of business cards, but they’re not sure what to do with them. They’ll forget whatever discussion they had, and a few weeks later, it feels like they’re making a cold call to people they just met.

“Even the most sophisticated business card has some empty space.”

What we like to point out to our customers is that even the most sophisticated business card has a bit of empty space. After receiving a person’s business card, flip it over and write a couple notes about the conversation. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, just enough to jog your memories of the discussion. When you call them several days later, you can recall these notes to demonstrate not only an excellent memory but a willingness to start something.

The key details don’t even have to be business-related. Say the woman you talked to is going on vacation in Barcelona. When you call her back after she returns, you can ask her something like, “Oh, how was Barcelona? Did you go to the Sagrada Familia?”

This way, you’re breaking the ice and showing you care about her as a person. That’ll get your professional relationship off to a great start.

You can take the note-taking a step further with effective CRM practices as well. We offer a great mechanism to store information from meeting new contacts. You take a picture of both sides of the business card, including any notes you wrote. We tag your cards based on the information you provided, including keywords and details, along with criteria you provide. The data is then incorporated into Salesforce or other CRM software you use. You can then later access this information and have it on hand when you contact the person. With that, you’re well on your way to supercharging your professional network.