He spent the first 45 minutes typing on his phone.
My college friend Helen came to visit me recently, along with her partner of four years whom I’d never met. Tom pulled out his phone as soon as he sat down and kept it out for almost the whole evening. When we tried to draw him into conversation, he’d respond and then return to his typing, and when Helen prompted him to talk about his work, he pulled out his phone to show us some videos related to his job. Tom has a great smile and friendly eyes, but I didn’t get a feel for who he really is. Technology prevented the connection.
Now, you’d never spend time typing on your phone when you meet someone new for business development purposes, right? But think about these instances in which one might unintentionally let technology block a beneficial connection:
- You’re attending a conference and you spend breaks checking your email and voicemail to avoid getting too far behind instead of chatting with someone new.
- You make a new connection on LinkedIn (or other social media) but don’t take the relationship any further.
- You email a client or contact instead of picking up the telephone—not because you know that the person you’re communicating with prefers email, but because it’s easier for you.
- You have a follow-up plan in place for new contacts, and it relies primarily on email or social media.
- You’re so busy processing email during a flight that you don’t even notice the person in the seat next to yours, much less speak to him or her.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these scenarios, but if they repeat frequently, you’re probably missing out on opportunities. Technology can extend your reach and allow you to work in places you couldn’t have in the past. It’s a strength to use technology well, but any strength overused becomes a weakness.
How can you use technology well for business development purposes? Use it to connect on a regular basis with people interested in your practice (through newsletters, blogs, and social media), to identify and contact people with whom you have common interests, for quick check-ins, and so on, but…
Especially in the early stages of building a business relationship, you’ll benefit from making the effort to interact face-to-face or by voice. Think about the contacts you plan to make this week and ask yourself whether a visit or telephone call would advance the relationship more effectively than an email–and keep your eyes open for new opportunities that you might miss if you’re engaged with technology rather than with the world around you.