Episode from the podcastChange Your Mindset

Ep. 52 - Gregory Lainas: Networking for Business Development (and How To Talk Your Way into a Novel)

Released Monday, 29th May 2017
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Today’s returning guest is Gregory Lainas, Senior Vice President and Division Director of Robert Half Management Services, a division of Robert Half International. Greg is an incredible networker – so good, in fact, that he networked his way into the novel Flashback and was the first person in the history of Robert Half to obtain $20 million in gross margin – and this interview is packed with helpful tips and stories about networking for business development.
When we say networking, many of you (particularly accountants) might recoil. The concept is simple - it can be as simple as asking someone a question, and with social networking that ask is even easier -  but networking itself can still feel difficult.
Why do so many of us still find networking difficult?
  • As we grow up, we find our comfort zones and it only gets harder to leave those zones. If social situations aren’t where you feel comfortable, that can be seem like a big obstacle.
  • There’s a fear of failure.
  • Your inner critic says you can’t do it, there’s no point, or you will embarrass yourself.
One way to quiet that inner critic, address your fear, and feel more comfortable is to take some of the pressure off of yourself by reframing your responsibility as a networker. Your primary role is not to talk – it is to listen, be interested, and be attentive.
“You’re born with two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. That means you should be listening and watching twice as much as you’re talking.”
The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Gregory adds that we are also born with two eyes, and he has a great point: when we are networking, we need to be listening with our ears and our eyes.
There’s a secret to looking interested and attentive: actually being interested, or even passionate, about what you’re doing! Maybe you don’t actually hate networking – maybe you just don’t like the things you are currently networking about.
In baseball, they say there’s only one thing you cannot teach a player to do. You can teach them to hit, you can teach them to throw, you can teach them to field… but you cannot teach them to run. You can teach an accountant to listen, bot can’t teach passion.
And you shouldn’t try to fake passion if you don’t have it. Give yourself a break by aligning your interests with your job or business, in some way. If you’re plastic, as Greg calls it, and camouflage your true interests, you won’t actually fool anyone.
Another way to think of your role as a networker – and, really, anyone in a service business – is to think of yourself as a doctor for your clients or customers. We're trying to do a diagnosis, and we can't do the diagnosis if we're constantly talking. We have to listen, process, adapt, then prescribe.
How can we apply the art of listening and networking to improve business development?
The ultimate goal with any business interaction should be to stand out from your competitors and add value to your client or customer. Listening, passion and sincerity are all simple tactics, but they will help.
You can also stand out by offering a distinct value proposition… but you won’t know what you can offer if you don’t play the role of the doctor and find their pain, first.
Don’t believe it’s that simple? Next time you’re at a business appointment, try starting off with something like this: “Rather than me pontificate about all the services I represent, I'd like to learn more about your business. What keeps you up at night? What's preventing you from getting from point A to Point B?”
Wait, listen, and pay attention. The results will speak for themselves.
If you take the time to honestly serve your clients, and add value, then you will earn the right to do business with them, and you will set yourself apart from the competition in the process.

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