You have an appointment with your new project sponsor, potential customer or new partner. You have never met them before. What does the first 5 minutes of your first meeting together look like?
The first 5 minutes of initial meetings should have been spent getting to know each other, regardless of the different levels of seniority or potential time constraints.
Why? Because any professional relationship has the potential to be more fruitful, more enjoyable and more productive if there is some small common thread between you. Imagine, every time you meet you get to talk about your love of basketball, a common interest in road biking, the stresses of raising teenagers or your next woodworking project. The common connection brings the two of you together on a common plateau – if only for a few minutes.
How? The easiest scenario is you waking into someone’s office for the first time. I did this just yesterday as I was meeting a fellow professional speaker for the first time. Honesty, she wanted to get to business pretty quickly. I fought hard and had the conversation focused on the many plaques and pictures around the office. It was easy to settle into a casual conversation about past jobs, kids, and hobbies just by looking around.
It is tougher without the props. Sitting in a coffee show does not provide a lot of support to get into the personal side. But you can. I always open with the tried and tested “So do you live close by?’ or “Do you have far to commute?”. This can open up to “Have you lived there long?” To “kids? Family?” and so on. Now I admit that reading this in a blog sounds as if it is 1-2-3 and open fire with questions. It isn’t. This is slow, casual and hopefully natural.
Now some might suggest that the professional world and personal lives have no place to co-habitate. Bunk. Understand that I am not suggesting a phone call afterward to invite them to dinner. But there certainly is room in any professional relationship to have a common thread that compliments the relationship.
I know a CEO of a very large Canadian corporation who is a photography nut. If I sent you in for a meeting I would certainly drop this little bit of inside information and hope that you were able to chat about photography for a minute to two. If you were really good you might even look around to see if there is any photo on his wall and ask if he took it!
This kind of approach to the beginning of a professional relationship can pay dividends to you, her or him and the ultimate objectives of the meeting in many ways.
Next time you meet someone new, try it. Five minutes to find the common thread. You won’t regret it.