Getting To The Customer Experience Finish Line

This week we focuse on the trend toward declining customer satisfaction scores and what your organization can do to pull ahead of this problem. The solution, of course, is dependent on your organization recognizing that, because of higher expectations set by customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, customers expect an ever-improving experience. Being good at what you do is no longer enough.

In his recent blog post, “Why Good is a Four-Letter Word,” customer experience author and speaker Jay Baer writes: “Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game.”

In research for his book, Talk Triggers, Baer discovered that most organizations could take cues from leaders to do more to improve customer experience, but choose not to. Why? Because they believe that being satisfactory in the products or services they provide is good enough. It’s not.

In today’s experience economy, where any competitor can copy what you do in virtually no time, having satisfied customers is not enough. To truly succeed you need to create rabid fans of your products and services. You must provide an experience that turns customers into advocates who are willing to help you share your story.

According to Baer, “Good enough is not enough. Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business. Good does not create conversations. Good does not turn your customers into advocates. Good is not the goal.”

His recommendation is to create a series of checkpoints. Set the specific goals needed to dramatically improve your customer experience and make each a checkpoint. When you get to a checkpoint, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and start working toward the next checkpoint. And keep adding to your checkpoints because as soon as you reach one, your customers will very likely have increased their expectations once again.

Outline your customer service checkpoints, and start your journey to an exceptional customer experience.

Source: Jay Baer is president of Convince & Convert, a global keynote speaker and emcee, host of the Social Pros podcast, an inductee into the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s also the author of five books including Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.

How To Improve Your Luck At Work

It seems like some people have all the luck. Whatever type of business they get involved in is successful. Whatever decisions they make turn out to be the right ones. They appear to have the Midas touch. Now, we all know that’s not completely true, and in fact, luck has very little to do with it. In most cases, their success is driven by the way they work-for example, Elon Musk or Richard Branson.

Today, we share ways to work smarter and improve your luck in business with these principles from Marty Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals.

1. Plan to deliver more than you commit. Make your habit one of under-promising and over-delivering. Always give more than you get.

2. Never seek excuses when things don’t work. Among the best of the best, good luck is an excuse for something they didn’t anticipate, and makes success appear to be random. Learn to accept responsibility for all actions and inactions, and never point the finger of blame at anyone or anything else.

3. Always treat failures as learning opportunities. There are no mistakes, only opportunities for improvement. Every good entrepreneur learns to pivot, and learn from that experience or failure.

4. Never give up until you achieve your dream. Many experts believe that the single biggest cause of startup failure is entrepreneurs simply giving up just prior to success. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison who made his own luck by enduring more than a thousand failures before finding a light bulb filament that worked. He kept his energy focused and avoided naysayers.

5. Maintain self-confidence as well as respect for others. Confidence in yourself is key, but not to the extent of arrogance. The best entrepreneurs admit their own weaknesses, and build relationships and trust with people who can help them. The right relationships with the right people can be your greatest source of luck.

6. Be willing and able to work collaboratively. Products may be invented by a single person, but successful businesses require a team of people working together. That means everyone is willing to share what they know and share in successes.

7. Show up for more opportunities. When you are dealing with all the unknowns of new and untested business ventures, success follows the laws of probabilities. Many people set their scope of interest too narrowly, or look for “sure things” before they start a new venture.

Source: Marty Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. He has a 30-year track record of demonstrated results as an executive in general management, computer software development, product management and marketing, as well as in leading technical business transformations, conducting due diligence for investors, mentoring new technical executives, and overseeing business development, customer service and outsourcing both onshore and offshore.

Three C’s To Hiring The Right Person

Have you ever led a team where everyone seems to gel together? You reach success with a highly effective team in both the work they produce and in the attitude of the team. But how do you bring about this type of teamwork?

It starts with hiring the right people. As a leader, one of the hardest jobs is to add high-quality people to your team.

The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right fit, says Ron Edmondson, a church leader and pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This homework requires that you look within yourself to see what you need most in another person.

Edmondson suggests the next time you have an open position, to consider these three C’s. Which of these types of people would be most helpful to you at this time in your leadership?

1. Someone Who Complements You. This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader—they will be more so. It could be there’s just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to your organization. Edmondson explains that in his large and growing church, he did this by hiring another executive pastor, so the church now has two leaders—one that is relational and one that is strategic.

2. Someone Who Completes You. What are you missing that you simply can’t bring to the team? It could be a quality you are not wired to provide or you no longer have enough time to provide it. This person can fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And, we all have those gaps. Edmondson gives the example of when his church hired a senior adult pastor who was still in the prime of his career. This role was needed because the church had a large senior population and this person provided this demographic with someone they could trust and feel comfortable with; it filled a gap for the church. So where are the gaps or missing holes on your team? Consider, not the open position, but the talent and personality you need for your team.

3. Someone Who Competes With You. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if your organization is large enough to be investing in the next generation of leaders. This is the person who eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, they are going to, at times, appear to be in direct competition for yo

ur job. This type of person will push you to be a better leader, and will also serve as bench strength for your team.

Edmondson sums it up by explaining, “You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.”

Source: As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church leader and the planter of two churches, Ron Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, he consults with church and ministry leaders.

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Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

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Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments that support productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

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Seven Ways To Motivate Your Team

It’s 2018, a new year, and a great opportunity to assess what can be done to make your team more collaborative, motivated and effective in the coming year. Here, we share these pillars from executive coach Jan Makela to help you and your team get there.

1. Vision and mission: Begin by asking some key questions. What is it that you want? What is in it for others? There has to be something bigger than you that others can grasp and buy in to. Why does your organization exist? Workers today want to work for organizations that can show a purpose or cause. Makela gives the example of Google, whose corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

2. Goals: In just a few weeks, everyone will be setting goals for the New Year, whether it’s losing weight, saving money or something else. And then what happens? The goals go into a drawer or are hidden in an electronic file never to see the light of day until someone asks for them. So, put your goals on display so that the entire team can see them daily. Why? Out of sight means out of mind. Keep your goals in front of the people in charge of accomplishing them and ask them about their progress on a routine basis-preferably weekly. Ask them how they are doing and what can you do to make the goals easier to accomplish.

3. Expectations: Only 30 percent of employees know what is expected of them at work. Your goal is to get people to work and perform together. People will live up or down to the perception of your expectations of them. If they think you believe in their abilities and expect them to do well, they will. Remember, if people don’t know what you expect, don’t be surprised by what you get.

4. Feedback: Positive feedback grows and negative feedback stifles. Catch your employees doing the job right and recognize them for it. They will do more of what generates positive feedback.

5. Treat everyone fairly but not equally: The people you work with are all unique individuals, and although you need to treat each one fairly, that does not necessarily mean equally. They have different values, wants, backgrounds, skill sets and experiences, and most likely they are at different stages of their careers. One size fits nobody. Great managers play chess, meaning that all of the pieces move differently. The key to success is knowing the differences between the pieces, how each piece moves and how to create a strategy that maximizes the moves for all of them. Another key piece of the puzzle is showing your team that you genuinely care about them. They need to know you have their interest at heart; people want to know that someone at work cares about them as a person.

6. Provide tools and resources to do quality work: Most people want to do quality work. Part of that is having the tools and resources to do a quality job. Ask your team members what you can do to make their job easier. If they say, “I need a new widget maker,” get it. Provide them with the resources they need to succeed. If they say they don’t need anything, your response should be, “guess I can expect quality work.” You want to remove any and all reasons for failure. You only leave a path to success.

7. Celebrate success: What do organizations do when they accomplish a big thing? Well, they move on to the next big thing. It is important to stop and celebrate with your team. Allow people to share the memory of what has been accomplished. Simple things like handwritten notes are important. Remember to thank everyone for what they did and how their contribution led to the overall achievement of the group.

The seven pillars can help you and your team stand out within your organization.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker and bestselling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Makela has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development with a focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners and professionals.

Want Innovation? Learn From Ants

As is virtually always discussed, innovation plays an important role in any organization, both large and small, but there’s a significant difference in how innovation shows up in each type of organization.

Large companies usually have innovation teams focused on large-scale problems and large- scale production. Ron Ashkenas and Markus Spiegel, authors and contributors to HBR.org, note that these types of teams move in a specified direction at predictable speed.

On the other hand, innovation is not as organized and formal in small companies. It’s usually more spontaneous and nimble, driven by those wearing multiple hats.

Ashkenas and Spiegel have studied more than a dozen global organizations and their approaches to innovation—some successful and some not so much. Here, we share four of their findings on innovation.

1. It takes the mindset of an ant. Teams functioning like machines—blindly following highly defined processes and execution plans—were the least effective at achieving their goals and coming up with innovations. The most successful teams operated less like highly efficient machines and more like ant colonies, where they quickly adapted to changes in their environment. They had a set of simple rules and a clear goal, allowing them to be more flexible and able to learn along the way.

2. Centralize your mission; loosen your structure. As Ashkenas and Spiegel point out, ants have no central control, no single “master ant,” yet the entire colony works together as one community. They’re able to align their individual activities to the powerful common purpose that each ant shares—the survival of the nest. Thus, when the environment shifts, individual ants adapt their roles for the collective good.

Leaders of effective innovation teams communicate and centralize the mission of the team, but give the team members the freedom to do what’s needed to achieve their part. This allows the team to adapt when they hit dead ends. This is also why companies like Google align their people through yearly and quarterly goals, while giving them the ability to work toward these results in multiple ways.

3. Communication is key. Back to the ants. We’ve all seen long ant trails leading to a food source. If the source is particularly good, the trail intensifies and more ants follow it. It’s a time- and energy-saving way to communicate.

Rich, frequent and candid communication is also important for organizational teams to find innovations as quickly as possible. People need to bounce around ideas, share insights and challenge each other’s assumptions. Leaders need to make sure their teams have the time, space and tools to make this happen. Bring your team together often and create a comfortable atmosphere for dialog and brainstorming. Make it easy to share ideas through tools like instant messaging and file sharing.

4. Experiment with ideas. Always test new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s at the heart of innovation. Ashkenas and Spiegel us the example of Intuit, who puts new product ideas on the internet before they are developed to test whether there is a market. If there’s interest, they proceed with development; if not, they modify the idea or quietly withdraw it.

Encourage your team to test ideas through action instead of just through studies and analyses. Of course, this requires both dollars and resources to build prototypes and mock-ups early in the discovery process and to engage directly with customers to get rapid feedback and test assumptions.

Embrace these management concepts behind innovation and watch your “colony” flourish.

Source: Ron Ashkenas is partner emeritus at Shaffer Consulting, where he helped leading organizations achieve dramatic performance improvements and coached CEOs and senior executives on strengthening their leadership capacity. He’s also an avid author and contributor to publications such as Harvard Business Reviewon topics related to organizational change.

Markus Spiegel is partner at Schaffer Consulting where he helps organizations to master the challenges in complex environments. His experience includes working in the automotive and financial services industry, including key roles at the BMW Group. He is also a contributor to Harvard Business Review.

Five Essential Principles For Growing Your Small Business

When it comes to succeeding in growing a small business, many people view success as luck. Some will succeed and some won’t. And it’s stories like John Mackey’s that inspire us to try. Mackey started a small vegetarian store in Austin, Texas, more than 30 years ago and this year sold his Whole Foods empireto Amazon at a price tag of $13.7 billon.

Business author Faisal Hoque points out in his recent Fast Company article that luck isn’t what it takes. Small business success comes from five essential elements, which we’ll share here.

1. Timing is Everything. The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. There must be a need or a pain point that your product or service solves in order to gain interest and traction. If the market isn’t ready, then your business will fail or you will need to wait to launch your product or adjust your product to the market needs. As Hoque points out, smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations.

2. Brand, Brand, Brand. You need to create a positive experience for your customers to stay competitive. And, if you want to create a scalable business, you must understand just how crucial it is to build brand equity. The emotional attachment that links customers to your product, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth. Hoque shares these basic rules for brand-building:

Choose your target audience. The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people.

Connect with the public. Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your brand.

Inspire and influence your audience. An inspirational brand message is far more influential than one that just highlights product feature functions.

Reinforce the brand image within your company. Make sure employees at every level of your organization work and behave in a way that reinforces your brand image.

3. Scale Your Sales. You also need repeatable sales processes to create a business that can easily grow. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design and implement repeatable sales and customer delivery processes. According to Hoque, you know your business is scalable when:

You can add new hires at the same productivity level as yourself or your sales leader.

You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.

Your sales conversion rate and revenue can be consistently forecasted.

Your cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.

Your customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.

4. Embrace Technology. Bottom line, it pays to embrace technology. If a small business can identify a genuine need, technology likely exists to fulfill that need both locally and globally. There are few barriers to entry in an age where anyone with wireless can cheaply and quickly access the enabling technologies needed to execute their business model. Put effort into mapping out a plan that ties technology into your operational and business needs.

5. De-Stress For Success. As Hoque points out, managing the success of a small business can be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing your own personal finances. In fact, a Bank of America survey pointed out that 38 percent of small business owners maintain full or part-time jobs while running their own business.

If you’re not happy, healthy and motivated, growing your business will be difficult. You also set the tone for everyone who works with you. So, take care of your mental and physical well-being so that you can provide the best of you to the business.

PCT returns tomorrow with more tips for success.

Source: Faisal Hoque is founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is “Survive to Thrive — 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015). He is formerly of GE, and other global brands, business author and contributor to Fast CompanyBusiness Insider and the Huffington Post.

Maintaining Your Leadership Momentum

Have you ever had a day in which your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting the usual miles in at the office? It seems that when a team is aligned, focused and working together, projects excel. But when there’s a lack of focus, energy or commitment, or when benchmarks aren’t set in place, your team project doesn’t gain momentum.

Today,we’ll share these five tips from Elizabeth McCormick, a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, to assure your leadership and team directives match the result you envision.

1. Know Your Destination: When you begin with the end in mind, you have a distinctive vision of your desired direction and destination before instructing your team to launch. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is—if the direction, intention or desired outcome isn’t clear, it will be tough to for your team reach its goal. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing.

2. Engage Your Team: Once you have communicated the objectives to your team, start by having team members re-state the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Also, flesh out the project, brainstorm with the team and add detail to the project. This type of activity will help jumpstart the camaraderie as your team begins working together as a team toward a common goal.

3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Be sure you have established the proper benchmarks, and signposts for you and your team, so that if there is any drifting off course, it will be recognized and realigned quickly without much wasted time or effort. Ensure that work is broken down into manageable, measurable, short-term goals to aid in motivation and increase productivity.

4. Own Your Results: As a leader, it’s your attitude, stamina, direction, commitment to the project and work ethic that establishes the environment and culture of your team, as well as the success of your project at hand. One of the biggest reasons people are taken off task is that the purpose for their task isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it and take some time to clarify your team goal. And, regardless of why it happened, own the results. Empower your team to help you assess what went wrong, develop the proper benchmarks and guardrails to prevent that from happening again, and then map out a new flight plan to a better destination.

5. Collaborate—Share Your Progress: It is important to communicate, collaborate and share your progress. Your strategic plan could be working well. However, the marketing department may have new information that invalidates an initial premise or causes your data to be out of date. Informing them only at completion risks the success of your entire project. So, it’s important to keep key stakeholders up to speed throughout the entire process.

Include progress updates to those who are affected by your plans so that changes can be incorporated along the way.

Source: Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, sales and safety presentations. She was recently named No. 4 on the list of leadership experts to follow online. A former U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot and author of The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life, she teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities.

Four Strategies For Making The Right Connections

Networking is critical to keeping the momentum of growth and opportunity throughout your career. Unfortunately, networking comes easier to some people than to others. Today we share these five strategies from Jill Johnson, business author and speaker, on how to build your network of connections.

1. Build Your Network Before You Need It:
 Johnson says the best time to start networking is while you’re still in school. Look for professional groups in your field. Attend their events with the goal to meet people working full-time in the field and learn from the speakers. Many of these groups need volunteers.

As a student, I was a member of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and had opportunities to interact with public relations professionals. It was a great way to ask questions, learn about the skills I needed and make connections for internships.

Be sure to follow up your meeting with a thank-you note and reach out to make a connection on LinkedIn, along with a personal message. These are the details that get you remembered.

2. Be Specific In Asking For What You Want: Don’t waste the time of your networking contacts. Be clear about what you are hoping to gain from the meeting. Tell them exactly what you want to do and why you think they can help you. “Informational interviews” are a terrific method for learning about their career path and gaining their insight on how to build your career. Make sure you have a stated purpose for the meeting and then stick to it. Ask if there are any events, trade association meetings or volunteer opportunities that you should consider to help you build your network and gain some good foundational experience.

3. Face Time Is Critical:
 We’re all too used to communicating by text and email. While that works in many situations, networking requires a personal connection. People can only get to know and like you as well as help you when they meet you in person.

You can get face time simply by asking for it. Request a 15-minute face-to-face meeting. Prepare for your meeting by reviewing your contact’s professional LinkedIn profile and company website. Have your question list ready, then greet them and listen carefully as they answer your questions. Conclude the meeting with a sincere “thank you,” in person and with a follow-up handwritten note.

4. Use Your Expertise To Help Others: Ready to pay it forward? Share some of your learnings and perspectives with your new networking connection and keep in touch. One interaction is not enough. Remember to pay it forward by asking if there is anything you can do to for them. There might not yet be an answer, but it counts that you’re interested in a two-way street if possible. You have valuable knowledge, too.

Whether starting out early in your career or looking for the next right opportunity, try these tips and branch out with new contacts.

Source: Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions Series. Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly four billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.