From handshakes to hugs

j0406204-main_FullLast week I attended a customer-appreciation event  for one of my clients. He owns an accounting firm that has been growing by leaps and bounds the past few years, and every year on the anniversary of launching his business, he hosts a great party at one of the local restaurants for all of his clients, friends and colleagues.

My town is a pretty small town in terms of small-business owners. You don’t need to be on the networking circuit very long before you start running into the same people at local business  events. From there, it doesn’t take long for some of these folks to morph from introductions, to passing acquaintances, to referral partners, to full-blown friends. I’ve seen it happen in three events, tops.

This point was driven home at my client’s party last week, when I recognized one of the guests coming through the front door. Instead of walking up to each other with hands outstretched for the perfunctory handshake, it was a big smile, a friendly hug, and questions about her family.

What’s interesting is that I never hang out with this person outside of the professional realm. I’ve never seen her house, met her husband, or even know where she went to college. We’ve gotten to know each other strictly through networking events, shared associates, and business functions.  In fact, we’ve probably never had more than a 10-minute conversation at one time.

But the friendship stars aligned and, within a few business events and one cup of coffee, we seamlessly went from handshakes to hugs.

This particular exchange is indicative of what I see happening every day in my little corner of the world. The number of hugs I share at every event I attend is steadily growing the longer I’m in business and the more involved my firm gets in the local business community. Friendships are quickly forged over cocktails and coffee,  tales from the small-business trenches are shared, and we all seem to share a single, primary goal … to make our mark as successful businesses.

I freely admit that this has become a most unexpected perk of what I do. I mean, I fully expected to be active in the business community and work tirelessly to make the right contacts, build my professional network, and partner with like-minded folks to continue growing our respective organizations.

What I didn’t expect was to see formal handshakes turn into hugs…and how I’ve realized that we need these friendly exchanges just as much as we need the formal introductions to the decision-makers. 

These brief exchanges with newfound friends at some local event allow you a moment to catch your proverbial breath, smile at someone who is out there working as hard as you, and who isn’t expecting to hear your 30-second elevator pitch. You get five minutes of friendly banter with someone you probably never would’ve become friends with had it not be for the fact that you’re both out there fightin’ the good fight for your business.

So, think about that next time you share a friendly hug or pat on the back. They don’t want to hear your sales pitch; they want to hear about your family.

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One Response

  1. I agree that today’s business relationships are less ‘formal’ than they used to be. People are interested in people, family, your interests. That’s why I feel it’s so important when getting to know a prospect to learn not just what they do for business. It’s important to also find out about their family, favorite foods, what kinds of books they like to read, and what hobbies they have. When we take a personal interest in people in this way, they are much more inclined to become loyal clients.

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