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The Opportunity Seed

Networking is a lot like speed dating. After the initial interaction, I have a sense of whether I want to see
someone again. I hope that he or she wants to see me again, and we both know that it will take a few interactions
before either of us feels comfortable enough to call this a “relationship.”

The Opportunity Seed is a good way to abbreviate this long and uncertain process. Think of it as the
networking equivalent of sending flowers. It begins with an unobtrusive question designed to set up a thoughtful
follow-up action. It requires little effort to plant, and it can blossom into goodwill and referral business. Here are
some examples:

- “Have you ever read Nonstop Networking? It’s a great book.”
- “I’m so glad tax season is over. My accountant is a godsend. Do you know George?”
- “Are you a member of PNG? It’s been an invaluable resource for my business development.”

Regardless of whether these topics lead to further conversation, they set you up as a giver when you follow up the
troika within 24 hours with information on the Nonstop Networking website, George’s number, or PNG. Making
the effort reflects well on you as someone who is well informed, invested in an alliance, and aware that networking
is a two-way street.

I was recently introduced to a valuations expert at Houlihan Lokey named Chris Carroll. During our lunch, we
spoke about networking and the perfect Opportunity Seed presented itself: PNG. When I got back to my office, I emailed
Chris PNG’s new-member questionnaire and let her know that my group leader had approved her as a
guest. Chris was delighted that I had followed up with something so relevant to our conversation and assured me
that she would guest next month at our Westwood Group. I will make sure I am in her troika so I can further
strengthen the alliance.

It is also effective to follow up the Opportunity Seed with an article and a handwritten note on a personalized
note card. Since the advent of e-mail, it is a rare professional who bothers with such old-school thoughtfulness, and
it makes a standout impression. Have your assistant set up the process, copying your favorite articles from
publications that apply to multiple professions, such as Forbes or The Wall Street Journal, and prepare a
personalized note card for each of your networking meals that day. This will require nothing more from you than a
bit of mindfulness during the networking lunch, and a few seconds later as you write “Great meeting you — I
thought you’d appreciate this” on the note card. It can serve as your signature follow-up policy.

The Opportunity Seed can also be used to glean an appropriate gift idea to reinforce client loyalty. The next
time you have a conversation with a client, rather than opening with chitchat such as “How was your weekend?”
try an Opportunity Seed.

- “Have you seen any good movies that you would recommend for me and my kids this weekend?”
- “Would you happen to know of any good restaurants in the area where I could take my wife for a romantic

The responses to these questions will help you get to know your clients better and give you an opportunity to give
the perfect gift of a DVD or dinner certificate to celebrate the completion of a case or project. Your clients will
remember how attentive you are when they speak with colleagues, and you will benefit from the PR.
If most of us added up all the hours we put into networking every year, their value would exceed a good client
retainer. Use the Opportunity Seed to maximize your precious time. It will set you apart from those competitors
who network without the consistent practice of benevolence, and it will vastly improve your chances for a second

David Ackert is an executive coach in Encino, CA.

Source: Ackert Advisory

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