Whether Happenstance or Listening with Intention: Giving First Works

Whether Happenstance or Listening with Intention: Giving First Works

Whether Happenstance or Listening with Intention: Giving First Works

A few days ago, by chance, I met Jonathan Schultz, co-founder and managing principal of the highly regarded New Jersey – based real estate investment and property services firm Onyx Equities. Jonathan happened to be seated at the head of the communal lunch table at Bell Works – the former Bell Labs campus located in the bucolic town of Holmdel, NJ.  I was killing time, on a break from New Jersey Tech Council’s Future Forum on Healthtech and Innovation, half-listening to his conversation with another real estate executive.

Jonathan was extolling the virtues of LinkedIn and providing a step-by-step account of how to utilize the platform to cultivate and engage stakeholders, build relationships and win business. Not knowing who Jonathan was, I assumed he worked for or owned a social media firm. When a question about LinkedIn was posed, there was a pause, and to be helpful, I offered the answer. I, too, am a big fan and active user of LinkedIn to connect with, learn from and engage stakeholders whom I admire, may be able to help or who could be helpful to stakeholders in my network.

I went back to scanning email, when I heard Jonathan caution, “If you choose to use LinkedIn to build your personae, widen your network or build business relationships, you first and foremost must be authentic, mindful of your stakeholders’ interests and objectives and provide content that is purely relevant to them.” When he added that he always looks to see how he can give first, I stopped eavesdropping and held up the business card for my consulting firm GIVE Marketing. I named my company after reading Adam Grant’s insightful book, called “Give and Take.” Serendipity.

For most of my career, I have built relationships and my client base, by actively listening, learning and determining how I could provide value to the person I am getting to know – or how they may benefit from meeting a person in my network. For me, giving first makes doing business – or anything else in life – meaningful and fun. It aligns with my true self. The caveat is that giving does not preclude getting. It is not quid pro quo. But, often, it pays off in spades.

After introductions, I returned to my computer, logged on to LinkedIn, pulled up Jonathan’s profile and found that he has amassed over 13,000 LinkedIn followers (quite a feat) and that he is not the owner of a social media firm; but rather, the founder of a highly regarded commercial real estate firm – one I remember from my old days working for a professional services firm. Landing an appointment with an executive like him would have been a real coup. We would have strategized for hours on how to get on his calendar, how to get past his “gatekeepers,” and how many cold calls telemarketing would need to make to secure an appointment. Which, in hindsight, we likely would have never gotten. Perhaps, if we did a bit of research, attended an event he was speaking at, thought about who he could benefit from knowing in our network, we would have made a meaningful connection.

Scanning Jonathan’s profile, seeing his face light up while sharing his knowledge, and realizing that — by chance – I had a premier real estate executive seated at my table – I knew Jonathan would be the perfect panelist for a seminar I am hosting on the secrets to building high-performing, sustainable organizations. Turns out, one of Jonathan’s goals is to increase his public speaking efforts on such topics. Bingo!

I have to wonder, was our encounter, as Jonathan calls it, happenstance? Kismet? Listening with intention? A combination of all three? I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing – giving first is a heck of a lot easier, quicker and more meaningful than cold calling. And, a great reason to leave the office for lunch.

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Kim Keating is founder and CEO of GIVE Marketing. To get in touch with Kim, email her at kkeating@givemarketingllc.com.