This is a guest article by Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of new book The Connectors: How the World's Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life . She is also the founder of Red Zone Marketing , which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth.

It’s a question most of us have asked ourselves: What makes successful people so, well, successful? It’s tempting to think that those at the top of the ladder know something the rest of us mere mortals don’t—quite simply, what sets you apart from the competition is your ability to connect. Here a few simple tips that have helped some of world’s most successful.


1) Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that reads, “Make me feel important.”
This was the life philosophy of Mary Kay Ash, the well-known cosmetics mogul. Her genuine concern for others catapulted her out of poverty and was the secret to her success.

2) Seek out a common interest.
People want others to be like them. Establishing that you and a client root for the same baseball team or volunteer at the same charity will go a long way in making you relevant in his eyes!

3) Don’t work from a script. Try to scrap the memorized pitch in favor of a more natural conversation. You’ll seem more at ease and authentic—and your prospect will be less tempted to think that you’re fluffing up the facts.

4) Remember the remarkable. Entrepreneur Sunny Bates makes a point to identify and write down the things that stand out to her in every conversation. She then references those statements in future interactions—and has been amazed by the reactions she’s gotten when others realize that she has paid attention to and valued what they’ve said!

5) Cultivate curiosity.
According to Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO, "A leader has to show curiosity. He has to listen to people outside of the 'Yes, sir' crowd in his inner circle. Businesspeople need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions."

6) Act like a good listener. (Don’t let your body image betray you!) We’re constantly bombarded with information, so it’s almost instinctive to tune it out. When you’re interacting with someone, you need to consciously change your body language to reflect that you want to receive information; otherwise, it may appear that you’re trying to get away from it. Remember, your face says it all.

7) Resist the urge to be a one-upper. Perhaps you feel compelled to share that you battled the flu for twice as long as your colleague. Or maybe you’re dying to tell your client how great your vacation to Hawaii was after she mentions her trip to the lake. Three words: Don’t. Do. It. When you’re always trying to top other people, you’re ruining communication.

8) Ask effective questions. When you’re communicating, remember: garbage in, garbage out. If you ask the wrong questions, you’ll get the wrong answers—or at least different answers from the ones you were hoping for. Think about what you’re hoping to learn, and remember that an open-ended question is almost always more effective than one that elicits a simple “Yes” or “No” answer.

Are there any other tricks you can think of to make sure you're connecting with the right people to build your business?

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Originally published Oct 12, 2009 3:01:00 PM, updated June 25 2019

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Networking