From Catherine: We are starting out the “Best of” year-end posts with a great one. I had to literally beg Bonnie Karpay to share some of her magic with us. I feel like I know Bonnie, but the truth is that we have never met face-to-face. We have exchanged birthday wishes and bourbon pictures though. I met Bonnie through some other social media friends on Facebook. I know you will enjoy this post whether you have seen it before or not. 

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I was at a networking event when some guy walked up to me, slid his business card into my hand and proceeded to tell me, unsolicited, all about his business.  When he finally paused to take a breath, I waited for him to ask about me.  As he opened his mouth, the only invitation that fell out was, “Can I have one of your cards?”

“Why?” I asked.  “You don’t know anything about me and, outside of allowing you to talk at me for the last 10 minutes, I’ve given you no value at all.  Why in the world would you want to stay in touch with me??”

Don’t be this guy.  I’m begging you!

Unless you’re standing on the opposite side of the counter at Nordstrom, it’s not likely I’m going to buy from you in the initial conversation.  I only do business with people I love (not “like”), so why don’t you take the time to really get to know me?

Learn to Contribute

When you are able to contribute value to someone’s business success, you become someone they want to know.  Here are some important tips to remember about Contribution: 

  1. Start in Service – Begin your conversation in Service, not Sales.  You’re not going to sell anything anyway, so you might as well help the person you’re speaking with.  You’re here to connect and to create genuine relationships.
  2. Quality Contribution – Remember that the quality of your contribution reflects the quality of your work.  If you have only a mediocre suggestion or a “just okay” introduction to offer, better to keep it to yourself.
  3. Inventory Management – Build an awesome collection of people in your Rolodex (I know, we don’t really use a Rolodex anymore.  Just go with it, okay?).  And meet people from wildly disconnected fields.  You never know when someone will need to meet a quality plumber or a successful math tutor or professional musician.  As you grow your reputation for quality introductions, people will see you as a treasured resource for all of their needs.
  4. Genuine Curiosity – Don’t assume that you know everything about their business.  Ask questions, not to position your services as the solution, but to truly learn more about their work and their lives.
  5. Deep Listening – This takes practice, but when you turn off your Sales Impulse, you’ll hear so much!  The conversation is not a round of double-dutch jump rope, where you’re just waiting for your opportunity to speak.  Pay attention to what they’re sharing.  Ask follow-up questions.  Stay with them and allow them to shine.
  6. Don’t Keep Count – You’ll enjoy this process a whole lot more when you Give just for the love of the Give, without any expectation of getting something in return.  I promise you, it will always come back to you.  I don’t know how or when, but Contribution is the most loyal boomerang you’ll ever throw.

The way we do business has really changed over the last 30 years.  We have sacrificed long-term planning for the rush of short-term profits.  In this new economy, we’re experiencing a return to valuing the relationship over the transaction. And it all begins with your ability to consistently Contribute to the success of others.

Bonnie Karpay, author of Without Notice: Life Can Change In a Moment and creator of The Relationship Quotient™ (RQ), teaches organizations, entrepreneurs and sales professionals how to develop and maintain genuine business relationships. Karpay identified five simple keys to creating loyal, lifetime customers, who refer like crazy, give raving testimonials and are price flexible. Nominated as “America’s Most Influential Business Connector” in 2011, Karpay’s fresh, new twist on an age old topic has made her an in-demand, innovative expert to sales professionals around the world. To learn more, visit