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Networkers Who Lunch Increase Opportunities with Really Valuable Connections

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Networking Lunch


Many years ago, while working for an insurance company as their Finance Director, I worked with a Country Manager who was rarely in the office at lunch time. Not only that, his lunch was always an hour compared to the company policy of 30 minutes.

As Finance Director, I knew the numbers better than anyone else and saw the revenue figures rising. It appeared that the more the Country Manager was out of the office for lunch, the higher the numbers! The proportional correlation confounded me until I learned the technique.

At one of our weekly management meetings, the main agenda item related to the company’s failure to meet the monthly sales targets for health & accident insurance.  This particular insurance product is a numbers game since the premiums are low and volumes need to be high. Moreover, since this product was not re-insured, it was pure revenue for the company.

We were asked to look at our networks to find leads. While I was never involved in the marketing side, I thought of one of the ladies in my Ladies Who Lunch network (yes, ladies too network!) whose husband was the head of a major multinational where there was a chance.

With the Country Manager’s approval, I arranged a lunch meeting and quietly observed the conversation between boss and friend’s husband. Pleasantries were exchanged from the time we ordered soup till the main course was served.

By the time dessert was ordered, there were talks of my company making a proposal for business. The happy ending of this story is that we got a major client, sales for the product made up for 2 months targets and I was encouraged to go out and have lunch at company expense with people other than the auditors!

From a networking point of view, for the contact to be effective, it is important to learn more about the person that we are interacting with.

Simply attending networking events and handing out cards left, right and center is not of much use unless a connection has been made which provides a platform for a follow up call or meeting.

The ability to make a personal connection with a client or colleague is an important way to ensure customer and employee retention, as well as increased sales opportunities.

Networking with colleagues specially those in different departments of your organization can provide crucial contacts if the success of your project requires intra-company interaction. One doesn’t even have to step out to fancy restaurant – just meet up at the company canteen and have lunch together while discussing your project.


6 Tips to Network over lunch like a True Professional 


6 Tips to network lover lunch ike a professional


However meeting up with a colleague for lunch or taking someone out to lunch will not be effective unless you have a plan for the final outcome. Even then, some finesse is required.

Based on what I learned from my boss, the 6 tips I offer are

  • Be an attentive listener and learn more about the other person.
  • Try to identify common interests and converse on the same to build rapport with the other person.
  • Don’t hijack the conversation. Show interest in the person & ask questions to learn more.
  • Be sincere and avoid invading their privacy.
  •  Once rapport is established then proceed to discuss business or projects
  • Make sure there is a win-win situation. If the benefits are more in your favor, consider net-weaving to offer something back. Your credibility goes up and you have a contact for life.

Do you have any tips to enhance the power of your network outside the office?

Please do share in the comments box below!


PS. One of the readers had referred to an awesome book by Keith Ferrazzi Never Eat Alone. This is a must read book which has been updated to take networking in the digital era into account. Have a look at this global bestseller by clicking on the image.


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Written by: Vatsala Shukla

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38 Responses to “Networkers Who Lunch Increase Opportunities with Really Valuable Connections”

  1. Listen more and talk less is excellent focus. I believe there is a book called “Never Eat Alone” that discusses the technique you share here. Thanks for giving me a few things to think about today.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      At your service, always, Stephanie! You are absolutely right; there is a book by that name.

      In the book Never Eat Alone, Chapter 11 whose title is also the name of the book suggests that a meal is a spectacular time to connect with someone. It is also a tip that a former boss gave me to help me integrate with my new department and it worked.

      The dynamics work well, whether the lunch partners are colleagues or prospective clients.

      In case the reader is interested, here are the details of the book that Stephanie LH Calahan referred to.
      Never Eat Alone By Keith Ferrazzi with Tahl Raz. Publisher : Random House ISBN 0-385-51205-8

  2. OOH, I loved this article! It is so true, listening and really getting to know the other person is one of the most beneficial things you can do whether that person is a potential client, partner, or friend. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Welcome back to the blog, Jessica. Active listening is supposed to be a skill but I feel it is a dying art form. 🙂 As you pointed out, listening and really getting to know the other person is one of the most beneficial things we can do for others.

  3. Tanya Smith says:

    Great post, Vatsala. I love that you’ve pointed out how to have purposeful networking engagement. It’s so important to have a focused outcome when your time is filled with to-do’s. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks, Tanya. Being focused on an outcome to the networking engagement ensures that one values one’s own time as well as that of the other person. Another way to have a win-win situation by getting to the point quickly after pleasantries rather than beating about the bush and hoping the other person understands!

  4. Tai Goodwin says:

    This is a great example Vatsala of how to make networking work. My challenge is that I am very much an introvert 🙂 I am working on being more proactive in scheduling face time with my local connections.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Glad you liked the tips, Tai. Some of the best business persons and professionals that I know are actually introverts! The best way is to go out and start meeting the local connections and give them a gift that no extrovert can – the gift of listening and then take it from there!

  5. This is such a good idea and, for those of us who tire of the noise and distractions of networking events, sharing a meal means you get the undivided attention of your companion while engaging in longer, more interesting conversation. You build rapport, a key step on the way to a relationship which, especially for service providers, is necessary to create the sale. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a good meal, too!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Absolutely, Andrea! Sharing a meal gives us a chance to get to know the other person better and as you mentioned build a more meaningful rapport. One never knows, the conversation may start at 1 point and open up possibilities for other joint ventures, all for the price of a meal! 🙂

  6. Debra Jason says:

    So glad you mentioned that networking is not about handing out business cards left & right. It’s about building relationships.
    When you are genuinely interested in others, they’ll find you interesting.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Absolutely true, Debra! The number of times people whom I meet at networking events and cocktail parties take the first step of exchanging their business cards with me is directly proportional to the conversations that we have surrounding them and their immediate concerns. The best part? They keep in touch!

  7. Lisa Swanson says:

    Totally agree, when i was first learning about going to networking events, I was told to always ask about their business and what they do. If you end up having a one on one (lunch, coffee) find out how you can help them.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Being of service is one of the tips that many LinkedIn Gurus recommend Lisa because it helps us to get to know the other person better and by making connections within our network, we raise the perceived value of our network and self and make it easier to do business at a later and more opportune date. Having lunch or even a cup of coffee with the other person gives the meeting a more relaxed ambiance and both parties are comfortable talking ‘shop’ or even sharing information. The guidance you were given when you first started attending networking events is true.

  8. Tamuria says:

    Attentive listening is the key to any good relationship I think. Building a rapport with someone is vital if you want them to show an interest in what you are doing. Great advice Vatsala.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Spot on Tamuria. Networking means listening, actively and finding a common ground to keep in touch. Our chance to show what we can offer emerges from the data that we learn about the other person.

  9. Networking in general is for me, an opportunity to get to know about the other person and who they are. I am blessed to have a very good memory and have always been able to pull information I learned about them and their life up at future times when needed. The key is in the listening and in asking two-part questions. Networking is always about the art of powerful conversation and being observant to what does and doesn’t matter to them. Thanks for the wonderful post, Vatsala!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I love the way you’ve summarized good and effective networking Beverley. Practicing similar principles for online networking and shifting it to a real offline dialogue strengthens everyone’s network base.

  10. Most people don’t understand networking so your article is a great opportunity to educate. I believe the principles of social relationship marketing is based on networking, done the way you & others have described. In my case, I always wear a necklace that is likely to catch ones eye. Then I wait for the usual question where I get to tell my transformation story.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I love the idea of your wearing a necklace that catches the other person’s eyes and gets the conversation started. I’ve used the technique of admiring another person’s apparel or jewelry myself as an ice breaker to learn more about the other person at networking events and cocktail parties and made new friends and connections. Bravo, Roslyn, this 1 step also gives you a chance to introduce your jewelry range!

  11. Delia Rusu says:

    Be a great listener goes such a long way! It’s the absolute must-have skill so you can be of service to someone when you are networking effectively.

    So sad not too many people understand this common sense principle! And then it becomes all about “me me me”. In such situations, I just smile and nod, knowing they are really losing their cause to make a good contact and possibly a great friend.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I do something similar Delia with the Me Me person but not before a last ditch attempt to steer the conversation in a direction where I learn something useful about them. I may not want to know all the gory details about their root canal treatment unless I can guide them to a good dentist. 🙂

  12. K. Lee Banks says:

    As someone who only works from home, I can’t really relate to in-person meetings, but active “listening” online (reading, comprehending, responding) is still obviously necessary for effective virtual networking.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Absolutely Karen. You might want to check out the book I’ve mentioned in the PS section of the post Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. The updated version has tons of tips for the digital era too.

  13. I love your emphasis on the personal connection, Vatsala. That’s everything, isn’t it, whether in business or friendship. Love this!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      It certainly is, Susan. That’s why Nokia’s ad and byline was and continues to be popular – connecting people!

  14. Natasha Botkin says:

    Awesome idea! Food and relaxatuon can indeed sweeten the pot.

  15. Great tips Vatsala! I totally hate those networking events that are just pushy and salesy. I will never invest until I have made a genuine connection. I did also come across a lot of conversation hijackers (as you said 😉 ) In this day and age we all are longing for a deeper connection in all areas of our lives including networking! Thank you for this gentle reminder.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      My pleasure, Jonita. I prefer to have a smaller circle of connections but one that I know, like and trust and can work with than an army of strangers. 🙂

  16. Reba Linker says:

    I am learning more and more that sometimes we just have to be ourselves and enjoy our lives and the business success will follow. If our noses are too stuck to the grindstone, we’ll miss out on so many opportunities! For me, eating lunch (!), breaking bread together, learning more about others, and sharing my needs and offers are all natural, enjoyable things to do. It is great to get business advice that supports our natural abilities and proclivities! Great post, Vatsala!

  17. Such great tips and reminders. So many people go to network event to just hand out and pick up business cards which ends up being a total waste of precious time & energy.

    Your tip about being attentive & listening is one of the most important because you can really pick up on signs on whether or not there are any synergies between their needs and your offerings or vice versa. If not, just move on…

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Synergy and right fit are important if both sides are to build a rewarding relationship and achieve results, Betty. I’m with you on this.

  18. Suzie Cheel says:

    I must read never eat alone- Des has it- great tips and I now have an intention with networking- as the time we spend is so valuable to make one connection that it meaningful and follow up with. Your post reminded me to be more focused thank you xxx

    • Karmic Ally says:

      It’s a good book worth owning and reading, Suzie. The latest edition also covers social media. Happy reading and networking!

  19. Joyce Hansen says:

    Great advice about networking over lunch, Vatsala. While social media is great for making connections, having lunch is far more productive. It’s a face-to-face conversation where you can learn about what the person actually needs. It’s a waste of time trying to connect them with or sell them something they do not need. Better yet, you can find out what they do need and create a product or service they would buy.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Absolutely, Joyce! In person conversations, even over a cup of coffee allow us to understand the other person’s needs and for them to understand our services. One of the other benefits is being able to see the body language of the other person and picking up signals that then allows us to modify our message so that it is understood by the other person while staying authentic and in integrity.

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