Fralic’s 7 Rules for Making Memorable Connections
‘Add value in conversations’ is typical advice. This means making sure people walk away with a new idea, referral, intro, etc. But Fralic has found imparting energy to be even more important than sharing new information. To do this, follow these seven rules:
1. Convey genuine appreciation. Actively project warmth and high energy. It’s been observed people like you when they feel liked by you. So, do you greet them in a way that sounds like you’re genuinely happy to see them? To make it clear you’re interested in the other person, think about what they know that you don’t. What do you actually want to learn in the interaction? Focus on that so that they can walk away knowing they added value too.
2. Listen with intent. The focus you bring to asking specific questions about what’s being said in real time makes others feel heard. This is a big one. Being a good listener is about two things: 1) Demonstrating that you’ve heard exactly what was said by the other person, and 2) encouraging them to continue. This breaks down into what’s called “backchanneling” — offering short, enthusiastic responses as the other person talks (i.e. “yeah” “mm-hmm” “totally” “I can see that”), and asking follow up questions that reference the information you were just given.
You’d be surprised how often people flub on listening, says Fralic. People’s minds wander, they’ll be nodding but thinking about what’s for dinner, they might look past the person speaking to see who else is in the room. All of this projects disinterest, a lack of value or prioritization for the person, and that can only hurt the relationship. If you’re talking on the phone, asking specific follow-ups becomes even more important with no body language or eye contact to read.
3. Use humility markers. What you say and how you say it can put others at ease and replace nerves with positive energy — even in tough situations. “I have relationships that have lasted over a decade that started with me meeting a founding team and not investing,” says Fralic. “I’ll often start that conversation saying, ‘I’m wrong all the time and I very well may be here.’” Acknowledging your own fallibility and human imperfection can go a long way toward making yourself relatable. Especially if there’s a power dynamic where someone is asking for your advice, attention or help, you want to put the other person at ease.
There’s an unspoken distinction in the networking world between the Hunters and the Hunted.
When Fralic reached out to Kevin Compton all those years ago. He was approaching one of the ‘hunted’ — someone who had 1,000 other things to be thinking about. But he still took the time to engage and it was never forgotten.
You don’t need to build yourself up any more or explain why you’re important or going to be helpful. Your focus should be on building bridges between your experience and theirs so there are points of recognition, especially if you can organically work in shared struggles or challenges.
Taking the time to call or meet in person also expresses humility — which is paramount if you’re about to reject someone. You want to emphasize that your time is no more important than theirs. “I like to call to explain opportunities I’ve passed on versus emailing. A rejection stands out among people’s interactions. When you take the time to be conscientious and human, people are often appreciative and will respect you more.”
4. Offer unvarnished honesty. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t share what they truly think in professional situations. They don’t want to tarnish relationships or endure an uncomfortable exchange or risk being disliked. Even if you’re one of the ‘Hunted,’ it’s human nature to avoid these experiences. You can differentiate yourself by being as honest as you can. Just remember to root your honesty in what will actually have utility for the other party. This will set a good tone for all future conversations.
5. Blue-sky brainstorm. Maybe you can’t provide what someone is looking for. But, if you can change the angle or way they’re thinking about something by openly brainstorming with them, you make them feel like they got something special and unexpected. It’s key that you’re brainstorming with them, not for them. So, in the example of passing on an investment, Fralic makes a point of listing others who might invest, or he spends time thinking through how they might pitch or message their business differently.
It’s best when the conversation builds on itself. He’ll suggest a few names or changes, and then provide a sounding board for any concerns or questions the founders might have. This way, he can help them find a new, albeit slightly different path forward, and that’s what they’ll remember — not just the no.
Give before thinking about what you get. Always offer something of value before expecting or asking for something in return. Key to this is not focusing on reciprocity.
“If you find yourself keeping score in your professional relationships, you’re on the wrong track.”
Instead make a list of everything you feel comfortable offering others (even if you get nothing back). Perhaps you provide connections or advice or office space or a next step in a process. That way, if you have to say no to one thing, there’s still energy you can contribute.
6. End every meeting or conversation with the feeling and optimism you’d like to have at the start of your next conversation with the person. “Assume you’re going to run into everyone again — it usually happens either by plan or happenstance,” says Fralic. “There are no closed connections. The world is too small.” When you do meet again, you want the person to think, ‘Oh great, it’s so-and-so!’ not ‘I guess I’ll get through this somehow.’ If you envision running into this person again and how you want that to go, it’ll undoubtedly influence how you navigate a present conversation — usually for the better.
For example, Fralic is always impressed by founders who — when turned down — send some variation of, “Thanks for looking even if it’s not a fit. If you have other ideas for us or if anything changes, please let me know,” or, “Chris, when we met, you had a question/issue about X. I just wanted to show you what we’ve done about it — no need to respond.” “A person who says that shows she’s savvy enough to not take bad news personally, or create obligation or awkwardness, or continue to argue their point after you’ve said no. I’ll remember her for it,” he says
There’s time beyond this fundraise and even this company. Relationships take years to build. Start now.
7. Don’t fake it till you make it. It may be common wisdom for finding confidence, but it has some negative byproducts. Namely, Fralic has seen it used to justify winging it in important meetings. Faking it in this context doesn’t mean bluffing your way through interactions that make you feel insecure or intimidated. That leads to bad decision making.
“I’ve seen people overstate their credentials because they were put on the spot, or blindly target every executive in a room because they figured they should,” he says. “This rarely leads to long-lasting relationships.” If you want to connect with someone professionally to move your goals forward, you need to know exactly why you care about that person or their company. And you need to know how to articulate it succinctly. Everyone seems to have a story about a cold call miraculously turning into a career-making breakthrough. This doesn’t happen by magic. It happens because your sincerity is clearly powered by diligent preparation.