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Felix Cao, Founder and CEO of Happy Buying Brain

Felix Cao is Founder & CEO of Happy Buying Brain

Can you share a little about what makes you an authority on building a great network?

After being in business for nearly 20 years and working in several diverse industries, ranging from finance, investments, tech and now crypto and Web3, these 2 decades have provided the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

This included meeting talented people with expertise in all professional areas, such as marketing, sales, operations, public relations, software development and company culture building.

The roles of the people I’ve been fortunate to meet, work with, and even become good friends with have been mentors of mine, investors, CEO’s, fellow colleagues, business partners, co-founders and employees. Everyone has put an imprint on my professional career and my goal is to impact the people I’ve met and built relationships with in the same positive way.

How important is networking for professional success, and why?

Networking ranks among the top priorities for professional success because it enables people to form connections and build relationships with people who can become mentors, colleagues, employees or business partners of your company ay any point in time.

A powerful network also serves to provide different perspectives that is vital in understanding people in general which becomes crucial in building a cohesive company culture. Another reason why a strong network is so powerful is that it allows you to get access to the right people who can further your professional career through warm introductions.

Probably the most significant aspect about networking is that it allows you to form relationship with people who have expertise in areas that are complimentary to your own, since no one person can accomplish everything by themself.

What's your usual ice-breaker question when meeting someone for the first time?

As much as we would like to have one ice-breaker question that is universal, I’ve found that doing a bit of research on the people you plan on networking with is very powerful. It’s more about finding topics that are of common interest and using that information is the starting point of a conversation.

For example, if you are someone who is attending a tech networking event (virtually or in-person), it can be extremely helpful to find out exactly what type of tech they are into. Or, if you are able to find out what some of their personal interests are, then that could be a good way to break the ice and start off on a warm footing.

How do you approach networking differently when you're meeting someone in person versus virtually?

The biggest difference between networking virtually and meeting someone in person is the importance of body language. In a virtual meeting, we are limited to the person’s facial expressions.

However, when we meet someone in person, we get to observe their full expression of body language. Most people would agree that nothing compares to meeting someone in person where you get to experience their full body language and emotions upfront.

However, the beauty about today’s world is that we can meet people online and in person, so this provides the opportunity to connect with people all around the world.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network, and how can they avoid them?

A common mistake that occurs quite often is when we focus too much on ourselves rather than making a sincere effort to get to know the people we are interacting with. When we are able to take a genuine interest in the other person, then it’s much easier to build rapport and trust with the people we are networking with. By being a good listener, we can learn what the person we are talking to finds important and what perspectives they find of value to them.

Have you noticed any differences in the types of relationships you build through in-person versus virtual networking? If so, can you describe those differences?

I believe the ability to build relationships virtually as well as in person is extremely important. This is simply because it removes the geographical barriers, where we are able to connect with people from all walks of life and tap into limitless resources and talents across the globe.

Each way of connecting with people has its place in networking. For example, virtual networking allows us to meet people globally, so we can learn and work with people who are not directly in our physical location.

Whereas meeting someone in person often helps cultivate a more human-to-human relationship.

What are some strategies you've found effective for building rapport and establishing trust with someone you've only just met?

I believe that these 2 strategies had the most profound impact on building rapport and trust with someone. The first strategy is to be a good listener and take the effort to learn what the other person values and what they are looking for.

And if you are able to help them achieve their goals or help solve the challenges that are preventing them from progressing in their professional careers, then you’ve done something extraordinary for them and they will always remember you for that.

The second strategy is to take the time to do a bit of research on the people you are planning on meeting. Since most people have some sort of online presence, this can be helpful in learning more about their professional interests and even their personal interests.

The goldmine is when you can find a common interest that exists between you and the other person and this is a great entry point to start a conversation.

In the event that you do not know much about the topics that the person you really want to connect with has a passion for, simply showing a genuine interest in wanting to learn more about their interests by asking good questions is an excellent way to build rapport and trust.

How can someone use social media and online networking to expand their professional network?

Now that everyone is found on social media, the amazing benefit here is that it’s possible to reach out to the people you want to connect with through a DM (direct message) or comment on one of their social media posts. So, this is a great way to get noticed by the people you want to start building relationships with.

Social media is also a good place to showcase your knowledge and expertise by sharing valuable content with your audience. This way, you can post content that you know will be attractive to the type of people you want to network with and form relationships with.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to networking and trying to make connections in their industry?

I strongly believe that effective networking is all about mindset and controlling our emotions. Most often, we are our biggest enemy where we let our thoughts and emotions control our actions, even if we know better.

When starting off in the world of networking, sometimes it can be daunting or even discouraging if we do not get the responses we are looking for when meeting new people.

One important thing to understand is that we cannot be everything to everybody, since people are looking for different things at different times in their professional life cycle. So, the ability to not take things personally is really important, since the feeling of rejection can either deter you from putting yourself out there or interfere with your consistency.

  • Be clear on exactly WHY you're networking at that specific time - This is important because although networking should always be something we are engaging in, the WHY part will serve as motivation to continue even when times are tough and the WHY part will guide you to the types of people you should be networking with in order to accomplish the goals at hand.

  • Approach networking with an open mind - This simply means that although we may be eyeing meeting certain types of people, the serendipity effect is Real. Sometimes the most helpful connection we make can come as a surprise!

  • Always keep in mind that it takes a great team to achieve goals (big or small) effectively. Networking allows you to meet the right people who can compliment your own skill sets.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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