Mindy Selinger, Guest Author
When you take the pressure of selling out of the networking equation you will notice that conversations will flow easier.
Relax. Networking is about meeting new people and learning what is unique about them in a business sense. Stay on topic! Much of the fear about attending events comes from the unknown… not knowing what to talk about. No more random conversations for you!
The Four Pre-Qualifying Questions!
1. This is a no-brainer, admittedly, but it starts you on your path of discovery:
• “What does your company do?” or
• “What line of work are you in?”
These questions can take various forms when you take a clue from their name tag,
• “What type of company is Jones & Associates?”
Many times the answer to this question will give you a clue to additional partnership possibilities. Example: If the answer to this question is, “My company provides IT support for small to medium-sized businesses”, you know that they interface with many different industries, some of them may be the demographic you want to meet. If you also work with small to medium-sized businesses, you have a similar client base.
2. The second piece of information you need to know is where they fit in the company, so you ask;
• “What is your position with the company?”, or
• “Is this your own business?”
These questions continues the process of discovering the ultimate business contact, a PowerPartner. You need to know if you are talking to a Sales Person, or the HR Director. The Owner or the IT specialist. Managing Partner or the CFO. Know beforehand who is a good PowerPartner Potential for you… but there’s more.
3. You are in the middle of a great conversation, but most importantly, you know exactly where you’re going with your questions, and the next one is the most important one:
• “What is your target market?” or…
• “What type of clients do you work with?”
Hopefully, the clients they describe are your clients too! However, their answer may be a bit unclear; not because they don’t know, but because most people generalize or try to cast too wide of a net. A Realtor® could say, “Anybody buying or selling a house?” Your job is to get them to narrow down their ideal client profile. Possible niche markets could be seniors, empty-nesters, condos, horse properties, fist-time buyers, short sales, etc. Now you have a target to aim for.
4. This question continues to zero in on the perfect PowerPartner:
• “How long have you been with your company?”
If the answer to this question is, “I just started with them last week”, that person may have little clout, and few contacts. But not so fast… It could be they’re very well connected, having moved to their present job after a long association elsewhere. They may still be a good PowerPartner. The point is: Do not jump to conclusions, keep digging. Here are some possible secondary questions depending upon your circumstances:
• “How long has your company been in business?”
• “How many employees are at your company?”
• “Is your company regional or national?” (good to know if your business is national or you like to travel)
• “What is your territory?”
Seek out the person standing alone and strike up a conversation. Be the rescuer of forlorn networkers. You know their pain. You may find a gem of a connection you would have never met because they were not in the middle of the action.
Copyright © 2011 – Mindy Selinger. Reprinted with Permission. Mindy Selinger is a Networking Strategist. She is the author of the “Face-To-Face Networking Book.” She has been actively involved in business networking on many levels since starting her first business in 1991. Mindy is the founder of a national resource for the professional business networking industry, NetworkingEventFinders.com, which publishes a local Networking Guide & Event Calendars across the country. She lives in San Diego, California.
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