Brian Hillard, Guest Author
Part 1 of 2 ~ Part 2 of this article will be available on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Question for you: When networking with entrepreneurs, what do most of them like to talk about, their business or yours?
Generally speaking, I’d say theirs.
And assuming that’s the case, is it fair to say that by asking the right questions and allowing your new contact to talk about their business you’ll be more or less likely to stand out from the crowd?
You see, if you’ve ever been to a networking event, you already know that it can be quite the spectacle when it comes to meeting new people. Everyone can be so busy “selling themselves”, that no one seems interested in what anyone else is saying.
Which can create an environment where people are competing for “airtime” to talk about their business and all the great things they can do for you.
But imagine if we turned that around.
Instead of competing with that person in talking about your respective businesses, you asked questions that encouraged them to freely share that information. Now instead of them talking and you interrupting, (or vice versa), you create an environment in which they talk, you listen, and everyone feels “heard.”
You think that would help you stand out from the crowd while networking? You bet. And you’ll get a ton of referrals while you do it.
People refer business to other people they like and respect. So when you give someone time to “tell their story” about their business, then that automatically increases your stock in their eyes.
And throw in the fact that you’ve got a top-flight product or serviceand you can see how it’s a lot easier than many people think to create a solid Referral Partner.
But it all started with the conversation you both had while networking. If you talked about yourself and your business all the time, you blended right in with everyone else. You do something a little different, and voila, everyone remembers who you are.
Which is why asking the right questions is so important. It cultivates an attitude of trust and rapport by showing a genuine interest about their business ultimately setting the stage for a referral.
A lot of times you’ll run into people who are so busy talking about themselves, their products and all the great things they can do for you, that they never take a breath to learn more about who you are and what you’re all about. (People who do that often tell me that networking “doesn’t work” for them.)
But when you’re asking the right questions, you take the focus off yourself, and put it right where it belongs on the person you’re trying to get to know better. And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to talk about yourself, but only after this person feels “heard” about their business. Which goes a long way towards helping you stand out from the crowd.
Oh, and one more thing. When asking the right questions, you’re in no way trying to “qualify” the prospect, or determine if they’ll do business with you right now. As a matter of fact, that’s the exact opposite of what we’re talking about and I’d recommend steering clear of those types of questions.
So with that said, what are some good questions you can use while networking? I thought you’d never ask.
Question #1: “Where else do you normally network?”
Amy Windham, a colleague of mine here in Atlanta, first brought this one to my attention and it’s an absolute gem. Not only does it help break the ice during that sometimes awkward period just after you’ve introduced yourself, but it also gives you a chance to talk about something you both know a little bit about.
Another reason I like this question is because it gives you the opportunity to make an “instant connection” with that person.
How? By providing valuable information on a relevant topic that they didn’t have. And as we all know, a great towards creating a solid Referral Partner is to first make a connection with that person.
As an example, I was at a networking event one morning when I asked the gentleman where else he normally networked. (I like to practice what I preach, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for this question.) He replied that he didn’t know of any other networking events around town, since he just moved to Atlanta fairly recently.
Well, as a person who likes to consider himself a connoisseur of local networking events, that was like music to my ears. So I followed up with a question about the type of prospects he was trying to meet large corporations, small businesses, or something in between?
I wanted to get a feel as to the types of events that might work based on his prospect.
He went on to say that his business focused on the technology sector and that he would love to meet anyone in that field. No problem, I said, and immediately gave him the names of a couple of groups I’d thought could help.
Well let me tell you something, you could almost see the relief in his eyes. He was genuinely grateful that someone was willing to help him out with some business generating information.
And that’s why I say that asking the right questions is so important for standing out from the crowd. It started with, “Where else to you normally network?” and that dovetailed into extensive conversation about his business.
And guess what? When it was all said and done, he was listening with intent interest on what it is I did and thinking of ways he could help me. Which is all you can ask when meeting someone for the first time.
Larry’s NOTE: Part 2 of this article will be available on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Copyright © 2013 – Brian Hillard – Reprinted with permission. Brian Hilliard is a motivational speaker, consultant, and author of the book “Networking Like a Pro!” As founder of Atlanta based Agito Consulting, Brian specializes in providing individuals with actionable techniques they can use right away. Brian has also published a CD entitled, “How to Talk So Others Will Listen,” and he’s best known for delivering dynamic, thought-provoking sessions that keep people coming back. To learn more, please visit our website at www.AgitoConsulting.com.
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