Not making the connections you want at networking events? You might be asking all the wrong questions.
Here’s what typically happens when you meet someone new at a networking event: You start with small talk and then you ask the person what they do. Then, if you want to interact with them more, you exchange business cards. End scene.
If you follow this script, you’ve just missed out out on a great opportunity to stand out, build greater rapport and a deeper connection, and to mutually benefit each other in a potentially significant way.
Why aren’t we asking the right networking questions?
We often forget good questions when we’re networking. Here’s why: (Click here to tweet this explanation.)
- You’re too focused on getting something for yourself. If you start the conversation with your own needs in mind, you overdraw your relationship bank account from the very beginning. Just like a financial institution, if you take out more money than you have in the account, you go into a deficit. If you’re already thinking about what you can get from someone, you’re starting from the wrong angle.
- You’re trying to size up the other person. When you ask “interview-style” questions such as, “What do you do?” “What school did you graduate from?” or “Where are you from?” you put someone in a situation where they have “sell” themselves to you.No one likes to feel like they’re under a great deal of scrutiny from the start. You don’t need to avoid these questions, but ask them as part of a different conversation. You’ll get the information you need, and you will leave the conversation making someone feel excited about the next time you’ll speak.
- You’re not learning about the other person’s passions. Everyone’s passionate about something. It’s your job to learn about that passion, and, if possible, find common ground with this new acquaintance. Listening and learning helps you build rapport, likeability, and trust much faster.
The networking questions you should ask instead
Ask these three key questions when you meet someone new.
1. “How can I help you?”
When you lead with giving, you are able to add value immediately, which helps you stand out from the networking crowd. You can provide a suggestion, a referral, or a new way of thinking about a situation or opportunity. This willingness to help will dramatically increase the chances that the person you’re speaking with will want to get to know you better.
But first, you need to get some ideas about where someone might need help. I like asking, “So what are passionate about right now?” or “What projects are you working on that you are passionate about?” It gets people to talk about what is most important in their life right away.
So if someone has been talking about needing to get marketing help for her company, say, “I know several top marketers and they may know the perfect set of resources for you. I’ll put you in contact with them tomorrow. How does that sound?”
What happens if you aren’t what sure or what resources to provide them? Just tell them you will think about it and ask a few colleagues. Then follow up within 48 hours to let them know whether you can help them or not. People will appreciate that you made the effort and reconnected with them.
2. What ideas do you have for me?
Once you’ve offered value to the other person, then — and only then — can you ask for help. People love to be thought of as a go-to-person, and asking for help indicates that you value your new connection’s opinions and ideas.
3. Who else should I talk to?
The person you just met may know someone who can help you. After all, this is what networking is about!
Say you’re looking for funding for your new technology startup. Your new acquaintance may know some venture capitalists or private investors that may be interested.
Letting others know what you challenges you are having related to your passions can open the doors to resources you could never access otherwise.
Then, it’s all about the follow-up
Remember to pay attention, be engaged and listen as the person is answering your questions. It’s always a good idea to take notes on the the resources or people mentioned — and it’s great to mention these when you follow up as a reminder, because people do forget!
Next, get their contact information and business card.
Finally as you leave, conclude your conversation with a powerful statement like this: “Happy to help you any time, just let me know what you need.” The other person will remember it when you contact him or her again because you are cementing the idea that you’re willing to help them.
Remember, every person you meet has something to teach you, gifts they can share with you, and challenges they need help with. When you use the three questions, you will open the doors to greater extraordinary opportunities in your life personally and professionally. You never know who you will meet.
Jason Treu is a life-mastery and relationship coach helping men and women to create the business and life they love. Connect with him and get coaching at BeExtraordinary.tv.