If networking feels like a chore, odds are you’re doing it with the wrong intention. When done correctly, networking can not only become one of the most valuable things you do with your time, but also something you look forward to rather than dread.
The difference is at the heart of your motive. Are you there to gain or to serve? You may be tempted to see others as nothing more than dollar signs walking around holding martini glasses. After all, your chamber membership cost you hundreds and you’ve got to make sure your money was well spent.
While in conversation, most people are either talking or thinking about what they’re going to say as soon as the other person stops talking. Instead, listen intently as you look for the answer to this golden question: what one thing can I do to best serve this person?
Try this experiment at your next networking event: avoid talking about yourself. Push aside the ROI report and seek to genuinely serve everyone you meet. You may discover that the best conversationalists are often those who say the least.
Consider these selfless questions to spark intelligent, insightful conversations that can ultimately lead to new business opportunities.
What brings you to this event? This question not only discloses information about the other person’s background, but it also reveals what they want to get out of the event.
How did you get into that line of work? Everyone has a backstory and you can safely assume they love to tell it. The more they share, the more trust you build with them.
What do you love most about what you do? This is the right kind of open-ended question. It reveals the other person’s passion for what they do and keeps the conversation in a positive tone.
What kinds of new technology or trends are hitting your industry? Giving someone the opportunity to show you their industry expertise helps them feel important. As a side benefit, you may learn new cutting-edge information that many others are not aware of yet.
What do you do when you’re not working? It’s important to remember that everyone has a life outside of work and keeping it all business can be a turnoff. The more you get to know someone on a personal level, the stronger the connection you will have with them. Besides, you may uncover some of your most interesting conversation material.
Interesting. Tell me more about that. Once your new friend is talking, use this phrase to show interest and give them permission to share more details.
Who is your ideal client? Many network attendees are salespeople. This question is saying, “help me help you.” It gives you ammunition to deliver something of high value — a qualified introduction or prospect. What better way to make a lasting impression?
What one thing has made the biggest difference in your sales? This is another way to dig for a nugget. If you’re truly looking to serve, the answer to this question will give you fantastic content for next week’s follow up email. Instead of saying, “Hey, we met last week. Want to buy what I’m selling?” you can give them an article, tip, trend or idea to help them create more sales.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Leaders have vision. Chances are you’re talking to someone who has spent a considerable amount of time articulating his or her future. Giving others the chance to talk about it is a wonderful way to connect.
I’d love to keep this conversation going. Do you mind if we connect on (social media)? It’s not unreasonable to pull out your phone and send a LinkedIn connection request right on the spot while you are fresh in their mind. It also makes for a seamless and effective follow up.
It’s been so great meeting you. I don’t want to take up all your time. But before I go, would you like to stay connected? Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in a time-wasting conversation you need to get out of. Use this line as a polite and unselfish way to disconnect and free up yourself for more valuable networking. Exchange information and be on your way.
As you seek to genuinely serve others, these and other golden questions will come more naturally. People will recognize when you genuinely care. Be a giver and the benefits will come as a natural result because people do business with those they like and trust.