For inexperienced networkers, attending a networking event to achieve certain business outcomes may seem like an uphill battle. They may circulate the room after brief introductions, distribute their business card to many, and still wonder what they accomplished in the end. However, creating worthwhile business relationships takes time and effort. Meeting people is simply the first step in getting clients to the “know, like, and trust” stage (the oft-mentioned prerequisite to initiate a buyer-client relationship).
Perhaps the best way to get potential clients to “like you” is to be an effective listener. Business networkers do themselves a disservice when they begin wondering what to say in a conversation next. Instead, they can show that they’re carefully listening (with both their ears and their eyes). People not only enjoy talking about themselves, like to be appreciated and listened to as well.
When it’s your turn to converse, ask questions that you’re sincerely curious about. Conversation that lacks any element of curiosity risks making the questioner sound like an interrogation agent. So think carefully about what open-ended question you should ask. A good conversation cannot be engineered, its organic in nature and built upon the enthusiasm of the participants.
Perhaps the best advice on what type of questions to ask comes from Grand Rapid’s author Ken Fortier. In his book, NetPlus Connections: Be the One Who Makes Everyone Else’s World Bigger and Better, Ken suggests that networkers ask some version of the following three questions:
- What is something you’re trying to accomplish within the next 12 months?
- What is going well for you, right now?
- What is not going well for you, right now?
Ken’s suggestion is rather brilliant as it promotes opportunities for both parties to begin a mutually beneficial relationship. Such questions provide the listener with opportunities to offer direct or indirect assistance to the talker. Moreover, the listener may receive valuable information he or she may not be privy to with regard to business opportunities. More importantly, such questions enable networkers to quickly become much better acquainted about each other’s dreams and aspirations.
In the end, effective networkers are those who listen carefully and seek to be of benefit to the people they meet. Given that business networker’s foremost focus is on achieving sales, such a strategy is not often second-nature. However, as human beings have an innate desire to reciprocate such behavior, outwardly-focused networkers will greatly succeed those with the intent on immediate sales.