Thoughts From a Recent Networking Event
I want to preface this post by letting you know that by no means do I consider myself a networking master. In fact, I am far from it. Some networking events make me highly nervous and uncomfortable- which is the reason why I would like to share my thoughts and some tips from a networking event I recently attended. The advice I am providing is purely second hand. I felt compelled to share with you, so take it for what it’s worth.
American Advertising Federation: East Central Indiana was the host of the event and the speaker was Matt Anderson with The Referral Authority. Due to this being a lunch meeting, Matt was very limited on time but did a great job of cramming a lot of useful information into just 50 minutes.
Part of Matt’s presentation featured interactive elements which forced the attendees to step out of their comfort zone for just a few minutes. He pointed out that people tend to sit with other people they already know at networking events such as these. While, this can be good for your business sometimes, most of the time it will be more beneficial to meet new people.
Everyone was asked to switch tables and do a mini interview with someone they did not previously know. The questions that were provided for us to ask during the interview had nothing to do with business, yet they were the most effective. I asked myself, “How can this be?” Then I started thinking about the Cardinal Success chapter of BNI meetings that I attend on a weekly basis. There are several people in the group that are considered “pros” or “veterans.” These are the people that pass the most business by giving high quality referrals. I realized a large part of their conversation isn’t about business either.
Their conversations are about what really matters- truly connecting with the other person. They ask about their kids, siblings, and parents. They talk about the game last night or the latest movie to be released. Once you find out what makes the other person tick, what they could talk about for hours and hours- then you have found the key to gaining their trust. And when they trust you as a person, they trust you with their business. Passing business then becomes a way of habit and something that just happens naturally. These are the same people that are passing millions of dollars of business on a yearly basis because of the relationships that have been formed and not because they went to a networking event trying to their sales pitch to as many people in the room as possible.
I realize that it takes time to build solid relationships with business partners and at some point you are going to have to ask the standard questions about their business. This is why I have included the information below:
It can be very difficult to know what to say to someone when you are meeting them for the first time. Sure you can ask them what their name is, who they work for, and what they do there. After a few minutes of chit-chat you will typically cut to the chase and find out if they are interested in doing business. Most people will take your card and promise to pass it on to the right person or be in touch soon. How do you break through this clutter and leave an impression that they will remember?
Consider Bob Burg’s 10 Networking Questions which might actually lead to an interesting conversation:
1. How did you get a start in your business?
2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?
3. What separates your company from the competition?
4. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the ________business?
5. What one thing would you do in your business if you knew you couldn’t fail?
6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession?
7. What do you see as the coming trends in your business?
8. So, what is the strangest or funniest thing you have experienced in your business?
9. What ways have you found to be effective when promoting your business?
10. What one sentence would you like people to use when describing the way you do business?