Most people don’t have good questions. What about you? Think about the pile of business cards on your desk of people that you never really connected with.
By asking questions, you create opportunities for people to ask YOU questions. When you answer questions/talk about your business/products/services/expertise, focus on the problems you can solve and the benefits you can deliver.
Here’s a handy tool you can use to manage your networking conversations…
When I started networking to grow my business, I found a good approach to making conversation was to use the acronym “LINK”. LINK helped me (and can help you) to remember questions that elicit the kind of information you want to get from new network contacts.
“L” stands for line – line of work. You want to find out what the person does for a living; What line of work are you in? What do you do? Tell me a little about your business.
“I” stands for interests – interests outside work. You want to know what they do when they’re not working; What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? How do you relax? What are your plans for the weekend? Do they talk about family, sports, hobbies? You’re likely to find common ground here, giving you plenty to talk about.
Actual business talk is usually limited in a networking environment.
Try to connect with people on a level other than business. People bond over common areas of interest, no matter what they are.
“N” stands for needs. I’m always listening for what someone needs and this will come out with good questions; What is the biggest challenge you have right now? What do you need more of to keep your business running? What’s on your worry pile back at the office? Tell me about your business priorities at the moment. You want to know about the issues or challenges the person is facing and what their aspirations, goals, problems and concerns are.
People have needs and they go into a networking environment to get something for themselves. Help them (without expectation of getting anything in return) and you will develop the kind of relationships that will make your networking profitable.
“K” stands for know – who they know and what they know. Who can they connect you with? Where else do you go to network? What other groups do you belong to? Do you sit on any boards or committees? Are you working on any charity initiatives?
And what can you learn from them? What are your best networking and business development practices? How do you coach your staff and team on the importance of building alliances with external contacts and throughout different departments in your company? What do you personally do to stay connected? What do you read that gives you inspiration and fresh ideas? What are your thoughts on…? How have you been handling that? How did you overcome that? What are some of the things that have helped you get to where you are today? Best advice you ever received?
Invite people to tell you a little about themselves. The more you know about them the more you’ll know what they can do for you – and what you can do for them.