Rather than making assumptions, ask more questions. This was a piece of sage advice that has been given to me both by my spiritual mentor, and my sales coach! No, they are not one in the same, but both have expressed the importance of asking more questions, as well as asking better questions. Over the years as I have developed my networking skills I have come to learn the importance of not only asking questions but ask good questions.
I often teach people how to network effectively, to get beyond face to face cold calling, to do quality networking that allows you to build relationships with people whom you want to refer business to and who may want to refer business to you. One of the most popular questions I get from my students is; How do you start a good conversation with someone I meet at a networking event? My response is always the same, Ask Questions
People love to talk about themselves, their businesses, what they are doing that is important to them, and what is going on in their world. If you are shy, or timid, asking questions will allow you to interact and find common ground with people. It will take you out of your shell by allowing you to focus on something other than your own fear.
Here are a few tips for asking questions:
- Never ask yes or no questions, otherwise you just get yes and no answers and there is no conversation started. Make sure your questions are open ended.
- Ask thoughtful questions that you would really like to know the answer to. People respond better when they know you are genuinely interested. We are accustomed to hearing questions like, How are you? How’s business? What brought you here? What do you do? The truth of those questions is that no one really wants to know the answer, they are just being polite.
- After you ask a question, listen to the answer. It may lead you down the path of the next question or you may learn that the person you are speaking to would be a great connection for someone else you know if the room.
- Don’t be a Drill Sargent and pummel the person with questions, it is far better to have 2-3 well thought out questions that draw the person into conversation with you, than it is to have a barrage of pointless questions.
One of the finale questions I will often ask people is this, As I continue to network and meet people here is there anyone you would like to know or anything I can do to help you? In fact I almost always finish any conversation that I have with this question, Is there anything at all that I can do to help you going forward? If there is, I make a note of it, if there is not, I let them know that I am an email away if they can think of anything I can do for them, just drop me a note.
Remember to have a sense of curiosity about people, learn more about them, and they will want to learn more about you too! Often I can go to an event and say very little, but I learn a lot simply by asking good questions.
It is said, that a wise man listens and questions, a fool rambles on and on.