Great Questions To Ignite “Small Talk”

 

Again, small talk kick-starts the networking process. Small talk, however, is about getting the other person talking. This begs the question: What are good questions to ask in this process?

There is no magic. Planning, however, is paramount. Be like an attorney – prepare your questions before you ask them. In other words, have a small handful of questions ready to go. Each of these relates to the person’s life professionally or personally … Or something about their past.

From there, allow the conversation to take itself wherever. A few of these questions could include…

• What do you do? How long have you been doing it? How did you become interested in that?

• What are some of the projects or assignments you are currently working on?

• Are you from this area?

 Yes – What part?

 No – What brought you here?

• Outside of work, what occupies you? How did you become interested in that?

• What are some business or community organizations you are involved with?

These will give you a start. From here you might want to formulate your own series of questions. Again, there is no magic. It is simply a matter of planning on how you will get and keep them talking.

I’m In A Conversation. Now What?

As wonderful as chatting with a connection at a networking event is, do not burn out the conversation. This is not to say that you need to use the event to get out handfuls of your business cards and collect handfuls in return. That is not productive either.

It just says that you should attempt to connect enough with the person so that you are both comfortable continuing the conversation another time. Perhaps that is at the next event. Perhaps that is over coffee the next week. Whatever the case, talk for 15-20 minutes, get their contact information and pledge to get back to them.

This will allow you the opportunity to meet and connect with other people. To this end, when you find a lull in the conversation, simply suggest to them:

“I would love to keep talking, but …

o “I don’t want to occupy your whole time …”
o “There are a couple people I need to connect with before the event is over;” or,
o “I promised myself that I would meet three new, great contacts today … you make one and now I need to find two others.”

“If you do not mind, however, I would like to reach out to you later this week (early next week) and arrange a time where we can continue this conversation.”

Building A Networking Relationship 5 of 7

Getting people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you is dependent upon human interaction. Remember, however, your network (or any network, for that matter) is built one relationship at a time.

There is an Indian proverb that says, “An eagle that chases two rabbits, catches none.” This is true of relationships as well. You will not be able to develop lasting Know, Like, and Trust if you are focused on multiple relationships at any one time. In fact, the more relationships you attempt to develop at once, the less effective you become.

The point to this topic is this: As you are out being involved, do not feel the need to race about meeting as many people as possible … having quick, shallow conversations … collecting business cards and then haphazardly following up with a plethora of people you can hardly remember.

Rather work to have involved conversations with just a few people (and then attend another gathering and do the same). Learn about people. Invest time in who they are. Be genuinely interested. Conduct yourself so that when you follow up, you can do so with substance.

By working to develop relationships one person at a time, you become more effective at developing relationships. In short, people will Know, Like, and Trust you.

Building A Networking Relationship 3 of 7

If you want people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you remember There Is No Shame In Asking. Call it “human nature” or call it the “American Spirit,” but we are hardwired to help one another. Certainly the aftermath of the events of September 11th (or any major tragedy) make this abundantly clear. People will go to great lengths to help one another.

With this, the only thing that separates you from the help that you need is you asking. Dare to ask. Remember, if you are focused on giving and helping others, it is only fair that you attempt to partake from the same process.

• Let others know what kind of help you want.

• Describe the types of people you are trying to meet.

• Explain to your centers of influence how they can help you.

• Solicit people for information on groups or opportunities where you can present the benefits of your particular business or service.

Understand this, if you are polite in asking of others and appreciative of whatever they give (even if it is only time), people will come through. Not everyone, but enough to make it all worthwhile. Equally important, however, when you reach out to others, you are in essence affirming that they have value to offer. It is a wonderful compliment. For that, they will be flattered. As backwards as it might seem, they will Know, Like, and Trust you for reaching out to them.

Creating a Referral Machine 7 of 7

Congratulations! You’ve established relationships and empowered that network. Great! But remember there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it break down because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.

Think of it like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you only have to exert mild force to keep it moving. But don’t let it stop because then it is like starting all over.

Establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving. The mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.

Ask: Continue to ask for referrals, including things your network might not see. Don’t get frustrated if they are not referring things that seem obvious to you. Remember, they don’t live in your world and don’t see it as you do. So ask!

  • Can you introduce me to…?
  • Could you connect me to speak at this event?
  • Would you keep your eyes open for…?

Appreciate: No matter what your network does for you, thank them. If a referral goes nowhere, thank them anyway. Why? The fact they are thinking of you is excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!

Also, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. Dole it out and people will do whatever it takes to get more. Few people thank others. You will set yourself apart when you show your appreciation.

Clarify: No matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.

Don’t get frustrated. They want to help and they are trying. Reconnect with them and clarify your request. One small correction in how they perceive what a good referral for you is could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.

Networking Conversation

 

At a networking event, once you have exchanged names, conversation will likely ensue. Engage In It.

In so doing, do not start the conversation directly focused on business or professional aspects. That can be off-putting and serve to create an uncomfortable situation. Rather, engage in some small talk. Inquire as to the origin of their name. Ask them about their impressions on the event itself. Get them talking on anything other than business. This will serve to make the connection comfortable.

After a few or even several minutes of small talk, segue over to more professional topics. Ask about their business. How long have they done it? What did they do before? How did they get started?

Once the professional discussion has run its course, segue back to small talk. You can reflect on something professional they said, and tie it back to something within the small talk.

As you engage in conversation, be sure to listen to what they have to say. Focus on them, and not your watch, or who is coming through the door, or anything going on around you.

You should express a genuine interest in what they have to say, especially if it is a topic that you set in motion with one of your questions. To do this, face up to them, make eye contact, and:

• Make sounds and comments to indicate understanding (or simply nod your head) … “Oh, interesting.”

• Ask questions to clarify things … “Now, when you say [blank], what do you mean?

• Echo back what they have said in summary fashion … “So you basically got into business because …”

As they talk look for things you have in common, whether they are shared backgrounds, similar experiences, or other ways to relate to them. You can use these to interject or ask questions, as a means of keeping the conversation going.

Building a Networking Relationship: 5 of 7

 

Getting people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you is dependent upon human interaction. Remember, however, your network (or any network, for that matter) is built one relationship at a time.

There is an Indian proverb that says, “An eagle that chases two rabbits, catches none.” This is true of relationships as well. You will not be able to develop lasting Know, Like, and Trust if you are focused on multiple relationships at any one time. In fact, the more relationships you attempt to develop at once, the less effective you become.

The point to this topic is this: As you are out being involved, do not feel the need to race about meeting as many people as possible … having quick, shallow conversations … collecting business cards and then haphazardly following up with a plethora of people you can hardly remember.

Rather work to have involved conversations with just a few people (and then attend another gathering and do the same). Learn about people. Invest time in who they are. Be genuinely interested. Conduct yourself so that when you follow up, you can do so with substance.

By working to develop relationships one person at a time, you become more effective developing relationships, in short people will Know, Like, and Trust you.

Building a Networking Relationship: 3 of 7

 

If you want people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you, remember There Is No Shame In Asking: Call it “human nature” or call it the “American Spirit,” but we are hardwired to help one another. Certainly the aftermath of the events of September 11th (or any major tragedy) make this abundantly clear. People will go to great lengths to help one another.

With this, the only thing that separates you from the help that you need is you asking. Dare to ask. Remember, if you are focused on giving and helping others, it is only fair that you attempt to partake from the same process.

  • Let others know what kind of help you want.
  • Describe the types of people you are trying to meet.
  • Explain to your centers of influence how they can help you.
  • Solicit people for information on job transition groups or opportunities to present on the benefits of franchising.

Understand this, if you are polite in asking of others and appreciative of whatever they give (even if it is only time), people will come through. Not everyone, but enough to make it all worthwhile. Equally important, however, when you reach out to others, you are in essence affirming that they have value to offer. It is a wonderful compliment. For that, they will be flattered. As backwards as it might seem, they will Know, Like, and Trust you for reaching out to them.

The Proper Networking Mindset

It is vital that you understand three recurring networking themes:

• The Golden Rule of Networkingthink positively slogan on blackboard
• Know, Like and Trust
• Every Contact Has Opportunity

Beyond these, however, you also need to have the correct networking mindset, as attitude is everything:

Believe It Works … Whether you believe networking will work or you don’t, you are going to be right. If you believe in it, you will conduct yourself with confidence and that will draw people to you. If you are skeptical of the activity or its potential, that will serve to repel people from you. Thus, BELIEVE!

You Network Well … Remember: Everything you do is networking… Everything you have ever achieved has involved networking … Everywhere you go is networking … Everyone you interact with involves networking. KNOW THIS … You are much better at networking than you likely give yourself credit.

Be Of The Right Mind … Not every day is going to be a good day. As such, if you are not in the right frame of mind (and cannot get there), save your networking for another day … stay home … off the phone … away from e-mail.

In life, attitude is everything. The same is true in networking. Before you network, get the right attitude.

Creating a Referral Machine: 4 of 7

keep the gearsOkay, there are lots of potential people with whom to establish a relationship. What about the “HOW”? How can you make this happen?

Yes, there are lots of people. That is generally not the problem. That is seldom people’s shortcoming in creating a referral machine. It is the “how” that trips people up.

In establishing relationships, there are three main categories of activities you need to consider making part of your personal regimen. (1) Giving or adding values to others; (2) Ensuring that you become involved; and (3) Making sure that you are dependable or reliable in what you say and do.

First, when people hear the term “GIVING TO OTHERS”, they tend to conjure up images of dragging out their wallets. That is not the case at all. There are lots of things you can do in giving or adding value to others.

  • Doing business with others.
  • Sending them referrals.
  • Providing them with information.
  • Spurring them on.
  • Introducing them to others.

Each of these things adds value to others. The key part of all of this, however, is that when you add value to others, they cannot help but feel they know you, like you, trust you. And somehow, they are quietly compelled to return the deed at some point in time.

Second, another means of establishing relationships, is getting involved with your community.

Trust this, no matter where you live, there are business groups, charities and civic initiatives that could use your time, talent and energy. When you get involved in your community, it raises your level of exposure and it demonstrates your commitment. With these things, people cannot help but feel they know you, like you and trust you, which is exactly what you need to start establishing relationships and create a referral machine.

Finally, adding value and getting involved are great for establishing relationships. You, however, will undermine the entire process, if you are not reliable. With even an innocent infraction of unreliability, you can kill your chances of getting referrals. Be reliable … be on time … do what you say… follow-up, as you promise. And if for some reason you are unable to do these things, alert the person who might be relying on you
as soon as possible.

This may all seem like common sense. It is. It is, however not common practice. It has tripped up even those with the best of intentions. Guard against this.

Nevertheless, once you have these relationships established, you can start to put your referral machine to work. That is the subject of Part 5.