Small Talk To Big Business

Remember, small talk is the warm-up that leads to the work out. The workout is talking business. To make this happen, eventually you need to transition from small talk to real business.

When this moment comes, you will know. At some point in your exchange there will be a lull. Use this moment to get at a more meaty discussion on business (whatever that might be).

Be forewarned, however, this is not to suggest that you start to pitch them or set them up for a close. It merely suggests that once you have them comfortably engaged in conversation, you should ease into a more professional discussion of their business or your business.

For example, a nice segue might be, “Water skiing isn’t cheap! What do you do professionally to pay for it?”

Do not try to steer them. For example, a business coach, should not ask, “Do you use business coaches in your business?” A financial advisor, should not open with, “How is your 401K doing these days?” A promotional products person should not jump to “How do you use ad specialty items in your business?”

Do NOT push it. Keep the tone light and the sales probing to a minimum. If you do this right, you will have lots of opportunities to gather future business intelligence, pitch them, and close them.  Remember, people do business with those they Know, Like & Trust.

Return To Small Talk

After the professional conversation has run its course but before the conversation ends, touch back on something related to your small talk conversation.

For example: “Great talking with you. Assuming, you don’t get laid up in the hospital skiing between now and then, I would enjoy continuing our conversation over a cup of coffee sometime.”

Why is this important? By returning to “small talk”, you have demonstrated that you were listening and that you remembered. More subtly, however, you are reflecting back to a part of the conversation when they likely delighted in your interest in them.


Great Questions To Ignite “Small Talk”

Great Questions To Ignite “Small Talk”

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?

While there is no magic, planning 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?
    • If yes – What part?
    • If 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 for how you will get and keep them talking.

219) The Attractiveness Of Courage

Life is not an endless succession of forward progress. While you may enjoy success, at some point or another you will also encounter frustrating challenges and disappointing setbacks. It is during these moments of hardship that you have the greatest opportunity to establish your personal brand and build your network.

You see, when you stare down frustrating challenges and disappointing setbacks with an attitude of determination, you establish yourself as courageous. This draws others toward you.

There is little question that people love an underdog. And, they can’t help but rally around one who is battling to overcome some sort of setback or hardship. So, by demonstrating an attitude of courageous determination, others want to draw from this strength, and they hope to take inspiration from it. In any event, they cannot help but want to get to know you better and cannot help but want to get to like you more.


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218) Don’t Misrepresent Yourself

It is said that to conceal a single lie, it takes at least 15 other lies. And then to conceal each of those 15 lies, you’ll need a whopping 225 more lies just to conceal one single incident of deceit. And from there … well, you get the picture.

It takes far more time and energy to conceal a falsehood than it does to simply own up to and deal with the truth.

Be honest in all matters, even as it relates to your personal brand. You know in your heart of hearts when effective marketing or spin crosses the line into outright misrepresentation. So, you’re best to stay well on the right side and away from the gray area.

This is the reality: eventually an exaggeration “gone-too-far” will come back to haunt you. This moment could then quickly destroy any and all credibility you you’ve worked so hard to build.

So be honest. Don’t misrepresent yourself.


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216) Adhere To The Golden Rule

Do you want more from your network? Of course, you do. You’re not alone. Everyone does.

Everyone wants more referrals. Everyone wants to be connected to more opportunities. Everyone seeks inroads to great, game-changing information. And everyone wants all the other benefits that a network can provide. So, like everyone else, you want more from your network.

What most people fails to realize, however, is that if you want to get more from your network you need to focus on giving more to it. Though this might seem completely counterintuitive, it’s true.

This is often referred to as the Golden Rule of Networking and is simply stated as “Give First; Get Second.” This law is universal and is rooted in human nature, spanning time and remaining consistent from one culture to another.

So, if you want more from your network, begin today infusing it with referrals, opportunities, contacts, energy and whatever else could help others. In time, this will come back to you in plenty.


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215) Rainmaker Contacts

It is great to be connected to people who want what you sell here and now. It can, however, be more lucrative long-term to build your network with contacts who can connect you to these clients on a consistent basis.

These are rainmaker contacts and they are vital to ongoing success. Who are they? These are entrepreneurs or professionals who don’t do what you do, but their clientele is virtually identical to yours. For example, a business banker would benefit from meeting a CPA type, as these accountant types can refer their clients.

With this understanding, do three things. One, identify who are the potential rainmaker contacts in your world. Next, find opportunities to interact with these entrepreneurs and professionals. Then, finally, from time to time ask your network to introduce you to them.

These are three important steps as rainmaker contacts represent a treasure trove of new business.


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214) Bonnie Richardson High

In 2009, Rochelle High School won the Texas Class 1A high school girls track and field championship for the second year in a row. No big deal, right? Someone wins the championship every year. And, from time to time a high school will do it back to back.

What made this title unique, however, was that while state track championships are generally a team effort, these championships were the result of one girl’s effort – Bonnie Richardson.

Yes, this one young woman, competing against teams with multiple athletes, did enough to single-handedly win a state track and field championship. She won the high jump. Placed second in the long jump. Finished third in the discus. Won the 200 meter. And took second in the 100 meter.

Life can be like this. Sometimes you don’t have a team to rely upon. Sometimes, if you really want to succeed, it’s just up to you.


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213) Trees & Grass

Twentieth-century author Hal Borland once said, “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

Be like a tree. You can’t expect to be at your peak potential overnight. Rather, like a tree, you break through as merely a seedling in your chosen field of expertise. Then year after year, you reach and grow … expanding bit by bit. And all along, capitalizing on opportunities to take in the enlightenment of knowledge and experience.

But also, be like grass. You will endure setbacks, figuratively being stepped on and cut down. Whatever the case, just keep going. Be undeterred by challenges. Overcome and continue on. Let no one stop you from achieving what you’re hardwired to achieve.

When things don’t move at the pace you’d like, look up and remember the trees. Adopt their patience. When you encounter that setback, look down at the grass. Take a lesson from it and relentlessly persist.


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212) The Reconnection Call

If you’re like most, your life is littered with relationships with whom you’ve lost touch. No one is to blame. These things happen. For whatever reason, their life and yours have taken different paths.

And while, you may no longer be on the same life path, there is still tremendous value in these contacts. So, you should make an opportunity from time to time to simply reconnect. But how?

Donna Fisher, in her book People Power, has some straightforward advice: Simply call. Labeling this a “Reconnection Call”, Fisher indicates that it is made for the purpose of “re-establishing a relationship.”

Once we have the person on the line, simply acknowledge that it has been a long time, and then express an interest in catching up. Although it may feel awkward at first, remember your old friend is being reconnected too. So, your call will be a welcome benefit to him or her as well.


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211) Shut Up And Listen

Award winning business coach, motivational speaker and author of A Life Best Lived: A Story of Life, Death and Second Chances, Danny Creed has some sage advice for achieving your goals and dreams: Simply serve others around you. Your family. Your friends. Your clients. Your colleagues. Your vendors.

This then begs the question, “How do I best serve others?” He has great advice for that too. It’s simply this: SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

When you do that, you can help others be successful by understanding their own definition of success. To effectively listen, you need to completely focus your attention on the person and be genuinely interested, with an intent to actually learn.

Moreover, don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Stay off e-mail, text and social media. And, by all mean, lean into the conversation with your body and eye contact.

Coach Creed is right. Success starts by serving others. And serving others starts by shutting up and listening.


Like what you’ve read? Prefer to hear it as a podcast or daily flash briefing? Subscribe to the Networking Rx Minute podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts.