10 Questions to Ask When Meeting Someone for the First Time

When meeting someone for the first time, do you ever find yourself getting tongue-tied or feeling lost when it comes to knowing what questions you should ask to get a conversation going? Help is here!

Below, I list 10 questions that I personally use when I’m meeting someone for the first time.  Most of the questions shouldn’t be too surprising to you because what you’re trying to glean from an initial conversation with someone is usually pretty standard.  However, there are two questions that I really, really love.  One of them will allow you to get an idea of what someone is truly passionate about when it comes to their business.  The other will create a powerful opportunity for you to make a real connection and begin building a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

Here are ten great questions to ask someone while networking that are then likely to be asked of you in return. These would be great questions to pose during your next one-to-one meeting.

1. What do you do?

2. Who’s your target market?

3. What do you like most about what you do?

4. What’s new in your business?

5. What’s the biggest challenge for you and your business?

6. What sets you apart from your competition?

7. Why did you start your business?

8. Where is your business located?

9. What’s your most popular product?

10. How do you generate most of your business?

In his book Endless Referrals, my good friend Bob Burg posed what may be the single best question we’ve heard to ask someone about what he or she does. Bob writes that the question “must be asked smoothly and sincerely, and only after some initial rapport has been established”. The question is this: ‘How can I know if someone I’m talking to is a good prospect for you?” Bob is right on the mark with this question. It separates you from the rest of the pack; it’s a question that the average person doesn’t ask. And it demonstrates one of the top ten traits of a master networker: helpfulness

Please think about what questions you ask people during an initial introduction.  Do you have any different or unusual questions which you’ve found to be particularly helpful in your conversations?  I’ve told you what questions I use and I’m very curious to hear what questions you’ve had success with, so please take a moment to share in the comment forum below.

Remembering Names

When networking, it’s important to remember the basics of interpersonal communication–making eye contact, listening more than you speak, and of course, actually remembering people’s names.

Yeah, I’d say remembering someone’s name is high up in the list of mannerisms that will impress others in networking. It shows you pay attention to detail, you listen well and are interested in the person, not just their business.

It can be challenging to remember names, especially if you’re an avid networker. Years ago, I was told about a four-step process that will ensure you never forget your manners–and it actually works!

1. Repetition is key. When you are introduced to someone new, ask for their business card and read it carefully. Then, read the name on the card and ask them to repeat it; it will help lock the face with the name. “Hi! It’s great to meet you, Betsy Smith. It’s pronounced Betsy, yes?”

2. Use their name in conversation. When you begin a conversation, listen to what they are saying and respond by using their name; “Wow, Betsy, that sounds like an incredible opportunity! I’d love to sit down with you over lunch and talk more.” ID-10046846

3. Connect them with others and use their name in the introduction. You are networking after all, so it’s important to connect others if you can. Whe introducing two people, use their names when they first meet. “Joe, I’d like you to meet Betsy. Betsy is a realtor who just landed a big contract with the city. I bet you two would have a lot to talk about!”

4. Dedicate it to memory. Once you’ve left the networking event and you’re back at home or work, take out the business card and try and remember what that person looked like and what they were doing and saying. Maybe even send them a quick “nice to meet you” email to help you remember the conversation you had.

The next time your at a networking event, try to use these devices and see if it helps. If you can remember the devices, that is.

 

Talking on Givers Gain, Passions, and Family

I have been interviewed by countless reporters, blog authors, and more. Usually once you hit the “dozen books published” line, they assume you have a thing or two to say. With all of those interviews, you’d think I’d run out of things to say. In actuality, I’ve found that the energy of the person interviewing me really comes into play and helps make each conversation unique.

Below are a few clips from a recent talk I did with Cordelia Henry of the Referral Institute. We cover a wide spectrum of topics, which I always love because it gives plenty of variety.

On Givers Gain:

On Working in Your Flame:

On Family:

On the Greatest Referral I Ever Got:

Thanks Cordelia, for the wonderful conversation!

Network Your Way Into a New Job

ID-100244639In so many industries, landing a job is all about who you know – whether you define a job as a new client in your business, or a complete career change. People want to work with someone that they know, or someone that a person they know is familiar with. That being said, you can often network your way into a job. I often speak on using networking to expand your business, so this time we’ll take the route of a change in career.

First and foremost, never go into a conversation with a new or seasoned contact expecting a job offer or possibility to come out of it. When was the last time you offered or agreed to help someone who expected your help unconditionally? Not only that, but it is rare that all of your contacts will readily have opportunities that they know of to refer you to. Going into a networking event expecting a lead for a new opportunity will leave you disappointed.

Your primary goal should be to ask for career advice from trusted contacts who you admire. These people may be able to answer questions you have, give suggestions for how you can get where you want to be, and perhaps introduce you to new connections who maybe able to help you, too. Alternatively, they may shed light on aspects of a career that you had’t taken into account, which may cause you to reconsider your goals.

Have you ever networked your way into a new job? How did you use your network? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Leave a Conversation at a Networking Event

conversationEvery conversation must end, some earlier than others. When you’re at a networking event, your top priority should be to get to know someone well enough to begin developing a lasting professional relationship with them. Even if you establish a foundation for a business relationship, eventually the conversation must end. So how do you leave without souring the mood? Or, more difficult, how do you end a conversation that may not being going well?

Schedule a follow up meeting

If you are positive that this relationship will benefit both of your businesses, why end the conversation by planning the next one? Exchange contact information, say you’ll reach out later to meet, and make good on your word. Literally pull out your calendar and schedule time to connect again. If your new contact feels your relationship could be mutually beneficial, they’ll have no problem scheduling something or agreeing to try to in the near future.

Simply exchange cards

If you are still trying to decide if this individual will be a good relationship for you in the long run, simply exchange business cards and perhaps send a follow up email to them later. Starting to get to know this new person will help you figure out how you can help them grow their business, or how they can help grow yours.

Bow out pleasantly

If you’re really struggling keeping the conversation going, end your conversation by thanking them for their time, telling them how wonderful it was to chat, and say you are hoping to catch up with them later. Bowing out gracefully can feel awkward, but is your most painless option here.

What is your go-to method to end a conversation? Let me know in the comments below!

Whatever You Do, Make a Difference

Sometimes it’s easy to wonder if anything you do makes a difference in the world.  When I feel like that I remind myself of this story adapted from a story by Loren Eisely:

differenceA young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them.  In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

What do you do to make a difference, even a small one? Leave your comments in the field below!

Networking Mixers: Make Your Time Count!

NetworkingSome people go to a networking mixer with only one goal in mind: surviving until the time they plan to leave.  However, networking doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity!  Here are two tips to help you make the most of your time at networking mixers, and to help you enjoy yourself so the time will practically fly by.

  1. Set a Goal for the Number of People You’ll Meet.  To get the most out of a networking event, set a goal regarding the number of contacts you want to make or the number of business cards you want to collect.  Don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet fifteen to twenty people and make sure you get each person’s business card.  If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less.  In either case, set a reachable goal based on the attendance and the type of group.
  2. Spend Ten Minutes or Less with Each Person You Meet and Don’t Linger with Friends and Associates.  Since your first goal is to meet a given number of people, you can’t spend too much time with any one person, no matter how interesting the conversation gets.  Stay focused on making as many contacts as you can.  When you meet people who are very interesting and with whom you want to spend more time, set up appointments with them.  You can always meet later to continue the conversation.Don’t try to close business deals while you’re networking; it’s impractical.  Set a date to meet and discuss your product or service in an environment more conducive to doing business.  You may be able to increase your business with hot prospects if you take the time to fully understand their needs.Learn to leave conversations gracefully.  Honesty is usually the best policy; tell them you need to connect with a few more people, sample the hors d’oeuvres, or get another drink.  If you feel uncomfortable with that, exit like a host by introducing new acquaintances to someone you know.  Better yet, if it seems appropriate, ask them to introduce you to people they know.Above all, don’t linger with friends and associates.  These are people you already know, and you’re there to meet people you don’t know.  I attended a mixer once where I saw several business friends stand and talk with one another for two hours.  On their way out, one actually complained, “This was a waste of time.  I didn’t get any business from it, did you?”  Ummm, seriously??  

I highly recommend you try executing these two tips at your next networking mixer.  After you do so, come back and leave a comment in the forum below to let me know how it worked out.  I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results and I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

What Is Your Intent? Do You Know Your Purpose?

Photo courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All great teachers assert the importance of having intent and purpose in our lives.  According to Benjamin Disraeli, “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.”  Before you go into a networking scenario, make sure you know your purpose.  If your underlying pupose is to exploit the group, you will communicate differently, both verbally and nonverbally, than if you intend to give to the group.  You expect an eventual return, of course, but a good networker goes in with the immediate benefit of others uppermost in mind.

We are, at most times in our lives, a dynamic mixture of intentions.  We seek to do good for others, and at the same time we seek personal benefits in many different forms.  When we attend networking events, our attention instinctively and constantly jumps from situation to situation, searching for opportunities that favor us.  To fix your intention firmly on benefitting others, it is useful to organize your thoughts before the event by formulating, in writing, a clear statement of your main purpose–a mission statement.  Focusing on your number-one priority helps you push your many other impulses into the background.

With your attention and intentions focused, you will communicate clearly and unambiguously your willingness to help others solve problems and satisfy needs.  You will be more self-confident and open to the messages of others, and they will sense it and be attracted to you.  Your message will foster trust and rapport with your networking partners, enabling you to establish and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships.

For the networker, the most authentic message of all is this: “I would like to be your friend, and for you to be my friend.  I think we will both benefit from it.  And I want to start this friendship by doing something to help you.”  If you communicate this orientation toward others in all possible ways, with integrity, you will easily form valuable, rewarding, long-lasting networking relationships.

What have you personally found to be an effective tactic in relaying your genuine networking intent/purpose?  Please share your feedback in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

8 Networking Tips to Ensure You Are Approachable

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg, author of The Power of Approachability, has spent a lot of time researching the true meaning of approachability and how it affects our relationships.  You may have heard of Scott.  He’s also known as “the Nametag Guy” (he wears a name tag everywhere he goes).  He’s the author of several books, and he’s a professional speaker who helps people maximize their approachability, become unforgettable, and make names for themselves.

Scott emphasizes that approachability is a two way street.  “It’s both you stepping onto someone else’s front porch, and you inviting someone to step onto your front porch.”  Below are eight tips from Scott (I’ve modified them a little) on how to maximize your approachability.

1) Be Ready to Engage–When you arrive at a meeting, event, party, or anywhere many conversations will take place, prepare yourself.  Be “ready to engage,” with conversation topics, questions, and stories in the back of your mind, ready to go as soon as you meet someone.  This will help you avoid those awkward “How’s the weather?” discussions.

2)  Focus on CPI–“CPI” stands for Common Point of Interest.  It’s an essential element in every conversation and interaction.  Your duty, as you meet new people, or even as you talk with those you already know, is to discover the CPI as soon as possible.  It helps establish a bond between you and others.  It increases your approachability and allows them to feel more comfortable talking with you.

3)  Give Flavored Answers–You’ve heard plenty of “fruitless questions” in your interactions with other people–questions like “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” or “How are you?”  When such questions come up, Scott warns, don’t fall into the conversation-ending trap of responding, “Fine.”  Instead, offer a “flavored answer”: “Amazing!” “Any better and I’d be twins!” or “Everything is beautiful.”  Your conversation partner will instantly change her demeanor, smile, and, most of the time, inquire further to find out what made you answer that way.  Why?  Because nobody expects it.  Not only that, but offering a true response to magnify the way you feel is a perfect way to share yourself, or “make yourself personally available” to others.

4)  Don’t Cross Your Arms at Networking Events–Even if it’s cold, you’re bored, or you’re just tired and don’t want to be there–don’t cross your arms.  It makes you seem defensive, nervous, judgmental, closed-minded, or skeptical.  It’s a simple, subconscious, nonverbal cue that says, “Stay away.”  People see crossed arms, and they drift away.  They don’t want to bother you.  You’re not approachable.  Think about it, would you want to approach someone like that?  Probably not.  So when you feel that urge to fold your arms across your chest like a shield, stop.  Be conscious of its effect.  Then, relax and do something else with your arms and hands.

5)  Give Options for Communication–Your friends, colleagues, customers, and coworkers communicate with you in different ways.  Some will choose face-to-face; some will e-mail; others will call; still others will do a little of everything.  Accommodate them all.  Give people as many ways as you can to contact you.  Make it easy and pleasant.  On your business cards, e-mail signatures, websites, and marketing materials, let people know they can get in touch with you in whatever manner they choose.  Maybe you prefer e-mail, but what matters most is the other person’s comfort and ability to communicate with you effectively.  There’s nothing more annoying to a “phone person” than to discover she can’t get a hold of you unless she e-mails you.

6)  Always Have Business Cards–At one time or another you’ve probably been on either the telling or listening end of a story about a successful, serendipitous business encounter that ended with the phrase “Thank God I had one of my business cards with me that day!”  If you recall saying something like that yourself, great!  You’re practicing approachability by being easy to reach.   If not, you’ve no doubt missed out on valuable relationships to get their supply reprinted, or change jobs.  Always remember: There is a time and a place for networking–any time and any place!  You just never know whom you might meet.

7)  Conquer Your Fear–Do you ever hear yourself saying, “They won’t say hello back to me.  They won’t be interested in me.  I will make a fool of myself”?  Fear is the number-one reason people don’t start conversations–fear of rejection, fear of inadequacy, fear of looking foolish.  But practice will make this fear fade away.  The more you start conversations, the better you will become at it.  So, be the first to introduce yourself, or simply to say hello.  When you take an active rather than a passive role, you will develop your skills and lower your chances of rejection.

8)  Wear Your Name Tag–I’ve heard every possible excuse not to wear name tags, and all of them can be rebutted: “Name tags look silly.”  Yes, they do.  But remember, everyone else is wearing one too.  “Name tags ruin my clothes.”  Not if you wear them on the edge of your lapel, or use cloth-safe connectors, like lanyards and plastic clips.  “But I already know everybody.”  No, you don’t.  You may think you do, but new people enter and leave businesses and organizations all the time.  “But everyone already knows me.”  No, they don’t.  Even the best networkers know there’s always someone new to meet.  Your name tag is your best friend for several reasons.  First of all, a person’s name is the single piece of personal information most often forgotten–and people are less likely to approach you if they don’t know (or have forgotten) your name.  Second, it’s free advertising for you and your company.  Third, name tags encourage people to be friendly and more approachable.

So, what do you think of Scott’s never-leave-home-without-your-name-tag strategy?  Do you have any own tips or tactics for making yourself approachable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

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