Meeting for the First Time?–10 Questions to Ask

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! . . .

In this video, 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.

As you’re watching the video, think about what questions you ask people during an intial 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.  I read every single comment left on my blog site and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you–thanks so much!

Getting to the Referral Stage with a New Contact

People often ask me how to move a relationship with someone they just met to the point where the new contact feels comfortable passing them a referral.

I always say that the best way to get to this next referral-passing stage depends in part on how you came into contact with a person in the first place.  Let’s say you met while giving a brief presentation to a group of people who are in your target market.  Assuming you did a good job, then you absolutely have the possibility of receiving a referral, even though you just met.  Why? Because the presentation moved you from visibility to credibility in the new contact’s mind and now they’re probably willing to risk their reputation and recommend you to someone they know.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The same thing is true when you’re out networking.  If you have a good conversation with someone and truly add value to the conversation, then moving from visibility to credibility isn’t that difficult, and you’ll be in great shape for getting some referral-based business.  What’s more, it’s not terribly important whether the person is someone you might do business with directly.  Even if your businesses don’t match up, the other person might have information that’s useful or might know other people you’d like to get in contact with.  It’s often worthwhile to develop a networking relationship with people who have little in common with you because they can bring an entirely new network into contact with yours and broaden your business horizons.

 

Just bear in mind that even if there is a strong possibility that you’re going to do business with this new contact, it’s probably not going to happen there at the networking event, where conversations last anywhere from an eye-blink three minutes to a long-winded seven.  Instant business is not likely to be had.  But if you follow up with a quick note a few days later, you can make some one-to-one time and come up with ways the two of you can help each other.  That meeting is where you’ll have your best opportunity for a quick referral.

 

What has your experience been with moving to the referral stage with new contacts–do you have a tactic that seems to be particularly effective?  If so, please share it in the comments section.  Thanks!

Got Business Goals?–Connect with Those Who Can Help You!

Last week I posted a blog on how to meet the right people and I focused on explaining how to meet people who serve the same professional client as you.  Today, I’d like to continue this discussion but I’d like to focus specifically on how to meet people who can help you meet your business goals.

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First off, if you haven’t set business goals then let’s stop right here–you need to make that your top priority this week!  If you do have business goals, don’t let them collect dust on your bulletin board or get covered up in your drawer.  Make it a point to review them each month.  Choose a goal.  The big question you need to ask yourself is “Who do I need to meet to help me accomplish this goal?”

It’s tough to make it alone in today’s competitive business environment.  Even the biggest sports stars or governmental candidates can’t reach their goals alone–so why should we try to go it alone?  Let’s say that one of your business goals this year is to write an article for a local paper.  How would you network your way to achieving that goal?  Well, first, you would start reading the paper.  You’d find out who writes the articles, who writes for other papers in your area, who the editors are, etc.  Then you would get the word out to your own network as there’s a fair chance it includes someone who could put you in contact with the right individual.  You would let it be known that you wanted to meet writers, editors, and others working for local papers so you could gain insight and knowledge into how they accomplished something you were aspiring to do–you would also let it be known that you were in no way intending to try to sell to these people.

You would also look for networking events sponsored by these publications.  You’d probably find staff members there providing support and you’d want to focus on meeting and speaking with the right people–professionals connected with the publication–again, with the intention of learning how to write an article for your local business paper.  No matter what your goal is, writing and publishing an article or otherwise, if you network with the people who have the experience and connections to guide you toward your goal, you will be well on your way to accomplishing it.

Another example of this strategy is to think of the people involved in the six degrees of separation study.  They had a goal to achieve . . . to get a package to a specific person whom they did not know.  I would venture to suspect that the successful people in the study began by scouring their network for the right people who could help them accomplish this goal.  Choosing anyone and everyone would have increased the links along the way . . . which was obviously the strategy of the 71% of the people who never connected at all.

In summary, remember:  When you’re considering asking someone in your personal network for a favor, ask yourself whether she’s simply a contact or an actual established connection.  Avoid the trap of having unrealistic expectations of your network, such as support that your contacts may feel you don’t deserve.  You have to earn the loyalty and engagement of your referral sources.  Your current goal has two parts: (1) to meet the right people, and (2) to develop deep relationships with them over time.

So, to help you pinpoint who you should be focusing on meeting the next time you’re at a networking event, make a list of the following:

  • 5 professions (other than your own) that serve your preferred client market
  • 2 business goals of yours
  • 2 individuals you might seek out for help in accomplishing goal #1 and 2 individuals who might help you meet goal #2

How do you feel about the list you came up with?  Do you find it helpful?  Does it give you a clearer picture of where you want your business to go and who you should focus on meeting in order to steer your business in that direction?  I’d love to get your feedback on this so please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

How to Meet the RIGHT People

A networking event is not–I repeat not–designed to bring strangers together for the purpose of referring themselves to one another.  Why would you refer yourself to someone you barely know?  A typical networking event is designed to have people who don’t know one another meet and mingle.  But for a networking event to be fully productive for you, you must meet the right people for the right reasons.  Meeting the right people will make a positive impact on your business and give you a high return on your networking investment.

Handshake

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, at a networking event, how exactly do you identify the right people to meet?  You do this by considering two types of individuals: those serving your preferred clients and those who have the potential to help you meet your business goals.  Today I’d like to focus on looking at those who serve the same professional client as you.  “Hey, aren’t those folks likely to be my competitors?” you might wonder.  Not necessarily.

Consider these two examples:

  • Lorraine is a real estate agent whose preferred clients are retired home owners or empty nesters with assets over $1 million, who love to travel, are country club members, and seriously pamper their pets.  Other suppliers for their services might include high-end salons and spas, professional landscapers, financial advisors, country club owners, travel agents, home-cleaning service providers, and pet resorts.
  • Tanya is the owner of a direct-mail company that targets colleges and universities.  When Tanya could not determine who else serviced the decision makers at the university, her marketing coach asked her if she had a current client in that preferred market.  She said yes.  Then she was asked, “How well do you know her?  Will she take your call?  Would she grant you thirty minutes of her time?”  Tanya emphatically replied, “Yes!”  Her coach then suggested that she schedule a purposeful meeting and sit down with her to pick her brain on who she grants her time to and who else supports her needs.

Your preferred clients have many suppliers for their needs and it could be in your best interest to connect and build relationships with those other suppliers so, when networking, you want to focus on meeting these people.  The answers to the questions that were asked of Tanya helped direct her to the people she should be searching for while networking.  You can gain the same benefit by having a similar conversation with one of your preferred clients and asking questions like these: “Who else solves your daily problems?” ; “Who do you allow in the door?” ; “What companies do you call on when you need (product)?” ; “Whom do you trust when it comes to helping you (type of service)?”

At networking events, look for name tags that fit specific professional categories you’re seeking to cultivate.  If you meet a professional who services your preferred client–and you like the individual as a person–consider this the first step in building a new relationship.  If you build a trusting and giving relationship with someone who provides services for your preferred client market, it stands to reason that your referral potential will increase dramatically.  Remember that in a true tri-win (that’s win-win-win) relationship, that person’s referral potential will also increase, and the client will get the best service possible.

Be sure to come back next week as I’ll be posting specifically about the other types of people you want to focus on meeting while networking–those who can help you meet your business goals.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any stories you may have about how you successfully built a relationship with someone who serves the same professional client as you do and how that relationship has benefited you and/or the other service provider .  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below–thanks!

 

 

Are You Using Networking Tools Effectively?

The Second Law of Notable Networking: Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking)

A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully.  All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business.  A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer.  To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well.   Good networkers’ tools include:

  • name tags to identify themselves to others,
  • card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
  • card files to carry other people’s business cards.

It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.”  Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers.  Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique.  However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people.  At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.

At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag.  Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge.  I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in!  You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.

I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them.  Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking.  They should be well designed and present a professional image.  Most important, you need to have them in your possession!  A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer.  Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot.  Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.

In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with.  These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well.  Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software.  When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities.  In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities.  You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders.  If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.

Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts?  If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!

 

Body Language Can Be the Silent Killer of Conversations

Body language can be an extremely powerful or attractant or deterrent when it comes to building relationships with others.  Could you be unknowingly undermining your networking efforts through your body language?

Here’s a good experiment to implement, sooner rather than later.  The next time you’re out networking, take along a trusted friend and have him observe your body language.  Here are several things you can ask him to focus on regarding your performance at this event:

  • Eye contact.  Are you making good eye contact throughout the conversation?  Or are you looking behind the person to see who else is at the event?
  • Arm movement.  What are your arms doing?  Are they folded (“I’m bored”) or tucked behind your back (“I’m interested”)?
  • Positioning.  Are you standing in a manner that is open and welcoming, or blocking people out of your conversation?  Are you leaning on something, as if bored or tired?  Are you unable to shake hands because you’re juggling  a plateful of food?
  • Facial expressions.  Are you smiling, or holding back a yawn?  Are you showing interest?  What does your face say?

Take time to discuss your friend’s observations and reactions.  Listen to the feedback, become more aware, and make adjustments accordingly.  Our body language is primarily subconscious–we’re usually not aware of it, or the hidden messages it sends.  That’s why we need the help of someone we trust to give us honest feedback.

People check you out visually within the first seven seconds of meeting you.  With that in mind, try these two actions in the next few weeks to help ensure that you are making positive and powerful first impressions:

  1. Look in the mirror before leaving the house and ask yourself, “What message am I sending to those who are meeting me for the first time?  What opinions will they have of me before I even open my mouth?”
  2. Become more aware of your body language by getting feedback.  What are you saying without speaking a word?  Take someone with you to your next networking function and ask them to provide honest, direct feedback on your body language.

After you’ve taken these actions, please come back and leave a comment sharing what important things you learned–we’d all like to hear your thoughts!

Sorting Out Who’s Who

So, let’s say you’ve just returned from a networking event where you met a lot of new people and now you have a pocketful of business cards that you’re not sure what to do with.  What’s your first order of business?  Your first order of business is to sort out who’s who.

You need to separate the people you think might become new clients or referral partners right now from the ones who might be valuable contacts sometime in the future but not right away.  Let’s call the first group your A list, the rest your B list.  (Sounds kind of Hollywood, doesn’t it? :))  When you enter them into your contact database, labeling each contact as part of group “A” or “B” would be good to include (along with type of business, address, phone number, event where you met, etc.).

Now that you’ve got your contacts filed away neatly, take a look first at your B list. You want these folks to know you enjoyed meeting them, and you want to keep the door open for doing business with them later on if a good opportunity arises.  You can do this with a quick note by either e-mail or snail mail.* If you find you need to reconnect with one of these people at a later time, you’ll at least have some traction in the relationship simply because you followed up with a quick e-mail.

Now, what about your A list? These are people who have immediate potential as referral partners.  You need to follow up with them quickly–within a few days, before you drop off their radars.  First, initiate a “coffee connection” with each of your new contacts, a follow-up meeting where you can get to know her and find out how you can help her.  Anything short of trying to find ways to help her will generally be treated as a sales call instead of a relationship-building contact.  To ask for this first meeting, either a handwritten note or an e-mail is acceptable.*

At this point, you may be asking, “What about the people I meet who aren’t potential clients and aren’t in a field that can refer business to me?  Should I follow up with them anyway?” Absolutely!  You never know whom other people know; even a quick little “Nice to meet you” e-mail is better than not doing anything at all and hoping these people remember you later when you discover a need to do business with one of them.

Now that you know how to sort out who’s who, be sure to do this each and every time with the business cards you gather in your daily networking activities and, I guarantee you, you will start to see greater results from your networking efforts.

*Come back on Thursday to read a blog entry with specific examples of what your follow up notes to group A contacts and group B contacts should say–I’ll give you two free follow-up note templates so you’ll have no excuses for not following up with your new contacts.  Trust me, following up couldn’t be any easier than this!


Get Your Act Together

Let’s face it: As a businessperson, you’ve got a lot going on. There are people to see, places to go and a whole lot of stuff to do. Can you do all this, and look and act presentable at all times, too?

Quite frankly, getting and keeping your act together can be a little overwhelming for even the sanest of people, so here are some tips:

1. Look the part before going to a networking event.  You’d be surprised how many people fall short in the fundamental area of appearance. If it’s a chamber of commerce networking breakfast, don’t dress casually–wear a good suit or outfit. You need to be well-rested and clearheaded when attending a morning networking session; make a conscious effort to get plenty of sleep the night before. If you’re not a morning person, hit the sack earlier than usual, so you don’t look like the walking dead. Regardless of how many cups of coffee you’ve had, people can tell if you’re not all there.

2. Make sure your body language sends the right message. When it comes to forming networking relationships, most of the important information–trustworthiness, friendliness, sincerity, openness–is communicated through nonverbal cues such as posture, facial expression and hand gestures. When engaging in conversation, look the other person directly in the eye and stay focused on what he’s saying. Lean a bit into the conversation rather than away from it; don’t stand rigid, with your arms crossed.

3. Be prepared. Make sure you know which pocket your business cards are in, and have plenty on hand. Nothing screams, “One of these days I’ve got to get organized!” louder than handing a potential referral partner someone else’s card.

4. Remember to smile. Studies have shown that if you smile when you talk, you seem more open and forthright. Obviously you don’t want to go overboard with this, and start grinning and shaking hands like a hyperactive clown; just show that you’re having a good time, and that will send the right message.

Perception is reality when it comes to meeting people for the first time. If people perceive you as not being right for them, they simply won’t be inclined to refer business to you, regardless of the work you can actually do. However, by keeping the above tips in mind, you’ll go a long way toward creating the right impression in the blink of an eye.

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