Sometimes at networking events, I observe people engaging in what I call “dueling monologues” which are basically prolonged dueling talks by one person at a time.
I don’t think most people are really interested in participating in this type of conversation. The problem is that a lot of people are winging it when it comes to networking, and they often go straight into sales mode. When they do this with someone who is also winging it, it leads to a dueling monologue syndrome. I’ve seen it many times.
So how do we avoid the dueling monologue syndrome?
I believe the answer is don’t show off, show interest.
The Goal of Networking
What is the goal for your networking efforts? If it is to build your business, then it is all about building relationships with people.
Go to networking events with the intention to build a business relationship. Don’t try to dazzle people with your brilliance. You can certainly do that later. Stand out from the crowd and impress them with your genuine interest in them. Not your interest in selling to them but your genuine interest in them as a person.
A good networker is like a good talk show interviewer. A good interviewer asks the guests questions and gives them time to elaborate and respond. I think a good networker is very similar – they ask questions, then listen and let people talk.
Follow the Conversation to Ask More Questions
Follow the thread of the conversation to the point where you can ask more questions. Your questions should be open-ended, probing, and respectful. These are questions that allow the respondent to really open up and discuss what you’ve asked.
Here are some examples of questions to start with. Don’t ask one question after another in rapid succession. Do ask one or two of these questions at the beginning and then follow the thread of the conversation to ask more.
- What do you like best about what you do?
If their answer is short, ask them Why? Or ask for some examples.
- How did you get started in your industry?
You can ask clarification questions as they start talking
- What is your target market?
Ask more questions to be clear about who their best customers are.
- What is an example of a great client for you?
You want them to be very specific in describing the example.
- What are some of the challenges you have in your business?
This can be your opportunity to find a way to help them, without selling to them.
- Where else do you network? What other groups do you go to?
Follow up with: What do you like about those groups?
This is great information to find out where you are likely to see them again.
Listen for the Need
If you hear them describe a problem or a need of any kind, think about someone in your personal network whom you trust that you can refer them to. Nothing expedites a relationship faster than helping someone you’ve met by referring them to another person – or sometimes even a book, website, or article – that can help them with the challenge. It is very powerful when you can refer people to other content that helps them succeed and goes a long way toward building a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Many people out there think they know how to network but are really just doing face-to-face cold calling. YOU can be different. A great networker is fully engaged, asking questions, and actively listening. They make it about the other person rather than about themselves. Remember: Don’t show off, show interest.