“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie, author of the classic book How To Win Friends and Influence People
A lot of business people don’t understand networking. They mistakenly think it’s about going to a Chamber of Commerce event, handing out their business cards and saying, “If you know anyone who needs my services, let me know.” Have you ever done that? If so, how many business deals did it lead to? (My guess is about the same number as the Cubs’ World Series victories in the past 100 years …)
As in building any relationship, real networking takes time and effort. I’ve been telling my clients to use the following request when they’ve met people at networking events: “It’s been nice talking with you. Let me get your card — I’d like to get together for breakfast/lunch/coffee with you. I’d like to find out more about your business, share a little bit about mine and see how we can help each other — sound fair?” What business owner (especially in a tough economy) would say no to that?
One of my clients, Chris H., a financial advisor, has a good story to share about networking based on this. He read about the “10 Feel-Good Questions” in Endless Referrals by Bob Burg. In this highly recommended book, Burg gives a number of questions for you to use to “interview” someone. The premise is that people do business with others they know, like and trust — and refer business to them. And what better way is there to initially get others to know, like and trust you than by letting them talk about themselves?
After Chris and I discussed this approach on a coaching call, he had a list of questions ready for his very next one-on-one networking meeting, but needed only four to get a business owner on a roll. Here’s what he asked, in this order:
1. Give me some background on your business, starting with where did you go to college? Chris claims the guy rambled on non-stop for 20 minutes! People LOVE to tell their story, as their spouse and others close to them are tired of hearing it. (Just ask my wife Paula …) And, if you ask about where people went to college, it most often brings back fond memories of a simpler time in their life.
2. If I were talking with someone, how would I know if he/she was a good prospect for you? He helped the owner to clarify who his ideal prospect is.
3. If I were talking with someone, how would I know if he/she was a good center of influence for you? Then he helped this person identify other business contacts who might not be prospects, but who might be able to refer business to him.
4. Do you currently have a relationship with an advisor? At this point, perhaps 45 minutes into it, the business owner told Chris he was unhappy with his current advisor and said he wanted to transfer over his accounts. Chris even said in our subsequent coaching session, “It can’t be this easy Jim, can it???” I’m not saying it will always be, but this is the approach I recommend you all take when meeting one-on-one with business owners for networking.
Obviously, if you’re in another type of business, you’ll need to adapt the final question. But if you get another person talking enough to generate good vibes toward you, they just might have a need for your products or services, or know someone who will. Of course, the best way to insure you’ll get referrals is to give them first — that shows you are sincere about building a relationship vs. having a “one card stand,” so to speak.
This should be easy enough for you to apply — try it, let me know how it works for you. Remember the key: To be INTERESTING, be INTERESTED.