So What do You do When You Are Not Networking?

I am sure that it has happened to you when you are networking; perhaps they have gone around the room and each person has announced briefly what they do. Another person will then come up and explain all the wonderful things that they can do for your clients and that of course you should refer them immediately and they will be happy to relieve you of all your clients! Well, that last part is a bit of an exaggeration, but not the rest. And then they are off to run down their next target.

Needless to say, I am not usually going to refer clients to someone who does not bother to ask me what I do. I would be fairly sure that most who approach me like this do not even realize the impression that they are making; they are probably thinking that they are working hard to find business. Problem is they are not using the right tools to find business. There are really three tools that are vital to networking: a brain and two ears!

The real objective of networking is not to close new business in 5 minutes, but to find out if the person you are working with has a real need that you can fulfill, including whether or not you yourself can refer them to someone else that might be a potential client or customer. The real key to meeting this objective is asking the right questions and then, listening intently while asking key follow up questions.

Spending all the time talking about your own company will quickly persuade the other person that you are your favorite topic! The easiest way to get started is with the question, “What do you do?”, or the variant that is in the title to this Blog entry. From there, you can ask more questions about that person’s product or service and get more details.

The second phase of a networking conversation that follows is to ask, “How’s Business?” You will often get am honest answer even if the answer is negative. The easiest question to use to keep the conversation going at this point is “Why is that?” The answer to this question will often lead you to what that company’s real needs are. Careful listening, and clarifying questions such as “So, if I understand correctly_____.” (Fill in the blank with what you have heard) will give you a good idea of where their company is right now.

If you feel that you could refer them to a potential client, ask one more question, “What does a potential customer or client look like?” The answer will make it clear how to determine who their clients are. The additional information will also help you determine whether or not this person’s company needs your services. If they do, then you can move on the final step of your networking conversation, asking for a meeting.

You normally do this by giving the other person a business card, and saying something like, “We seem to have a lot in common, we should get together…maybe have a coffee!” At this point, the other person will often answer yes, simply because you have listened so well. They will probably feel that you have a lot in common because you asked such good questions and were a good conversationalist. Of course, the definition of a good conversationalist is someone who asks good questions and then listens very carefully!

4 thoughts on “So What do You do When You Are Not Networking?

  1. Kevin – It is true that listening is an art and a useful skill to develop. For most, the point of conversation is “what can you do for me?”. Too often, a conversation is ended when that benefit is not immediately recognized. Asking open ended questions and listening to the response does take time but the rewards can be worth the investment. Not only does an exchange of information build rapport, listening to what the other person has to say can provide an opportunity to learn. This holds true in building a network, in sales and in an interview process … whatever the situation. If a person listens more, they learn more.

  2. Great comments, Kevin. I’ve had some wonderful training in this stuff from my friends at Samurai Business Group. Key things I’ve learned:

    1) Make it all about the other person, which you do by asking questions. This is easy if you are sincerely interested in the other person. Not so easy to fake. It is made much easier if you approach every conversation from the perspective that your goal is to find ways to be helpful to the other person, not the other way round. A great tip (from Dale Carnegie as described in Warren Buffett’s biography): Imagine everyone you meet has a sign around their neck that says, “Make me feel important today.”

    2) Yes, you need to have a (very!) short description of what you do, which you put out there only when asked. If it draws interest, you’ll know because you’ll get a response like “Interesting. Tell me more.” Even then, make it about the other person (which you can do by responding, “Sure. It seems like what I just said struck a chord with you. Would you mind telling me what that was?”)

    3) Referrals do not come from 5 minute conversations at networking events, or even the one-hour coffee conversations that follows. They come from real relationships in which trust has been developed. That conversation over coffee is the beginning of the process, not the end of it.

    4) Make it all about the other person.

  3. Wow excellent article couldnt have been said any better! As a young business owner this has really helped me understand and approach network marketing events with much more confidence. I’d love to see an article on cold calling. Being in the web design business I finally found myself cold calling companies rather then dropping in unannounced to their business and getting the “Why are you soliciting to my company face”

    I called a local car wash and started out by saying. I’m a frequent customer to your car wash and always buy gift cards around the Holiday Season. And last year I was unable to purchase them due to the consistent snow storms we have had. So I wanted to get in touch with you about possibly exploring a gift card purchasing solution for your website. The owner said ok so I continued learning a bit more about his business.

    I asked the owner “How much of your sales are generated from your website” and the owner “said about 10 – 20%.” Which seemed about right for how old the site was they really needed a marketing overalhaul.

    I said ok great our goal would be to increase that # I asked if they were currently involved in any social media campaigns ie. facebook twitter he said no to that as well. So in my head I knew there were avenues I could pursue to make them money.

    The business owner asked me “I’m not sure how your system would work because we assign the giftcards # on a register system” I simply said not to worry we can easily integrate that system.

    Long story short he said he would talk to his brothers and to email him some information.

    He gave me his email which I even repeated back to him turns out to be a fake email as I got the bounceback after spending 1 hour writing him on how the system would work etc..

    My only thought is that the car wash does so well perhaps they arent interested in investing more money into the business.

    But why not just tell me that why give me a fake email and then not return my calls when I call to follow up??

    Where did I go wrong?

    • Kevin R Callahan

      Funny you should ask. Please see my Blog posting from last week, “What’s the Purpose of This Call?”!

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