How to Improve Your Networking Skills
When we think about surrounding ourselves with the right people, we often think in terms of what those people can do for us. The real question you should be asking is, “What value can I bring to people?”
People do business with people, not businesses. Most people at networking events go right out, shake hands, ask what the other person’s name and business are and hand off a card. Sound familiar? If so, smack your business-card-passing hand on the wrist!
That, my friends, is not how connections are made. Aim for the “second handshake” with your networking conversations.
Picture this scenario: You walk into a networking event, and as usual, people are looking at you like you’re their next meal. Someone immediately approaches you, reaches out to shake your hand and says (in one breath), “Hi, my name is Brady, I’m the owner of Awesome Business, I do X, Y and Z. What’s your name and what do you do?” You spurt your scripted answer back, exchange cards and walk away. There’s no connection; there’s no second handshake.
Now, try this scenario: You walk into a networking event, go up to someone who looks interesting, shake hands and introduce yourselves by name. You say, “Phil, I’m curious -- how did you get into doing what you do?” And a conversation ensues. After about five minutes, you’ve learned that you both left corporate jobs to go it on your own. You have something in common. The foundation of a relationship is laid. And you both genuinely enjoyed the conversation to the point that when you start to walk away, he extends his hand and gives you a second handshake. Success!
If you approach networking and relationship building in this manner, you’re bound to get a second handshake.
It’s these conversations -- these second handshakes -- that are the foundation of mutually beneficial relationships. The relationships that allow you to surround yourself with the right people. The relationships that lead to business success.
Questions to get a conversation started
Need some help getting that conversation going? Here are some questions you can ask that will likely throw someone a little off their pre-scripted networking pitch game. By doing that, you’re likely to have a better conversation, find a connection and get that second handshake.
- How did you get started in this industry?
- Why do you love to do what you do?
- How do you spend your time?
- What’s your favorite type of client to work with?
- What’s your favorite problem to solve?
- What’s the first thing you do when you sign a new contract?
- What’s your favorite way to celebrate success?
- What is something a client has said to you that really made you happy?
Digging deeper and some atypical questions:
- When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What was your favorite toy as a child?
- (As a follow-up) Does it connect in any way to what you do today?
- What is your favorite holiday tradition that you celebrate with friends, family or your employees?
- What’s something you’re most looking forward to doing with your business (or with your family) in the next year?
- What do you feel has been the secret to your success?
Use these questions to help generate conversations and see what type of relationships can develop!