Turning an initial 30-second-to-three-minute networking interaction into tangible business results is a skill very few professionals have mastered. But networking has the power to be your most productive business-building activity, if you can overcome the anxiety and time-constraints that come along with it.
To help, here are six super-secret networking phrases you can use to maximize a networking conversation and drive results.
1. “Tell me about yourself, (John, Susan, Mike)…”
The initial contact is usually the most stressful and uncomfortable part of a networking interaction. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, and fear of failure combine to make this a difficult experience for both partners.
Asking your conversation partner to tell you about themselves makes them the focus of the conversation, invites them to share information about whatever is top of mind, and lets you look for a natural way to expand the dialogue. Taking control of the conversation in this way will put both you and your conversation partner at ease, and sets the tone for a helpful and productive conversation.
2. “Who are you looking to connect with?”
After the initial contact, it’s important and necessary to ask about your conversation partner’s professional context – what they do, where they work, etc. But many professionals make the mistake of jumping into a rehearsed elevator pitch as soon as they’re presented with this opportunity to talk about themselves professionally. These pitches usually give you little in terms of information that can be used to help qualify your conversation partner as a prospect.
A more effective approach to this part of a networking interaction is to ask who they’re looking to connect with. The beauty of this simple question is that it gets your conversation partner to immediately zero in on their client base, which serves as a self-qualifying tactic for you. You’ll get valuable information to help you qualify them and determine how to proceed with the conversation.
3.“Can I get your card?”
Networking events are busy and it’s easy to lose contact with a conversation partner who had potential. Make it a habit of always asking for a business card, no matter how brief the interaction.
This is the one question that many, if not most, professionals overlook. Asking for someone’s card makes them feel important and demonstrates a sincere interest in them, which builds trust and rapport. More importantly, you need your conversation partner’s contact information if you want to eventually move the relationship forward.
4. “Can I follow up?”
The biggest reason that over 90% of sales and business professionals admit to not following up is fear of rejection. You can bypass this entire issue by asking permission to follow up before parting ways with a conversation partner. Doing so not only helps build trust, but it also enhances the perception of your professionalism.
Success in business, sales, and life in general is all about relationships. Networking for results accepts that additional contact is a requirement for success. Why? Because the single biggest obstacle to achieving more and better networking results is the failure to follow up. Developing the discipline of asking permission to follow up before parting ways with a conversation partner will help you achieve better results.
5. “Would it be helpful (if I sent you some information about that)…”
A networking interaction has immeasurable potential and power, but only if you leverage the opportunity effectively. When a conversation partner expresses an interest, concern, or need, the nature reaction is to offer a solution. A better approach is to leverage the opportunity to set the stage for additional contact.
You do this by asking if the solution or information you have to offer is of value to the person. Presuming value can lead to wasted time and effort, which can be overcome by confirming value prior to committing a contribution. It sets the stage for additional contact and will have a positive impact on the relationship.
6. “How can I help?”
Too often, we unconsciously network with a self-serving perspective in our thoughts and dialogue. Other people can naturally sense whether your agenda is predatory, personal, or positive, and will react accordingly. Get in the habit of always asking yourself how you can help – you can even ask your conversation partner directly, if appropriate – and you’ll come across as more sincere and supportive when networking.
Zig Ziglar is credited with coining the phrase “You’ll get what you want if you help enough people get what they want.” Having this kind of intentional mindset helps you find more opportunities to confirm your value, which ultimately leads to more and better results
Michael J Hughes, North America’s Networking Guru specializes in helping professionals increase results by improving their ability to maximize relationships. He has done extensive research on and is a specialist in, utilizing networking as a business strategy.His client list includes names like Dell, Royal Bank, Sales & Marketing Executives International, Sunlife, Workopolis and the University of Ottawa’s Telfer EMBA program. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org