The Networker #4: 6 Questions You’re Not Asking When Networking – That You Should Be
Does this sound familiar?
“What do you do?”
“Been busy lately?”
If you’ve felt at every event it is the same conversation on repeat, it’s down to you to change it.
The problem at networking events isn’t awkward small talk and nicities.
The problem is not asking questions people enjoy answering.
When a new subscriber joins The Networker, they’re asked what their biggest networking challenge is.
One of the most frequent responses is along the lines of maximising conversation or knowing what to say.
It’s time to upgrade your conversation.
In today’s edition, we’ll do that. Focusing on the questions you ask.
“If you were a biscuit Brad, what would you be? And why?”
This was a genuine question I was asked at a networking event.
It felt like all that was missing was a sliding screen, and Cilla Black standing beside them.
One for the Saturday night TV lovers of the 80s and 90s there.
Hold up, I’m not suggesting you’re that bold with your questioning approach.
But whilst it felt a little odd at first, and caught me off guard. Upon reflecting on it, it was a brilliant way to break the ice and humanise the conversation.
It disarmed it. My guard dropped. My ego fell away.
I found myself sharing what bloody biscuit I’d be…and why!
It served as a reminder that networking doesn’t need to be serious. Make it fun. Make it human.
I met that person once – and still remember them and what they do today. Mainly down to that one, light-hearted, completely left field question. It got our conversation off to a different and refreshing start.
Dayle Rodriguez – I doff my networking cap to you sir.
That’s what good questions help with. They help you stand out from the sea of sameness. Making your conversation more memorable and more likely to stick.
And help you get closer to the goal of networking – becoming the person people think of when they think of what you do.
6 Questions You Should Be Asking
-Biscuit related ones aside, the power of a good question is underrated.
Networkers often stress about what they need to say. From having a polished pitch, to being super interesting.
But good questions help you shift from the feeling you need to be interesting, to interested.
By keeping a few up your sleeve – you’ll go from blending in at every event – to more memorable and engaging conversation.
Starting with 6 of my go-to’s.
1. “What trends are you currently seeing in your industry?”
This one highlights relevant and topical news in their business. Opening up opportunity for you to dig deeper.
Starting to arm you with an understanding how you (or someone you know) may be able to help them.
Your networking can become more fun with a simple reframe. Approaching events with genuine curiosity to learn something from everyone.
You may find new information to use in future conversations. Or have a client working in or with that industry, and a way to connect with them on a deeper level.
Another benefit is one they experience. Opportunity to speak about something they likely haven’t spoken much about, keeping the conversation fresh for them too.
A much better alternative to; “How’s business? Busy at the moment?”
2. “What’s the next big thing you’ve got coming up?”
This one gives you chance to look ahead with them. Keeps it forward thinking.
You’ll get an insight into an upcoming project, hire, or development in their business.
And with that, you can start to picture what they may need, and how you could help them. Either by supporting them yourself or introducing to others.
Are they moving office? You might know a removal company. Or an IT provider. Or an office furniture supplier. People they may need to know.
Are they looking for a new hire? You could know someone looking for a similar role. A job board they might not’ve considered. Or a recruitment agency you’d recommend.
By looking ahead, you find ways to offer help.
3. “What are you most excited about at the moment?”
I see it all too often where the default is to resort to a moan or complaint.
Or is that us Brits?
Either way – get that battery draining energy out of here.
This question helps you see what gets them going. And inject some positivity into the conversation.
I always look for the glint in their eye and smile when answering this. And I’ve seen the answers to these go down either a professional or a personal path.
It doesn’t matter.
It could be about an upcoming holiday – “oh great, where you off to?”
Or an upcoming project with a new client – “awesome, what kind of project?”
Dive deeper into this with follow up questions.
People appreciate talking about their passions. And remember you asking.
4. “Any challenges coming down the line for you?”
I don’t care who you are, or what business you’re running, everyone has a challenge in one way or another.
At networking events people always like to shine the best light on themselves.
Ever felt how so many are super busy and things couldn’t be better? Yeah, I don’t buy it either.
Drop the ego, amigo.
This question offers a soft invitation for them to offer up a little vulnerability.
To let you in to see what support you (or someone you know) could provide. Or if you (or someone you know) have been in that position yourself.
And you’re not asking them to expose their business fragilities.
Think about current challenges you have right now. Big or small.
It could be hiring for a new role, or you’re struggling to roll out a new CRM, or a difficult supplier.
But, wouldn’t it be nice if by sharing this, someone could help you? Or offered a new perspective on it?
And if they don’t offer up a challenge (ask them what the secret is for me please) – use it as a chance to share one you have. They may have experienced it before.
But most will be grateful you asked this one.
5. “Describe your perfect customer – what keeps them up at night?”
A different take on; “Who do you work with?”
And a way to avoid being on the receiving end of a common response – “we work with anyone”.
Great, that gives me a lot to work with.
For me, it’s frustrated business owners and sales leaders not seeing results from their networking.
This is a more creative way to find out the problem they are solving, and what their customers look like.
You start to get a picture of who you can connect them with. And who in your network you know that they would benefit knowing.
A question for the more curious networkers wanting to stand out.
6. “If you had an afternoon off to do anything you wanted, what would that look like?”
Time to go beyond business with this one.
A fun twist to get an understanding of their passions and interests outside of business.
And like question 3 – a chance to see that glint in their eye.
Don’t forget you are building human relationships first, and business relationships second.
You may find a common interest with someone you least expected.
You cannot underestimate the feeling the power of taking a genuine interest in them.
Particularly if it’s about them and their passions.
Remembering this detail for next time too is super powerful too.
“Hi Kate, been paddle-boarding since I last saw you?”
“Hi Paul, any baking with the children recently?”
Human relationships first, business relationships second.
As you can now see, it’s not so much what you need to say. But what you ask that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Going from feeling the need to be super interesting, to being super interested.
- “What do you do?”
- “How’s business?”
- “Who do you work with?”
- “Come to this event often?”
- “What trends are you currently noticing in your industry?”
- “What’s the next big thing you have coming up?”
- “What are you most excited about at the moment?”
- “Any challenges coming down the line for you?”
- “Describe your perfect customer – what keeps them up at night?”
- “If you had an afternoon to do anything you wanted, what would that look like?”
And I get it, you’re at a networking event, you have to find out the basics.
But get that done and move onto the questions that are going to take the conversation down many paths.
That’s where the magic happens.
It could feel awkward at first. But trust me, those on the receiving end are often relieved and surprised.
Next time you step foot into an event, flick that autopilot switch off, and go in armed with these.
Life is too short for boring conversations.
Upgrade your conversation. Ask questions people enjoy answering.
Good luck Networkers.
P.S. And because you were on the edge of your seat wondering – I said custard cream. A good all-rounder, reliable, and good integrity as a dunking biscuit.
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The weekly newsletter for business owners and sales leaders to level up their networking.
1 networking tip, trend or tidbit – every Wednesday morning.
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