This blog is based on an excerpt from our webinar, Cultivating your Network for Maximum Profit, hosted by renowned sales coach Mitch Harris.
Let's talk about connecting people in person, whatever the scenario may be. I am going to keep this really simple, but this completely integrates with the standpoint of learning about the other person and finding out how you can support them.
The 3 Golden Questions for Creating Valuable In-Person Connections
This is what I call the 3 Golden Questions. I wish I had a platter to put this out on, because it is so simple but so effective. These questions will help you sift through the people you’re networking with to determine how likely it is you’ll be able to work with them and how you might be able to provide value to them.
The first of the golden questions would normally be asked once your connection has let you know what it is they do for work. A lot of people already ask this questions without even knowing it. The question is, “How long have you been doing what you do?” This question may seem pretty basic, but it’s meant to be a qualifier for this person. Let me ask you, would you rather spend your time speaking with someone who has been in their industry for 3 months, or 10 years?
How long someone has been doing what they do will help you ask the right questions from that point on. I’m not saying you have to discard someone who is brand new, but it gives you a sense of how established or deep their network may be. An experienced individual might be someone you want to explore working with right away, while a less experienced individual might need some help of his or her own, or might be directly connected to someone else that you can work with, or might have experience in a different area that might be of benefit to you. This question also gives them a chance to talk more about their business, so that you can get a sense for where you might be able to provide value, or learn about other areas of their business you can ask about.
The second golden question also helps you gain some of this connection’s backstory. The question is “What made you want to do what you do?” or “What lead you to this path?” What this question will do is open them up to tell you their story. When you have someone telling you their whole story it is one of the most valuable exchanges you can have with someone, as there is lots of information you can glean between the lines of what they’re saying.
For instance, if you get someone talking about their story and listen intently and ask probing questions during their explanation you can get a pretty clear picture of who it is you’re speaking with and how they might fit within your network. You can find out if their business is a family business, if it was handed down, if they have experience in another industry and got sick of it or it didn’t work out. They could have had some sort of a breakthrough, or they could have had a major life experience that lead them to this. All of this can be information that could lead to a much larger discussion that could be mutually beneficial. I had a major life experience that lead me to the work I do now. When I realized I was passionate about mentoring and helping people, it was a major shift for me. And when I talk about it I naturally light up because it means a lot and I love what I do.
One major thing I look for when I ask this question is how passionate the person gets about what they’re doing. If you’re just describing the ins and outs of what they do, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I absolutely love it when people get animated and passionate about what they’re doing. Those are the people I know I can count on to try to help me with any problems I have that relate to what they do. In addition, if they’re passionate about what they’re doing, they’re happy to connect and help with whatever I need, because it’s just something they love to do and share with others.
By this point, you should already have had a pretty solid discussion with your new contact, and been able to get a pretty good idea of how you might be able to help each other. The third golden question is meant to help solidify the mutually beneficial relationship you want to build with them, and set the expectation for continued communication later on.
Pretty simply, the third golden question is “How will I know when I meet someone you’d want to speak with?” Everyone wants to speak or connect with someone, or chances are likely you wouldn’t be talking to them in the first place. Everyone has some objectives or goals that they need some help with, and you will be amazed how much people appreciate this kind of question.
Most people are not used to hearing people ask a question like this. A common response I’ve gotten is “Oh wow, I usually don’t hear that.” As a result, this question does a number of things for you. Firstly, it gives you the answer to the question, and provides an opportunity to help someone in a way that they could potentially reciprocate. Let them tell you what they are looking for and very often you will find through the natural principle of reciprocity, they will then flip the script and ask “Tell me about yourself?”, “What got you in to what you are doing?” , “How can I help you?” and it creates a great synergy within that conversation.\
Second, it makes you much more memorable. Out of everyone they meet in your given setting, you’ll always be one of the first people they remember meeting. That’s a great position to be in, because you’ll likely be the first person they think of when they need to refer someone like you to a person in their network.
Finally, it provides a lovely segue into asking for their card, contact information, or social profiles in order to keep in touch and build your network. The goal of this conversation was to find someone that could potentially be a valuable piece to your puzzle, and a question like this is how you fit that puzzle piece into the whole.
I remember a couple of years ago I was a guest speaker at a chamber of commerce in New York and there was a gentleman directing it that I wanted to connect with. We were speaking beforehand and he told me about that chamber and what they have done and I said “Listen, how can I support you with your mission and how do I know if someone I meet is someone you want to speak with?” I am telling you the guy just lit up! He got excited about telling me what it is he needed to get to the next level. It was also a great moment because I then shared some of my networking tools in that presentation including the asking of that question, and he told me it just clicked for him, and had seen firsthand how beneficial it could be.
So, try it out! Next time you’re in an in-person networking situation, keep these three questions in mind to find out more about your potential connection, find out what they need, and make sure you have what you need to stay in contact and maintain that connection in your network. When using these three questions, nearly everyone you talk to and nearly every conversation you have will become a successful conversation that will generate value for you over time.