Your Six Best Friends In Networking
In business, first impressions are hugely important. When you’re networking, you want to come across as strong, intelligent, confident, well-spoken and, most of all, memorable.
Everyone has been in the situation where it seems you’re either:-
Barreled up against the wall at a party, talking to the least interesting person in the room and wanting to move on to someone with more energetic dialogue.
Walk into the room and not know how to strike up constructive conversations (no, the weather / traffic topics are not constructive!)
Perhaps you have avoided networking opportunities as you feel daunted by the prospect of meeting a sea of new faces and are therefore lacking confidence and running for cover with excuses – ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I can’t make it’.
There is a way, however, to ignite any exchange and open up the conversation floodgates. All it takes is introducing your ‘Six Friends’ into the mix. This means you are never alone in your networking – just improve your skills (i.e. never perfected) with your six friends in tow. They are your best leverage to get a conversation started in any situation, whether you’re in a group or a one-on-one situation.
Who, What, When, Where, How and Why – they are words that are used flippantly every day. But when utilized properly, they become your keys to free-flowing conversation as your ‘Six Friends’. From there, you can have some free-flowing dialogue and perhaps even meet a new connection or two.
To get someone talking, talk about them. It’s a topic they know a great deal about and they will gain confidence as they go. By using your Six Friends and engaging with people, you can begin interacting with them in an area they feel comfortable with, before switching to a more business-centric focus.
For example, if you were doing the rounds at a Networking Group meeting and you were introduced to someone new to the group, your six friends would be ideal for not only breaking the ice, but also getting to know them and their business.
It’s something that not everyone picks up immediately; it’s a skill that can take a while to properly hone and become truly efficient in. But with correct usage and with experience, your Six Friends can make you an effective communicator and before you know it, you’ll be really enjoying the idea of networking sessions. So let us introduce you to your six friends…
Firstly, ‘Who’ is best used in your introductions, not only for asking someone who they are, but finding out about who they really are. From using only your first friend, you should already have a general idea of who you’re dealing with and whether or not you want to deal with them further. For example, after breaking the ice, you could ask who in business they admired and looked to emulate and why. You can also ask them how they balance their work and family life – this really gets them talking!
‘What’ is used when you want to find out more details of a person and their business. It can give a great insight into their long-term business goals as well as personal milestones they’d like to accomplish.
Using ‘What’ is a good way to see if you have any goals in common with a person, as if you share common ambitions, you may be able to help one another fulfill them. For example, you could ask somebody what was on their To-Do list and what the first thing they wanted to cross off it. Find out also what it is about their business/role/skill that they are most passionate about.
Use ‘When’ for determining how people plan their time-frames in relation to goal achievement and personal milestones. Having a better understanding of ‘what’ they do and are looking to achieve, ‘when’ could be used to further open up the conversation… if you choose to!
‘When’ is a particularly useful friend to use, as it makes you a source of positive encouragement for somebody. Having a business coach check in with you routinely is one thing, but having a fellow business owner there makes it that bit more emphatic.
For example, if someone is admitting to routinely pushing back a due date, check in with them and try to get them to determine a date for when they can have it done by, and why is it always delayed.
You can use ‘Where’ to determine where a person wants to be in the future, be it a geographic location or a location on the corporate ladder. Everyone knows how important it is to surround yourself with positive, well-meaning people, yet so many people are content being in a negative environment where no-one has any drive or ambition.
Use ‘Where’ to determine if the person you’re talking to is positive or negative and whether or not you want to continue dealing with them.
By now, you have learnt a lot about networking, and hopefully your first four friends have been of use. The final two friends are really deep conversation levers that we recommend only using if you really want a deeper and long conversation. Obviously, not all networking conversations need to be fully expanded on with all six friends.
‘How’ is a great friend to use when helping someone plan for their future. By simply asking the question, make them explain their reasoning and really spell out how they intend to enact their plan.
‘How’ is also useful in trying to get people to explain their processes, whether they led to success or failure. By asking the question, you are both getting something out of the conversation, be it planning advice or finding out if what you tried was good or bad.
Lastly, the most important friend of them all – ‘Why’. By asking ‘why’, you are getting people to do what they mightn’t have done for a while – think analytically and give reasons for their actions. It’s easy to simply take action and not worry about consequences until later down the track, but not doing so does nothing for the health of your business.
‘Why’ is the most important on this list because it can be added to any option on the list – you can get an extra dimension of information out of people by just following up with ‘Why?’
Finally, here are a few final points to note of what your six friends shouldn’t be used for while networking!
Don’t ask too many prying questions regarding profits or wages – ‘So how much did your company make last year?
Don’t use the six friends in a manner that could be seen as nasty or condescending – ‘Why on earth would you do something like that?!’
Don’t sound like a robot! Make sure you pace out your conversation so it flows naturally. Someone at a networking event might drop a small piece of information – try and get them to add to what they have already said before jumping to a new question.
In brief, remember the acronym “THEM” i.e. :-
Be Tactful, Humble, strive always to be Engaging (the aim is to get them to talk not you), and lastly; Memorable.
Look after these friends.
After reading through this list, we hope that you have picked up something that can help you in your networking. At the end of the day, networking is something that people view as being so intimidating and scary, when in reality it can be a whole lot of fun and extremely beneficial to your business.