What Does it Take to Create a Great Business Relationship?
It all starts with great questions. Whether you are attending a meeting, a conference or an after-hours networking event, asking questions that “open up” relationships can make all the difference.
The questions below are examples of those you can use to start engaging conversations. Your goal in meeting others is to help them feel at ease and at the same time, generate some conversation that will serve as a springboard for future conversations. You are searching for what we call in Networlding, “Points of Commonality” (things you share in common) and “Points of Credibility” (things that make this person unique and valuable to your network. Take a look at the following questions and think how you could use these questions to start your own engaging conversations. With each question, I add suggestions as to how you can use it to open up further exchange.
What Type Of Questions Should You Ask To Engage Conversations?
So what would be a good first question when you are out social networking. Try asking something like, “What was it that interested you in attending this evening (today, etc.)?”.
This question is particularly relevant to get someone to talk about something positive. For example, say your connection says, “I came here to see how I could expand my technology company. I specialize in helping other businesses integrate their IT initiatives together so departments are more in alignment with one another.” Now let’s say that you do business with the types of companies this person would like to connect with; now you offer, “I would enjoy meeting with you outside this event to see how we can support one another in meeting companies that could use your skills.”.
A second great question is, “Who is the best networker in this organization?” Hopefully, that person will be at this event and you will be able to get an introduction to him or her. You also want to ask why they chose this person. You will usually find that most people have met great networkers—people who have networks that reach wide and deep and who, in general, enjoy meeting new people and networking with them. Interestingly, though, you will also find that often great networkers don’t’ know or connect with other great networkers. This is one of the best questions as you can be the “connector” to bring these people together, and, in doing so, become part of their networks and a great networker yourself.
Finally a third great question is, “What is one thing you are really looking forward to accomplishing in your business (or career) this year?” The reason this question works so well is two-fold. First, it is positive and directs your conversation to a subject that should add some great energy to the conversation. Second, it should yield one of the best replies you could receive from a question. An example of this question occurred during a networking event we did for a large bank recently. We facilitated a networking event with business owners of companies between $5-$50 million in sales. The result? The bank yielded about twenty business owners who replied that they either were planning to expand their business or that they were planning on purchasing some large piece of equipment. Now, there were business owners that would probably go back to their existing banks for loans for these purchases but we prepped the bank ahead of time to offer themselves as the backup bank. The results were great. The targeted question allowed them to offer support more specifically and effectively.
Who is one person you admire most in your industry? This is a particularly good question to find other top influencers and, hopefully, great networkers you would like to meet. You are looking for those influencers who are “ready, willing and able” to network with you. By asking this question your networking starts with great questions, so the next time you go to a networking event or you just want to brush up on your networking skills, try asking one of these great questions and see what happens. “How do you open up relationships when you are social networking? Do you think social networking in person is still more effective than online?”