Going to networking events is tough. It's really awkward to walk into an association meeting, trade show or after-hours event when you don't know a soul who is there. Everyone else seems to be engaged in discussions with long-lost buddies and there you stand, desperately looking around for even one friendly face.
While some of you may blossom in situations like this, for many of us it's a real effort to be there. Perhaps torture would be a better word. But if your prospective customers are in attendance, being a wallflower just isn't going to do it. You have to face into your fears and initiate a conversation.
- How did you get your start in the ___ business?
People like to be the movie of the week in someone else's mind. Let them share their story with you while you actively listen.
- What do you enjoy most about your professions?
This question elicits a positive response and good feelings.
- What separates you and your company from the competition?
This question gives them permission to brag about their business.
- What advice would you give someone just starting in this business?
This question makes them feel superior and allows them to do some mentoring.
- What one thing would you do with your business if you knew that you could not fail?
This question allows your friend to fantasize and they will be thankful that you cared enough to ask.
- What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?
Asking people who are a little bit more mature in years can be perfect because it allows them to reminisce about the good old days.
- What do you see as the coming trends in the ___ business?
This is a speculation question and positions them as an expert in their industry, which makes them feel important.
- What was the strangest or funniest incident you've experienced in your business?
People love to share war stories, but don't usually get a chance to tell anyone about their experiences.
- What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?
This question, again, elicits a positive reaction and also gives you an opportunity to see how they think.
- What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?
You are allowing them to give themselves a compliment. Who doesn't like compliments?
According to Bob, the one key question that sets you apart from everyone else is, "How can I know if someone I'm talking to would be a good prospect for you?" He says to ask it ONLY after you've been talking for awhile and established some rapport.
You'll never have enough time to ask all of them; two to three are more than enough to get a conversation going. Now you can say goodbye to your tongue-tied problem forever.
For more info on networking, check out Bob's website.