I was recently at a networking event where a woman I had just met totally blew up my spot by talking AT me for way too long. As I silently begged for the floor to open up and swallow her alive, my left arm began to quiver from the weight of the mouthwatering raviolis that I was eager to devour. That’s when I knew it was time to shut homegirl down.
As funny (and straight up crazy) as this scenario sounds, so many of us get wrapped up in “selling” our story to others every chance we get. This approach to building business connections and opportunities is way too hard and ineffective. Having to always feel the pressure of spitting out the perfect “60-second elevator speech” for everyone we meet AND still walking out none the “richer” in new contacts, opportunities or client leads? No thanks.
Unfortunately, so many of us have learned to TELL first, in the hopes of increasing our connection later. We’ve been taught that when we meet others, we immediately need to tell them – and sell them on – who we are, how we can help them and why they should know us. This is one of the first things I work to reverse with my clients.
When we switch our approach around and ask questions first, we learn more about the other person by expressing interest, trigger their curiosity (if we ask the right questions), and quickly earn the right to tell them more about who we are and how we might be of service to them. This sets us up to be a major power player in any conversation we have.
Here’s one tip: Prepare for every conversation by having three smart questions (there are a few qualifiers for this) to ask anyone you meet. Here’s why: The average “Hello my name is... / What’s yours?” exchange takes about 10 seconds. By asking just one smart question, we can open up a conversation with anyone, anytime for as long as we’d like to. An example of a smart question would be: “If you could connect with one person today who would help you grow your business, who would it be?” I say to have three questions like this at the ready because it would be really creepy if everyone in the room figured out that you’re asking the exact same question to every one you meet. I’m just sayin…
Ask first, get later…that’s my golden rule of sales and networking. Try it for yourself and see how many more awesome and worthy connections you can make.