- Aug 24, 2018
By Mark Brodson
As an active member of the Northbrook Chamber over the past 13 years, I have developed an appreciation for the power of attending the organization’s many networking events. Whether at a First Friday breakfast or the Chamber’s Golf Outing, I have made dozens of contacts and formed meaningful professional relationships that have helped me build my business, and more importantly, enabled me to help others to build theirs.
If I were to give some simple advice about my success, particularly to someone who might be uncomfortable walking into a large networking event, it would be to GO FOR IT! Overcome your initial fears, walk up to someone and strike up a conversation. Then, listen intently, and watch the magic unfold before your eyes.
Many people mistakenly assume that the purpose of a networking event is to make a sale to someone in the room. If you want to get the most out of networking events, resist the temptation to sell yourself or your business and instead seek out people who can become valuable networking partners for you.
Whether approaching a new contact or someone you have known for years, break the ice initially by asking a personal question. Simple questions like “How is your week?” or “What is new with your family?” pave the way for you to get know the person you have just met. Personal questions also demonstrate your interest in them, which is instrumental in creating a lasting relationship.
Once you have broken the ice with a personal question, then ask a targeted question that steers the conversation towards business. Believe it or not, one of the most impactful questions you can ask is “How’s business?” The answer that you receive will give you clues about introductions or connections that you may be able to make for the person that can enhance their success. If you get a vague response like “it’s great,” press for more information. Ask “What’s driving your success?” If business is not going well, find out why or what challenges the person has. Do they need help with something? When you get good information from the individuals you talk to, it indirectly can help you understand how your product or service could help them. Perhaps you can also create value for them by making an introduction, connecting them to another chamber member or even referring some business to them. While this approach may not get you business right away, it will lead to plenty of business coming back to you over time. Zig Zigler once said, “Give more people more of what they want in order to get more of what you want.”
To sum it up, the most successful networkers put selling themselves aside when networking, and ask questions to get to know the other person. They work to establish ongoing relationships and to make themselves a valuable partner to others.