If you are someone who, when put in a professional/social environment, ends up:
- Hugging the wall like a starfish on the glass front of an aquarium, or
- Going on autopilot and giving anyone who approaches you a fifteen-minute dissertation on your latest work project, or
- Getting tongue-tied and not saying a word…
…Read on! There is a way to show up authentically, connect with new people, and ALWAYS know what to say next.
For starters, let’s break apart the word itself: NET + WORKING.
What, exactly, makes the “net” work? It’s the fibers running in two directions.
Imagine a net that was made of rope or hemp going only one way. It’s basically useless. You couldn’t support or catch anything in it because it’s uni-directional.
The same is true for our social networks. If you’re only always talking about yourself and not giving the other person the opportunity to share their perspective, value, and experience, you’re creating a dysfunctional network. It won’t work because while the other person may know everything about you, you know next to nothing about them.
So what’s the solution?
Ask questions to get them talking. Open-ended questions, in particular (“open-ended questions” are those that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”).
Say you are introduced to a friendly sort at an industry event. Here are just a few things you could say:
- “What brought you to [INSERT NAME OF EVENT]?”
- “How do you know [INSERT NAME OF PERSON WHO INTRODUCED YOU]?”
- “Have you been to a similar event before?”
- “What other events do you go to?”
- “What are you working on these days?”
- “What are you hoping to get from this event/conference?”
- “What blogs or websites do you go to in order to stay up on your industry news and developments?”
- “Who’s your typical client? What do you look for?”
- “How do you differentiate yourself in your market?”
As you can see from this list (which isn’t even CLOSE to being complete), the point is NOT to show off how much you know about SEO or the latest update to the Facebook algorithm. It’s to actually get to know a bit about the other person so you know what’s important to THEM.
When you know what they think about/care about/worry about, then you can keep the conversation headed in that direction, not with the intention of trying to “sell” them, but with the intention of growing those two-way fibers in your network.
The more you know about them, the more you can provide information, resources, and connections that will benefit them — not because it will help your bottom line, but because it will make you a better person. And yes, eventually, it MAY pay off in terms of business… but that’s a side benefit.
Zig Ziglar, one of the most successful motivational speakers and sales trainers of all time, had this to say:
You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
How? Because while the person you help, connect with, or listen to may not be your ideal client, their uncle/neighbor/co-worker just might be. And if they know, like, and trust YOU, you’ll be top of their list to recommend when a friend or family member needs something you can provide.
So step out from behind the computer screen, put down your phone, and look around. Your new best friend might be standing beside you.
Lain Ehmann of #FastLain carries her business cards with her 24/7 (well, almost…). As a communication conversion strategist, she works with high-level entrepreneurs to create crystal-clear messaging and content that reaches their audience at the right time, in the right way. Find out more here.