Today we’re continuing on the topic of networking…last time, we talked about how to say hello…now, we’re going to talk about what to say AFTER you say hello. Like always, there is a right way and a wrong way to start off a conversation…the wrong way is to launch into a sales pitch about yourself without taking a breath…the other wrong way is to say, “Hi I’m George, are you guys hiring? Do you know anyone who is hiring? Okthanksbye”…you guys think I’m kidding – but I’ve actually overheard that last one.
The right way to open up a conversation is to use open ended questions… by “open ended”, I mean the type of questions that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no, or one word answer…questions that can be answered by one simple word or yes / no are called “closed end” questions. As the name implies, one word, or a yes or no answer tends to stop the momentum and “flow” of the conversation, so you have to “re-start” the process over and over again, which leads to choppy stop and start conversations that don’t help either of you learn anything.
Here are some examples of closed end questions:
“So – you work for XYZ Company?”
“How long have you worked for XYZ Company”
“Is XYZ Company hiring”?
So you can see that the likely response to these questions would be a short one word affair, and then you’ll have to think quickly of a follow up question just to keep things rolling. Good luck with that.
Here is a better way to ask the same thing, and it will give you something to build on.
“So, you work for XYZ Company, what is the nature of your work there?”
Then you let them answer…this is VERY important… remain silent while they talk… the idea is to keep them talking…give “low level” feedback… nod your head, say “mmhmm” and be present in the conversation, but don’t interrupt.
The other person might ask you about your background at this point, but a much better way would be to ask them to expound on something they just told you.
This is how you keep conversations flowing, and this is how you build relationships…when you give people a chance to talk about themselves, they actually warm up to you, and they’ll be more receptive to listening to you when it’s your turn to talk.
This “broad way” of speaking and asking questions can be applied to every meeting you have, and also applied to written communications…asking someone to talk about themselves first is a great way to knock down the barriers that exist out there.
Here’s a hint: inviting someone to connect on LinkedIn and sending the generic “I’d like to add you to my network” email is the equivalent of a verbal “closed end question.” You’ll have to work harder than that if you want to get anywhere… Study, think and plan ahead how you can apply this…if you need help applying this to you, then get help but don’t neglect to do it.
Relationships are like gardens…they require proper seeding, planting and nurturing, in order to develop into something that will bear fruit.
Until next time, I wish you all the best.