OPening a networking conversation - with a punch?Opening a networking conversation can be nerve wracking, it can shape the way the conversation goes and (if it’s a new person you’re meeting for the first time) possibly wreck any potential relationship.

So it may pay to consider what you say and open the conversation in a helpful and open manner – encouraging the other person to feel good, think and talk.

Why I was tempted to punch somebody whilst networking.

I was recently approached by at event and immediately put off from ever buying, let alone referring a business owner. His continued persistence left me looking for any way to shut him up!

He walked up said “hello, I’m Michael”. He thrust a card into my hand and said “What do you do”; before I could breathe, let alone answer he told me about his business. Without drawing breath he asked when I would be ready to buy his services. He left me feeling annoyed, frustrated and almost feeling violated. Where had he gone wrong in opening the networking conversation?

  • Opening statement: His opening question made me think he was interested in my business, not me.
  • The business card: By forcing his card into my hand he indicated to me that he was interested in getting his details out into the world, rather than having a discussion about business where we might eventually get to know, like and trust one another.
  • Talked over me: He proved he had no interest in me, by talking straight at me and not giving me the chance to respond. That’s the point when I really wanted to hit him.
  • Presumptive close: His cheap use of a sales “trick” left me feeling slimy. I hadn’t indicated that I was interested, let alone ready to buy.

Opening a networking conversation - with a rifle?OK, hitting him wasn’t really on the agenda, but he certainly won’t be getting me interest, business or anything else! Maybe he’ll be in my sights to avoid next time!

How would you feel?

You’re at a meeting, concentrating on your objective, when somebody comes up, thrusts a card into your hand and starts talking – displaying no interest in you.

How many times have you had somebody say hello to you and by the time they had finished opening the networking conversation you knew what you thought of them?

What is it that turns you off, or on, when somebody is talking to you and opening a networking conversation?

  • How are you?
  • How is business?
  • What do you do?
  • I’m xxx, I can get you great deals on xxx

Do any of those openings leave you feeling warm, and willing to open up? Why – because they’re not about you, they’re about what you might be able to do for the other person. It’s obvious, at least subconsciously, that they are not interested in you. What opening lines leave you cold, and why?

Better ways of opening a networking conversation.

So, making it clear that you’re not interested in them, or at least that you are more interested in their business than them – sets the conversation off wrongly. What would be better to say when opening a networking conversation?

  • What brought you here today?
  • How are you finding the event?
  • What did you think about the speaker?

OK, I’m sure you’ll list some more creative openings in the comments, but at least these are about the person, or the event – not about me or their business. Do you think they’re better?

What works well for you when meeting a new contact and opening a networking conversation?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Networking is a key part of getting great results in small firms. If you want great networking tips sent to your desk once a month, click here and I will start sending them to you, so you can make a real difference to your referrals. 
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