This is a rebroadcast of Episode 167.
People like to talk about themselves; giving them the time to tell their own stories is more likely to result in a genuine connection. Here are five good questions to ask in your first conversation with a new person.
- What do you like most about what you do?
- What led you into that field?
- Where else do you network?
- What are some of your biggest challenges?
- How can I help you?
Brought to you by Ask Ivan Misner.
Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 344 –
Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by AskIvanMisner.com, which is a Web site where you can ask any question you have about networking.
I’m Priscilla Rice, and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California, and I’m joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner.
Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?
It’s August, so I am up at my retreat at the lake house in Big Bear, and this is kind of a special day, the 11th, we have a staff day today, so all of the BNI employees at headquarters in Southern California are up here at my house. We closed down the office, and it’s sort of a little team building, relationship building day. All of the staff come on up, and we have fun on the lake and get to know each other a little bit better during the work day and have a little bit of fun.
That sounds beautiful.
It’s a great place to do it up here.
What are you planning to share with us today?
Today I want to talk about asking the right questions. People like to talk about themselves, and my now, we all know that people refer business to people they like and that they respect. So when you give others the time to tell their story and explain what their business is, you’re much more likely to be able to make a connection. All it takes, really, is asking the right questions when you’re meeting somebody for the first time.
So BNI members, when visitors come to a meeting or if you’re at a Chamber event or some business function, write these things down, because this can be of value to you. There will be five specific questions that I’m going to share with you. It really starts by understanding that everyone has a story. So make it your job to find out what that story is. This all begins with your first conversation. If you lead by asking the right questions, questions that can demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person’s business, you’ll begin to cultivate an atmosphere of trust and rapport right from the very start. So by asking the right questions, I don’t mean prospecting or qualifying questions, like questions about whether they need your product or service. You’re not trying to size up the other person’s potential for selling them something; you want to connect with them on a relationship, on a business relationship basis, so the questions really apply to that.
Here are the five questions that will keep the conversation rolling and, I think, set you apart from other networkers and eventually lead to referrals.
First question, “What do you like most about what you do?” If you’ve been out networking before, you already know that “What do you do” is one of the first questions people ask, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I’m not saying don’t do it, but it really doesn’t leave you much room to maneuver after you’ve both have answered that question.
So a follow-up question, when somebody tells you what they do, is, “What do you like to do? What do you like most about what you do?” And I think that’s a great follow-up question to, “What do you do?”
Second question is, you say to them, “You mentioned you were in the [blank] industry, you mentioned you were a printer,” or whatever, “what got you started in that direction? What led you into that field?”
Now this question is much like the previous one, in that it gives the other person a chance to talk about their personal objectives, what they were interested in that got them into that field. It also gives you insight into how dedicated he or she is to their profession and how proficient they may be at it. When you learn what their previous experience has been, you begin to see ways that you might be able to refer people to them as well over time as the relationship builds.
A third question, and again, this is one that is usually asked, “Where else do network; where else do you go?” Now you’ve heard me talk on previous podcasts that we found in our Referral Institute study that people who say they’re successful a networking spend at least six-and-a-half hours, on average six-and-a-half hours a week networking, and the people who say that networking doesn’t work for them spend less than two hours. So the people who are out there and they’re successful at this, they’re networking in other places, so asking this question is a great way to find out where some other good places to network.
And if you’re a member of BNI, you should be in a Rotary Club or a Lion’s or Kiwanis, you should be in a Chamber, you should be in some knowledge, you should spread it around to different kinds of networks, and here’s a great way to find some other ones that are out there.
Now, this question not only helps break the ice, but it also gives you a chance to talk about something you both know a little bit about. It also is a great opportunity to even refer them to BNI or to other groups that you’re in. It can also make an instant connection. If you provide the other person with valuable information that they may not have known about, then they appreciate that, talking about other networks that you have gone to.
So here’s a question you heard me talk about in the past, Priscilla. It’s been on my list of great questions to ask, and that is, number four, “What are some of your biggest challenges?”
It’s a great question that can be used toward the end of a conversation. Do not use this in the beginning. “Hi, Priscilla. My name’s Ivan. What are some of the biggest challenges you have?” People are like, “Who are you and why are you asking me that question?” So you’ve got to use this towards the end of your conversation, not towards the beginning of the conversation.
Of the questions that I’ve mentioned thus far, this one usually elicits the longest response if you have built the rapport with them, and so here’s a great opportunity, when they tell you about some challenge, well, you can give them a referral. You can say, “Hey, I know somebody who might be able to help you with that.” And please, please, please, this is not an opportunity to sell to them. Be careful about that, because if you get them to open up and then try to close a deal before your credibility, it’s just not going to work. So it’s an opportunity to find ways to help.
Which leads you right into the fifth question, which is, “How can I help you?” Now, you’re not going to say this to everybody, people that you just absolutely have – there’s not connection, you don’t want to do business with them. We’ve all met them; you’ve met people where it’s like, “This is probably is not the” – now, for me, it’s not really what their profession is, it’s just the feelings I get when I talk to them. You’ve probably met, Priscilla, people where you met with them and you walk away and you think, “I need a shower. That person was just so slimy, I just don’t want to do business with that person.”
So I’m not suggesting you use these questions with everybody; you use these questions with people you feel there’s a connection. And by the way, not just with people you think you could get something from, because sometimes some of the best referrals I have gotten have come from people that I would have never thought would have those kinds of contacts. So to me, it’s like: Am I willing to spend more time with this person as an individual? Are they interesting? Do they have an interesting story? Not so much, “What can they give me,” but “Are they interesting and do they appear to be good at what they do?” And obviously, the first time you meet somebody, you’re not going to know for sure.
But these are things that I ask myself is, if they seem to be good at what they do and they’re interesting, then this is somebody I want to network with more. So for those people, you want to ask them the last question, which is, number five, “How can I help you?” So once you’ve asked the new acquaintance some or all of the questions that I’ve given you, the conversation has gone well, you’ve decided this person is someone you’d like to have in your personal network, it’s a good question to ask. Being helpful is the best way to start building a solid relationship. For an experienced networker, it’s a question that comes naturally, because that networker is one who has adopted the mindset of giving value and given service to other people without an immediate return, and it demonstrates that you have other people’s interests foremost in your mind. And I think it’s a great way to start building some credibility and trust with someone.
So those are my questions, and I think asking the right questions is really about earning trust and gaining rapport with a new contact and doing it as quickly as you can. You see, these kinds of questions help to build some type of connection where what’s mostly done is, “Hey, what do you do? Hey, this is what I do. No, I don’t need your product; you don’t need my product. Thanks a lot.” Or “You need my product; buy it.” And that just doesn’t really work well, so these questions I think are great questions to help be seed starters, they’re seedlings for building a relationship.
Um-hmm. It’s true, because you have just a few minutes, really, to form an opinion about someone. It happens pretty quickly, so these are very thoughtful questions. And the part about asking, “How can I help you,” I can tell you that that really endears you to another person.
Yeah, and do you know what, by the way, that works really well, especially if you’re trying to network up. And by “network up,” I mean you’ve met somebody who is – they’re the kind of person you want to be in terms of business, they’re maybe more successful than you, they’re more something than you, more articulate, more professional. You aspire to be more like them; that might be a better way to say it. And if that’s the case, then those kind of people tend to be hit on all the time for business.
You know what I mean? And they’re constantly having to say no, and oftentimes, they feel uncomfortable at networking events because everybody is always trying to get them to buy something or do something. And so those are the ones you most want to make a connection with, but sometimes they’re the more leery of talking to people they don’t know. And that’s a great approach for those people, “How can I help you? You really have an interesting business. If there’s ever anything I can do. How can I help you?” And if you can be more specific, you’ve heard me talk about in previous podcasts, when you talk about a challenge they may be having, “Hey, I have an article I read on that very subject. Would you like me to send it to you? I have the URL. Be glad to send you a link.” Now you’re being very specific on how you can help them, and if you find ways to do that, people will be appreciative, and it’s a great way to start a relationship.
So I know we’re out of time. Let me just give you the five questions one more time.
What do you like most about what you do?
You mentioned that you were in the [blank] industry. What got you started in that direction? That’s a really unique one. Most people don’t do that.
Where else do you usually network? That’s a really good one.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
And how can I help you?
Do those five questions, and you’ll really, I think, help master the art of networking at networking events. And use them in BNI in the open networking portion of the meeting.
I think those are great questions. I’m going to try to memorize them, and I’ll let you know how it goes, my very next encounter.
Great! Let me know!
Thank you, Dr. Misner
I think that’s it for this week. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by AskIvanMisner.com. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you’ll join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.