Face-to-face Networking – step #2 (THEM)

22nd March 2022

As we start doing more face-to-face networking, here’s a reminder of the four steps of a great conversation:

  1. IN – get into the conversation – see last week’s tip here
  2. THEM – ask them questions – see below
  3. ME – talk about yourself
  4. OUT – get out of the conversation

Following last week’s Tip, we’ve achieved step #1 – we’re now IN the conversation.

Ideally, we now want THEM to do most of the speaking, not us. Lots of reasons for this:

  • It’s more polite
  • People like talking about themselves
  • It’s easier for us (after all, we don’t have to think how to be interesting about ourselves!)
  • Based on what they tell us, we’ll know what their priorities are. This will help us tailor how we describe ourselves later – it’s much easier to be relevant, when you know what they’ll find relevant!

There are three types of questions to ask:

  • Conversation starters
  • Probers
  • AFTERs-finders

#1 Conversation starters

As the name suggests, these are the traditional questions people ask, to get the conversation started. Things like:

  • How are you?
  • How’s business?
  • What do you do?
  • Who do you work for?
  • Etc

These are like a car’s first gear. You won’t win any races in this gear. But they start the engine running, so things can go easier and quicker later.

#2 Probers

These are follow-up questions, to probe into their answers.

These will either usually be generic probing questions – "tell me more?", "anything else?"

Or they’ll start with traditional question words – who, why, where, when, how, etc. Examples:

  • (Conversation starter.) What do you do? ("I’m an accountant")
  • Who do you work for?
  • How long have you worked there?
  • What’s your specialism?
  • How’s business been for you recently?
  • Tell me more about that?

#3 AFTERs-finding questions

‘AFTERs’ are why the other person is better-off AFTER now. In other words, their priorities, goals, etc.

Of course, you can ask the bog-standard "what are your main priorities?" –- but that might feel quite intense in a networking chat.

My favourite is – after they’ve told me about their job – I ask, "what are you responsible for?"

They then reply with what they want to achieve AFTER today!

"I’m in charge of generating sales for my business”; “I’m responsible for growing the practice”; “It’s my job to make sure everything we do is compliant"

I can then bang out a few more probers – tell me more, why, when, what, etc. And I’ve now got a good understanding of them, their job, their priorities, why they’re their priorities…

…which means that, when it comes to talking about me (see next week’s Tip), I can be relevant, valuable and (hopefully!) impressive.

Action Point

Create a list of great Networking Questions. It won’t take long. But this helps improve your skills and confidence with networking. After all, if you ask great questions, you’ll uncover great stuff… the start of a great conversation!

And, for lots more tips on networking

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