“At the heart and soul of any networking interaction is a conversation. When people share stories, interests and ideas, they build rapport,” according to Diane Darling, author of The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know. In this book, she shows how to network more successfully to connect with people, build rapport, and have conversations that lead to a closing.
As we know in real estate sales, a transaction closing begins with an opening. When you meet people, you have to start somewhere. Begin by smiling, extending your hand for a handshake and saying, “Hello.” When a person feels comfortable with you, they will open up and connect. A connection leads to a conversation. Conversation develops into a business friendship. And that turns a prospect into a client and conversations that lead to closing escrow!
Can you see how more conversations lead to more closings? The keys to more conversations are to spend time with people we already know and to meet more people. It’s perfectly okay to talk to strangers! Good conversation strengthens your self-confidence and makes you memorable to others, according to Darling.
Ask questions that show you are interested in others. At a networking event, three conversation-starting phrases include:
- “What brought you here today?”
- “What does your company do?”
- “Where are you from?”
Neutral topics always put people at ease. Comment on a local sports team, their family members, new books or movies, the weather or the latest news in the headlines (steer away from political stories). People love to talk about their children and grandchildren, and perhaps you can find a common ground in their family members. For example, if their child attended a state university, you can relate the story of your child who graduated from the same college.
Give a sincere compliment to the other person. Since you may not know people very well yet, you can find something you like about their outfit. Be careful, however, when complimenting the opposite sex. You don’t want them to take it the “wrong way” and be accused of flirting! So focus on something minor, such as a tie or jewelry. Most importantly, be authentic. Say it only if you mean it. People are quick to discern a faker so be real — with tact, of course!
Introduce people to each other. It takes a bit of skill to connect people at a networking event. Think about people’s background and experiences. You can always say something interesting about a person you know, or just met. Introducing mutual friends is a great way to be perceived as a resourceful person. By creating conversations that lead to closings for your friends and colleagues, you will create more closings for yourself as well.
Most importantly, be a good listener. That means you must be PRESENT. Focus on looking at the other person instead of your cell phone. In fact, leave your phone and gadgets in the car. Media devices will distract you from networking with real people in person.
When listening, smile and accept the person, even if you don’t agree with their point of view. Remember to use your manners and don’t take others for granted, even your co-workers who came with you. “Please” and “Thank you” are two golden keys, says Darling.
Allow others to be experts in their topic without trying to control the conversation. It’s all about giving people enough grace to help them feel comfortable being around you. Lastly, laugh! Show a sense of humor by chuckling at other’s jokes.
This is an excellent book that also shows how to transition a conversation from one topic to another and how to exit from a conversation. It also touches on how long to talk to someone and which topics NOT to discuss. Don’t “overshare” by revealing too much personal information to a person you just met. For more networking advice, pick up a copy of The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know by Diane Darling.