There are many reasons to begin networking with others – when you’re looking for a new job either inside or outside of your company, to grow your connections and expand your sphere of influence, or to help other people by being a resource for them. Some people love nothing more than to attend large networking events where there’s a smorgasbord of new people to meet. Others are more comfortable networking in a ‘face to face’ meeting with only one or two people.
Whatever your networking style, as an executive and career coach who helps high achievers get promoted and lead, I’ve uncovered three questions that every person should ask at the end of a networking meeting. After you’ve covered all the other information you are seeking to learn, (and it helps to plan ahead so you ensure you’re covering all of your bases) ask:
1. What other ideas do you have for me? (And then listen).
This allows the person to offer any further insight or ideas that the earlier conversation has generated. Maybe the conversation only touched on the surface, and he or she has some other thoughts they’d like to share. It’s very similar to a question I always used to ask at the end of a media interview – “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” We don’t know what we don’t know, and this question can potentially open up another avenue of action to take.
2. Is there anyone else I should be talking to who might have helpful information for me?
If you think of networking as a long chain of human connection, this is a link that continues the chain. I’ve had clients use this question to move them closer to decision-makers for job openings, have introductions to CEO’s made, and learn about new positions that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Rarely does anyone fail to think of someone else who might provide useful information if the rapport established during the networking meeting is solid, and a real relationship is being formed.
3. Would you be comfortable making an introduction?
This is the natural follow up question to question 2. If the meeting has gone well, people will most often agree to make an email introduction. An email introduction establishes a ‘warm lead’ if you will, and if the person is willing to extend the introduction, it lends you, as the information seeker, a much more credible introduction. On occasion, the person may reach out to their connection first to see if they will agree to the introduction, but 9 times out of ten, the introduction is made.
What to do next!
Don’t forget to follow up! This is critically important. If someone has gone out of their way to share a valuable contact with you, follow through. Thank the person making the introduction, and then reach out to the contact. Don’t expect them to make the first move. As a connector, I’ve had people that I’ve made introductions for fail to follow through. I haven’t made another connection for them again. It’s my reputation and credibility on the line, too, as I am ‘vouching’ for this person. So make sure you follow through.
Asking these three key questions can lead to new opportunities and connections, often with valuable results. If you have useful questions you ask in your networking conversations, please share. I’d love to know what works for you!