Networking and Sales: How difficult can it be?

Last week I spoke at a conference for attorneys. After one of my sessions, I met a few of the attendees in the restaurant and they invited me over to their table for a drink. As you can imagine, the subject of sales came up. They wanted to specifically talk about networking.

A sharp guy from a big, successful firm said:

“Dave, come on. How hard can it be? You go to a couple of meetings. You shake some hands. You hand out a few business cards and when people need you, they call you.


Obviously this was not someone who had done much successful networking.

There was some banter about how those large meetings were usually a waste of time and how people at those meetings usually wound up talking to folks they already knew.

All the while, I listened intently and sipped my drink. Then, when someone asked for my networking strategy, I gave it to him…and it blew his mind.

Here’s what I told the folks sitting around the table:

Networking is simple. After you meet someone and exchange pleasantries, you only need to ask two questions in order to develop a productive relationship with them.

Question 1: “What’s your biggest work related challenge?” (As an alternative: “What’s keeping you awake at night?”)

Question 2: “Who can I introduce you to that would transform your business/career?”

Those are magic questions. Ask them and a great conversation will follow.

Why do these work so well?

Many reasons:

They shift the conversation to the other person. People love to talk about themselves.

The person you are speaking with will immediately like you because you asked about him.

A person thinking about the second question will drop his/her guard. He will immediately go into a stream of conscious dialogue about his needs.

You have a clear opportunity to demonstrate value to this person.

This fourth point is critical.

If you can help this person either: 1) solve the problem that is keeping him awake or 2) introduce him to someone that can transform his business, you will have an ally and/or client for life.

But that’s not always possible. More likely, you will have made a memorable impression on this person (because you discussed his business and things that were important to him) and he will refer you some business when he can.

Here’s the important part of this networking process:

If you ask these questions often enough, you will eventually be able to match people up almost at will.

This means when person “A” says he wants to meet person “B” you may know person “J” who is in the same industry and holds the same title but with a different company. So even though you didn’t make the introduction to person “B” you were still able to connect people who could do business.

This skill, which I call interpersonal networking, is the business version of matchmaking. It has been one of my strongest business development tools throughout my career.

The attorneys at the table were enthralled. It seemed so simple yet none of them were doing it.

The next morning when I came down to the conference, the entire place was buzzing. It seems they had an online discussion board and this exercise had taken over the discussion. Now everyone was matching people up and more than a few strategic alliances had been formed.

Oh, yeah, a few of them also sent me some referrals as well…imagine that…

Here are three additional articles to help you make more money with sales:

How important is sales to your business? You need to grow or die.

The easiest person to sell is the person with a problem. Here’s how you sell the solution.

The number one is the worst number in sales. Aren’t you wondering why?