13/09/2011

By Andy Lopata, Business Networking Strategist

To help you open up people’s minds to their full network, you have to ask the right questions. The format used across networking groups for years has been the ideal phrase: “Who do you know who…?”

It’s powerful because it’s an ‘open’ rather than ‘closed’ question. It doesn’t allow for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, which: “Do you know anyone who…?” does. Instead it assumes a positive response and forces people to think before answering. Compare this to the oft-used: “If you know anyone who…” which doesn’t even require a response at all!

If you’re assuming a positive response, my advice would be to create the circumstances where there’s a strong chance you’ll receive one. Target your request where you know there will be a positive answer. That comes from understanding the network of the person you’re asking.

Who will your contacts know and will they understand your prospect’s business or situation well enough to recognise the problem he’s experiencing and how you can help solve it?

Don't make your request too broad or your Champions will need to wrack their brains trying to remember which of your services or products would be perfect for the prospect. If doing this is too much of an effort, then your Champions will not be prepared to do so and will probably choose not to bother.

When I ran networking groups we used to have a lot of members from various companies who provided low cost telephone calls and general utilities such as gas and electricity.

More than once I witnessed someone representing such a company stand up in front of a networking group and ask for “anyone who has a telephone.” Needless to say, each time I saw that happen the person making the request went home empty handed and downhearted.

The reason was simple. The request was too broad. How many people do you know who own a telephone? I think it’s fair to suggest that the answer is a lot, too many in fact for you to come to a specific response.

If that is the case, how would you respond to such a request? Would you be willing to introduce that person to everyone you know who has a phone? It’s unlikely as this would be a huge task that would take you too much time.

In which case, how do you decide who to introduce them to? You have to think about a very large network and pick individuals from it, yet you have no real criteria to help you make the selection. Again, this is a huge task, which you’re unlikely to approach with much enthusiasm.

What could the utilities person have done instead? The answer is to have been more specific in his request, asking instead for connections, for example, to retired people on a tight budget and with relatives living far away and so needing to save money on his phone bills.

Do the filtering for your Champions. Be specific about the referrals you want and make their job so easy to do that it becomes automatic.

The moment that I ask you whether you know anyone with an elderly parent living alone and not in care, your subconscious would leap into action and, if you know someone who fits the bill, pull up a picture of them in your mind.

If I ask you who you know who has either just gone to university, or who has children who are on their way to university, if you know someone you’ll think about them now. I’m doing the filtering for you.

If I ask you who you know who’s just had a baby, if you know someone they will jump into the forefront of your mind. I’m doing the filtering for you.

The beauty of this approach is that I can decide what to ask you for based on my knowledge of your age, background and the circles you mix in. I might ask an eighteen year old who they know who has gone to university, a thirty year old who they know who’s had a baby and someone in late middle age who they know who has an elderly parent. Through such steps I increase my chances of a positive response.

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To find out more about how to pick the right networks, implement a successful networking strategy or how to generate more referrals, please visit our website www.lopata.co.uk or contact us at harvey@lopata.co.uk / 01992 450488.

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