Asking The Right Questions

It’s essential to master the skill of how to ask questions in the right way if you are going to build relationships with people, understand them and their businesses

Here are some tips for helping you to ask questions in the right way when you are out networking so you really are making the most of your time talking with others.

Getting a person to talk

As a rule asking open questions, questions which elicit more than one word answers will gain you more information. So asking questions beginning with ‘who’, ‘what,’ ‘why,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ ‘how’ and ‘tell me about’ are great to get the other person talking. This is more effective to get people talking than the ‘ do you…,’ ‘are you…’ questions which elicit a specific and usually one word response ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

At the beginning of a conversation ask questions that are easy & open

When you first meet someone it really is about building rapport with that person so don’t be afraid to ask the simple and safe questions such as ‘who else do you know here?’ and ‘where do you live?’

Once you have started to build rapport progress to more business-related questions.

If you stick with just small talk it is unlikely you will achieve what you have come to this networking event for…to gain business contacts. So don’t be afraid to move onto asking about the other person’s business…what do they do, where are they based, what is their market?

Established the other person’s challenges and needs

One question that is so easy to ask which can reveal so much about the other persons’ business and their current needs is ‘what challenges do you currently face in your business?’ Whether it is staffing needs, training needs, motivation needs, or problems with bad debts this question can uncover so many issues that this person faces which you can park in your mind for the future. Whilst it’s not about diving in and saying ‘ oh yes, I can help you with that’ it is about having that information at a later date that will help determine whether you need to get to know this person further.

Ask more specific questions to get more specific answers

Once you have built a level or rapport and built up a general understanding of the other person’s business you can then ask more specific questions. ‘Who exactly is your ideal client?’ ‘Where are your customers mainly based?’

Ask closed questions to close down a conversation

Sometimes you will find yourself with someone who just won’t stop talking so asking more closed questions rather than open questions could help stem the flow of conversation. So move away from the ‘tell me more about’ question to ‘so, where are you based’ or ‘have you been to one of these events before.’

If you are ready to move on from this person asking a question like ‘would you like me to introduce you to…?’ or ‘I’m getting a bit hungry…shall we get some food?’ are great ways to bring a conversation to an end politely.

If the relationship is worth developing ask for a further one to one meeting

Clearly at a networking event it is highly unlikely that you are going to be able to build relationships with someone enough to then do business with them straight away. In you initial conversations though by asking the right questions you may have established some common ground and potential opportunities to work with each other in the future.

If this is the case it is about establishing whether the other person would like to talk further and have a one to one meeting where possibilities can be explored. So before you leave the event ensure you both have the same understanding by asking the following:

  • Would you like to talk further?
  • When would be a convenient time to call you to arrange a meeting?
  • How is your diary looking this month?
  • Shall we aim to arrange a meeting before the end of the month?

Questions to avoid

The questions to avoid are ones that could be potentially sensitive such as ‘are you married, do you have children, what are your politics/religious views, how much do you earn’. Ask questions like these and you won’t build relationships, more likely you’ll wreck them before they’ve even begun.