Connect Meetings – Adding Value to Your Network
One of the most effective ways to get to know your networking partners is to have Connect Meetings, which are essentially face to face, getting to know each other appointments. By getting to know our referral partners, we will be better equipped to refer them to their ideal prospects and perhaps even deepen relationships based on knowing them better, liking them, trusting them, and valuing what they offer to their clients.
Here are a couple of tips that might help you maximize the value of your connect meetings, a few things two avoid when having effective connect meetings, and a handful of great questions to enrich your connections.
Five Things to Avoid For Effective Connect Meetings
- Pitching – the point of a connect meeting is not to sell anything nor recruit anyone. By pitching, you’re likely to put the other person on the defensive and you are likely to stifle any future referrals.
- One-sided conversations – connect meetings are conversations between two professionals to learn more about each other and their ideal prospects. The only way to learn something about someone else is to ask meaningful questions and to actively listen to the answer.
- Timing Issues – postponing, being late, or canceling (especially last minute) convey that we don’t respect their time or our own and may convey that you don’t value the other person.
- Open-ended meeting length – it can be very easy to have longer than necessary connect meetings. Let’s face it, hanging out with a new friend is typically a lot more fun than working. So, unless you are having a connect meeting outside normal productive time, it is best to set a start and stop time and respect each other’s time and productivity.
- Emotionally charged topics – some topics can be abrasive and perhaps aggressive. Avoid talking about politics, sex, religion, and other emotionally charged topics. Such topics, while great for debate, can quickly derail an otherwise great relationship.
Six Tips for Great Connect Meetings
- Curious Mindset – you’re getting to know someone and being curious helps us to convey that we care enough to be curious and ensures that we ask great questions. Even though you may know someone in a similar profession or even in the same company, your new friend may have a completely different perspective and definitely has a uniqueness.
- Be prepared – research your new friend using social media. Learn what you can about them on social media and elsewhere on the internet including reading articles about them and what they do. If appropriate, do a little homework on their company and interests.
- Learn what you can about their DISC personality traits (Dominant, Interactive, Stabilizer, or Cautious), so you can ask better questions.
- Learn about their hobbies and interests and what drives them when they aren’t working.
- Learn anything you can that will add to the conversation and communicate that you invested the time to learn more about them.
- Actively Listen – listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills. Mastery of this one skill is absolutely critical to success in all of our relationships. An earlier article on Active Listening might be helpful.
- Minimize distractions – nothing conveys you don’t care as much as checking your text messages, playing with your smartwatch, or sending emails during a connect meeting.
- If you’re easily distracted, like me, position yourself with distractions out of view like TVs, picture windows, doorways, etc.
- With permission, take notes and clarify details.
- Safety – keeping your new friend feeling safe and non-judged helps them to openly communicate and connect. By communicating with our “Nurturing Parent”, as discussed in our earlier training topic Keeping Your Prospect Safe, we can nurture better conversations. The manner in which we ask questions, our body language conveys judgment, and the words we choose can greatly impact our conversation. This is the companion mindset for not selling or recruiting during a connect meeting; however, this is much deeper and requires a greater degree of empathy.
- Use Mutually Agreed Agendas with Outcomes – it is easy to get off on the wrong foot if we aren’t on the same page. By clarifying the time, both start and stop, what their agenda is and then ours, and finally any needed outcomes like scheduling our next meeting, connecting on social media, and any follow-up can be super helpful.
- Have Extra-ordinary Grace – most aren’t trained in Bold and probably haven’t learned most of these mindsets and techniques. In fact, they may try to sell you or recruit you quite aggressively. If you’ve set a Mutually Agreed Agenda it will be much easier to redirect the conversation; however, a little grace goes a long, long way. It’s okay to keep them safe and remind them of why you are getting together and that includes getting to know the problems they solve and their ideal prospects so you can actively connect them with others in your network that might need to know them.
Great Questions for Connect Meetings
- Career Choice to discuss during Professional Networking Meetings
- Of all the things you could do, why did you choose to do what you’re doing now?
- What do you want to be when you grow up, if ever?
- What’s required to be in your career?
- If you could change one thing about your profession, what would that be?
- How do you measure your success in your profession?
- Interests to discuss during Professional Networking Meetings
- What do you do for fun? Hobbies, charities, etc.
- Are you from this area? Typically a pretty safe question
- What brought you to the area?
- Family questions – are you from a big family? Where are they from? Any kids? Grandkids?
- Do you belong any interesting organizations or groups?
- Do you have any exciting plans on the horizon? Vacations, cruises, trips?
- Ideal Prospects for Professional Networking Meetings
- What can you tell me about your ideal prospects? Specifics?
- How will I know when I’ve met when of your ideal prospects?
- What is the best way for me to introduce them to you?
- What problems do you solve for your ideal prospects that your competitors might not do as well?