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Posted on Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 6 a.m.

A better networking strategy: Make them feel good about themselves

By Greg Peters


Photo by Bing Ramos

When someone decides to use a networking event for selling, one of the things I will often see them do is use an "elevator pitch" to ask probing questions designed to uncover specific needs.

The problem with this approach is that it is effectively asking the other person: "So, tell me about this pathetic excuse you have for a life."

Now, maybe that works for some people. It won't work for a networker. Remember that our goal is to find ambassadors and friends (and let them find clients for us). With that in mind, when we meet someone for the first time, probably the best course of action is not to have them associate us with feelings of inadequacy.

Instead, your goal should be to link yourself to their vision of themselves as a success.

To do this, focus conversations toward where things have gone right in their lives, past, present, or future. Try out these questions:

  • How did you decide to start selling widgets in the first place?
  • In your opinion, what makes a successful widget salesman?
  • Where do you think the widget industry is headed in the next five years? How are you planning on taking advantage of that?
  • What sort of changes have you seen in the widget industry since you started? How did you adapt?
  • Who have been your best customers? Why?
  • What sort of fun things do you have planned outside of work?
  • When you aren't selling widgets, what do you like to do? Tell me how you got into that.

Asking these types of questions lets the other person talk about his successes over the years, his passions right now and his goals for the future. The neat thing is, while he is reliving all of his great moments, you are standing right there, along for the ride. Even though it doesn't make sense, he will begin to associate you with those positive views of himself.

And who would you rather be friends with, someone who makes you feel proud about yourself? Or that guy who helped you to realize what a miserable existence you've led?

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to