Timeless Networking Advice for Entrepreneurs from a Cal State Fullerton Mentor

CSUF Startup Incubator Open House 2016

Here’s a photo of entrepreneurs networking at the CSUF Startup Incubator Open House in 2016. You never know when you will meet your next business partner, client, employee, or friend.

A couple of weeks ago in the weekly CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider Director Jackson talked about the importance of networking. Networking is a powerful way for entrepreneurs to actively create new opportunities and while volumes can (and have) been written on the topic oftentimes the best advice is also the most straightforward advice.

After reading Director Jackson’s newsletter, longtime CSUF Entrepreneurship mentor, executive, and serial entrepreneur Dr. Don McCrea sent in some advice that I think every entrepreneur should know about and put into practice. Here is Don’s timeless networking advice for entrepreneurs:

Here’s a suggestion that was made to me several years ago that I feel is the best networking advice I’ve ever gotten. The advice is to ask two questions, listening to the response on each one, and then following up where appropriate. Here they are:

  1. Ask “Who are you?” Not, “What do you do?” Asking who they are differentiates you from everyone else they’ll meet at the event, but also lets you get to know more about who they really are.
  2. Ask “How can I help you?” Again, listen to what they need. Maybe even jot a note on their business card. If you encounter someone at that event (or later) who fills that need, introduce the two of them. You will be well-remembered, and you’ve begun a relationship.

You’re starting a conversation, not taking a test. So these questions are designed to provoke that conversation, and there may be some interchange that takes place between the two questions.

I’ve always listened naturally for how I can create value for those I meet—especially if they’re a prospect or client—but reframing my questions to those above has had a very positive effect on my network creation.

Being able to stand out from the crowd is a skill that you can learn and these questions are a good way to do that. At the next networking event you attend, or even the next person you meet for the first time, try asking these straightforward questions and see what kind of response you get. I bet it will work out very well for you.

Speaking of networking, our next event is How Successful Entrepreneurs Raise Funds from Banks in Irvine on Wednesday, April 18 at 6pm. We hope to see you there!


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