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The power of networking is common knowledge nowadays. What’s not so common is knowing how to consistently and effectively do it. Networking is simple, but far from easy. Whenever I’m speaking to a group about networking at least one person asks, “But what do you say (or talk about) when you first meet someone?” Someone else may ask, “What do you say (or do) when there’s an awkward silence in the conversation?” My response to both questions is the same. First decide if the person is a prospect for a partnership and whether they are in the mood to talk to you. If you feel like someone doesn’t really want to talk to you, it’s no big deal. Move on to someone else.

If the person seems willing to engage in conversation then remember this. Oftentimes, your conversation is only as good as the questions that you ask, and a good conversation with an important person will go a long way towards accomplishing just about anything with your business.

To make networking more interesting and fruitful, I put together a list of 39 thought provoking questions to help spur your conversation with fellow entrepreneurs during your next networking encounter.

 Ice-Breaking Questions

Here are questions to ask when you meet an entrepreneur for the first time.

  1. What’s an example of work that you do? Instead of, what do you do?
  2. What do you typically tell people when they ask you what you do?
  3. How did you come to be an entrepreneur/freelancer?
  4. Why do you do what you do?
  5. What would you be doing right now if you weren’t here?

Get to Know Them Questions

These questions will help you get to know them so they’ll warm up to you.

  1. In the beginning, what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
  2. Tell me about your first entrepreneurial experience as a kid.
  3. How have your entrepreneurial motivations changed since you first started?
  4. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
  5. What’s your most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
  6. What does a day-in-the-life of (their name, better remember it) consist of?
  7. What’s the single most important reason for your success?
  8. What do you enjoy most about what you do?
  9. What’s your least favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
  10. What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur?
  11. If you had to choose one thing, what do you think you’re the best in the world at?
  12. How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?
  13. If you never had to work again, what would you do and why?
  14. Looking back, what’s one thing you would do differently?

Critical Thinking Questions

Only entrepreneurs know to ask these types of questions.

  1. How would you define success as an entrepreneur?
  1. How is running a successful business different than what you thought it would be?
  2. What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
  3. What specific things about entrepreneurship do you find to be the most frustrating?
  4. What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
  5. How would you like people to remember you and your company?
  6. When I tell people about how I met you, what would you like me to say?

Seeking Wisdom Questions

This is where you start asking probing questions to get their best advice.

  1. Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood better about entrepreneurship before you ever got started?
  1. If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  2. Besides money, what are your favorite ways to compensate people?
  3. Walk me through the ideal path you’d like someone to take to go from normal consumer to loyal customer?
  4. What’s the best business idea you have that you’ll never use?

Creative Entrepreneurial Questions

Here are a couple creative entrepreneurial questions that are fun to ask.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  2. What’s your favorite metaphor for describing entrepreneurship?
  1. If you had to battle a giant, what weapon would you use? It’s a metaphor.
  2. What’s your greatest fear as an entrepreneur?
  3. How do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person?

If You Dare Questions

Ask these questions at your own risk.

  1. How much money do you think I could make if I started a business like yours? Instead of, how much money do you make?
  2. In the few minutes that I’ve been talking with you, what are your impressions of me?

 Call to Action Question

If you started the conversation with a goal in mind, which you should’ve, this is where you get what you want.

  1. How can I help you build your business?

That’s it. That’s the million dollar question. It’s the difference between being a “remind-me-who-you-are-again” and making a lasting impression on someone.

Helping others is the only way you’ll get what you want in life. So…How can I help you? Tell me what you struggle with in your business so I can help.

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 James Rounds is the founder and principal advisor of Integrated Corporate Solutions, a business development and advisory services firm which specializes in business development, entity formation and corporate compliance. He is an expert business advisor who helps early stage entrepreneurs and solo professionals gain more clarity and confidence to experience even-greater impact, influence and income. Lead generation and teaching others how to grow their business through referrals continues to be his number one source of new business for his company. To find out how he can help you to develop your business and take it to the next level, visit his site at http://www.mycorporatesolutions.net or call 626.824.0399. Facebook: Integrated Corporate Solutions.