Whenever I run a networking training workshop, I always start off the event by asking everyone who they are. Nearly 100% are in sales or business development (BD) or a related department. I know this because instead of telling who they are, everyone tells me what they do, who they do it for and for how long. But I asked them who they are.
In any other circumstance, when asked who we are, we would answer with our names, where we come from, where we live now (if different) and then onto our jobs and employer. Name – birthplace – city of residence – role and employer. Or, personal / geography / business. Remember this order when out networking because it is the best order of questions when meeting someone for the first, whether it is you doing the asking or being asked. The three sub-sets also deliver the best chance of finding something that connects you and the person you have just me. Once, you find that connection, the higher the chances of the conversation developing beyond the stilted and staccato death-chats we all fear when we are networking.
These three areas are also what link us all. We are all alive at this particular time, we have all made it to the same venue (OK, some may have flown in but we have this location in common), and we are in business. This is why most of us are here. To find business opportunities. Note: not sales.
They are a long way down the line, even if you are in BD or sales, and despite what the person who sent you to this venue has reminded you. The tangible rewards of networking flow as part of a continuing set of interactions between humans and the companies they represent. But for now, you are human being meeting another human being and you want to find ways to like them, enjoy the experience of meeting them and to find a reason to stay connected. Finding something in common is the best indicator that a business or personal relationship will follow once you have left this event.
The fact you are in BD and sales is the reason you have been sent here, and the more events you attend, the better you will get at conversations. It is this vital skill that the best sales people have: knowing when to talk and learning how to listen. But for now, you are networking, so find someone who has no-one to talk to and ask them who they are.