Networking 1 to 1

Networking 1 on 1 is great... if you ask the right questions

Networking one on one is the most powerful way to network.

Compared to being at a big event, or having conversations online, 1-1s are more relaxed, you’ll be interrupted less, they allow for deeper conversation, and you’ll often find out more interesting ‘stuff’ about the person you’re meeting with. But how can you make them as productive as possible? Which questions should you ask to maximise the chance of developing business and referrals between you and your 1-1 partner?

Let’s assume that the basics are covered. You know who they are, what they do, where they’re based, and so on. You now need information to help you pass referrals. Here are my top 8 questions to ask in a business building 1-1. For each one, I’ve gone into WHY it is a good idea to ask them.


Question 1 – Who are your top 3 current clients?

  • Knowing who the person’s current clients are could mean potential referral opportunities for you.
  • If you know your partner’s current clients, you can match up referral possibilities from your own network in similar industries. For example if they do a lot of work with accountants, you could introduce them to more accountants.
  • It is important to know what level someone is working at. There’s a very big difference, for example, between doing some legal work for a local corner store, and doing legal work for Tescos.


Question 2 – Why do your clients think you are good?

  • This is the ultimate question to help build credibility. It’s all well and good hearing your partner tell you why they’re good, but if it comes from their clients, that’s even stronger.
  • It becomes much easier to recommend your partner with this knowledge.
  • The best answers to this question will come in the form of a story. Stories are far more interesting and engaging to listen to, making them more memorable, which means they’re more likely to be retold. When they get retold, referrals are more likely to result.


Question 3 – Who are your top 3 target clients?

  • It’s far too easy to just talk about what has happened. If referrals are an intended consequence of the 1-1, then the future needs to be discussed too. A one to one should have an ask, and we can also help our partner with what they’re looking for.
  • Quite frankly, if you don’t know who your top 3 (or 5, or 10) target clients are, how will anyone else possibly know!?!


Question 4: What’s the best way to introduce you to a target client?

  • Even if your partner can help you with your specific referral request, they won’t be able to unless they know what to say to them.
  • Whatever we do say needs to get over the initial barrier ‘but I already have a good accountant’. Client success stories are the best way to do this.


Question 5: Who typically passes you business as an introducer?

  • Introducers are brilliant for business. Instead of receiving a referral to a single end user, you could receive a referral to someone who’ll pass you 10, 100, or 1000 end users.
  • The question also gets people thinking about where their business comes from, and may help them if they are struggling with coming up with specific referral targets.


Question 6: How did your best referral happen?

  • Hearing how referrals occurred is usually fascinating. It will likely involve some sort of story, which will be interesting.
  • There is the chance for the situation to be replicated.


Question 7: What can I watch/listen out for to get you a referral?

  • This is an alternative approach to specific referral requests for finding business for someone. It involves training the person to look out or listen out for given situations. For example, someone complaining about how their computer is slow = opportunity for IT professional. 
  • By ‘planting seeds’ in the minds of our networking contacts, we can get them looking for business opportunities for us when we’re not even there.


Question 8: What are we doing next?

  • Networking without follow up is a complete waste of time. Having asked the previous 7 questions (each way), there will be a number of actions for either partner – typically making an/some introduction(s). Agree between you what the actions are, who’s doing them, how are they doing them, and by when.
  • What we’re doing next might well also include when we’re next meeting. If the 1-1 has led to referrals, why wouldn’t you want to do it again in 3-6 months time? Relationship building is a journey, not a destination after all.