Asking open-ended questions allows customers to express more of what they want

As an entrepreneur, I have survived at times solely off of my networking abilities. The basic skills are not that hard to learn. However, few people ever become great at networking because they lack the intangibles to take their networking skills to the next level.

The greatest skill that you can possess as a networker is the ability to listen.

If you just listen, people will tell you exactly what they want, what they are looking for and what leads them to make certain decisions.

Yet, in order to get the chance to listen, you have to get someone to talk to you. The key to this is asking open-ended questions.

For example, suppose I wanted to sell a company some advertising packages.

If I ask, “Are you interested in some new advertising opportunities?,” I limit myself to a yes or no answer from a potential customer.

By asking this closed-ended question, I will be forced to ask more questions, which makes the potential customer become defensive.

A better question to ask the prospective customer would have been, “How do you feel about your current advertising?” Then the customer will answer with pertinent information that I could use to make myself the best asset possible. Here are three examples of top questions that have brought me great results as a student and entrepreneur.

What would you be willing to pay for? This question is great because it allows you to get a precise answer from with whomever you are holding a conversation. They are going to answer this question with a step-by-step guide for what they would be willing to pay for.

What’s next in your career?This question is good because it gives people a chance to talk about their favorite topic, which is usually themselves. When people begin talking about themselves they become more comfortable with you.

For example, two years ago I ran into Big Tigger, a television host on Black Entertainment Television.

I began our conversation by asking him this question.

From there we chatted about his calendar, his music career, his television projects and so on.

I made sure that I responded with interest and awe to everything he said. As I had hoped, I was able to spend the rest of the day with him. I even got the opportunity to film an episode of Uncut with him. He was comfortable around me and willing to open up because our number one conversation topic was him.

Would it be possible to have you as my mentor?Here’s a secret, no master feels like he has completely fulfilled his career until he has a protégé under his wing.

Ultimately, people want to be able to say that they helped the next superstar get their start.

I’ve asked many people to fill this role in my career and I have never been told no.

By taking an apprentice under their wing, mentors feel that they now hold some responsibility to help you reach success. Once they feel this way they feel obligated to do more to help you advance.

These are just some of the questions that have helped me in my ability to grow a successful network and business.

There is not enough time or space to elaborate on every good question that can help you achieve success in networking. Just remember to ask open-ended questions that prompt people to talk about themselves. If you can do this, then you will have all the information you need to sell that person your products and services.

Robert Mayberry is the president of the Entrepreneurship Club and the chairman of Shyve Entertainment Group. He can be reached at