Discover the Buried Treasure
How do you know exactly what kind of potential this random encounter represents? Is this person someone who runs a department in a company? An entire company? Is this new connection an investor? A small-business owner? Retired? Undergoing a career transition? Maybe this person is none of the above but well connected to all the right people around town. Knowing what you are looking for—having a clear idea of your primary outcome—will allow you to guide the conversation to discover what is possible through your new connection.
Of course, you don’t want to come across as someone who’s disingenuous or blatantly hunting for leads. However, once you have initiated a conversation and proved you’re not going to steal the other person’s identity, you will want to determine whether that person is, in fact, someone worth knowing. Sure, everyone has something to offer; it could simply be good company for the ride (or the wait, or the party). And everyone knows someone who’s worth knowing. But if your long-term goal is to expand your business by expanding your network, your short-term goal is to determine whether this particular individual’s position, personal/professional network, or knowledge can be useful to you.
Qualifying your new friend and determining whether he or she represents an opportunity for you is an essential step in successful random connecting. Use your goals to determine whether it will be beneficial to pursue the conversation. After ...