I know it seems forward and maybe a little out of place if you’re unsure the person you’re talking to is a sports fan. But trust me a yes/no sports question really is the best way to strike up a conversation.
It’s also the first step in using sports talk in networking and relationship building. Whether you’re growing your network, prospecting new clients or getting to know new colleagues the key to building relationships and establishing rapport is making consistent connections.
Sports talk can help you do that, and a Yes/No question like “Did you see the game last night?” narrow the focus and give you a starting point. I personally don’t care what the answer is, I just want a direction to take the conversation and craft my follow up interaction.
The next interaction might be about sports, or maybe the conversation branches out. That can happen if you keep an open mind.
It’s not all about sports, or maybe it is. I’m all for a hard-core sports conversation but there are plenty of sports adjacent topics you can use to spin the conversation in a different direction like travel, food and the overall game day experience. All of those topics can be useful in connecting, planning your next interaction and building relationships.
Here’s something worth considering, talking about a game might not feel important, scholarly or even all that interesting if you’re not a sports fan – but there’s always more to the conversation. Sports fans reveal a lot about themselves, their personal brand and communication preferences in small talk. Want an example? Here you go: No fan has a favorite player by accident. There’s a reason and it’s directly tied to characteristics or values a fan either relates to or admires.
Being able to identify those characteristics and themes in your conversation takes relationship building to the next level because now you can literally speak their language.
With sports as a starting point, you don’t have to search for follow up opportunities. A sports schedule and sports season literally provides the blueprint. You don’t need to reach out before/after every game, but you can make it point to send a note or text before a big game or series. Mark the halfway point of the season on your calendar along with the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. That’s at least four points of connection without even trying… and without using the phrases “just circling back around” in your email.
Lastly, sports fans are fans every day of the year. Fans don’t go to games on the weekends and wait until the following weekend to talk about it. When you give a fan a chance to talk about their favorite team or player they’ll give you an opening to more conversations which is exactly what you want in building relationships.