Cold calling. Networking events. Word of mouth. Social Media.
These are all methods that business men and women have successfully used to generate leads and find clients. But there is one strategy that many business people are not using nearly as well as they could be – the art of talking to strangers.
I realize that the thought of talking to strangers might be scary and awkward for you. It really does not have to be a big deal, though. Like anything else, there are good ways and bad ways to go about it, and there are ways to overcome your weaknesses. I am a big believer that most people can dramatically improve their communication skills, even if they think it’s a lost cause.
As a communication coach, I have often had to rely on talking to strangers to find clients myself, so I have studied this topic seriously. Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” about generating leads the old fashioned way – in person.
The Mindset (Self-talk)
Before you even begin using the talking to strangers strategy, it is important that you have the right mindset.
Do: Be casual. As soon as you make a conversation a big deal, you will end all chances of being able to relax and be yourself.
Don’t: Have a pass/fail mindset. Instead of thinking of every conversation with a new person as a win or lose scenario, think of them as a chance to simply gain information. You are either going to find out that the person is a good connection for you or not. There is no reason to feel bad if you don’t click with someone or their business.
Starting a Conversation (The Open)
If you can’t start, you can’t finish. None of this matters if you do not know how to get things going.
Do: Keep things simple. An observational comment or even a casual “hello” or “how are you” is all you need to get a conversation going. There is no need to get fancy.
Don’t: Be dramatic. Life is rarely like the movies. You don’t have to make a big splash with a huge compliment or instant sales pitch to start talking to someone. Your best bet is to be calm, cool, and collected and just see what happens.
Continuing a Conversation (Small Talk)
Once a conversation has begun, it is important to know how to keep it going so you have the chance to close later.
Do: Ask simple questions (such as what do you do?, are you from _____?, or how long have you have been at your job?, etc.)
Don’t: Only ask questions. Asking question after question is a bad look. Do you really want the person to feel like they are being interviewed? Questions are good, but be sure you also mix in some comments of your own as well.
Ending a Conversation (The Close)
All of your conversation skills will be wasted if you don’t know how to close the deal and get contact information from a potential client.
Do: Get contact information if you have a reason to. Getting contact info is as simple as exchanging business cards. If that is not possible, ask to give and/or get an email address or phone number so you can get in touch later.
Don’t: Give your card to everyone you meet. Always make sure you have made a good connection before you start handing out your business card. This is one reason why you should never give your card to people as soon as you meet them. Yes, lead generation can be a numbers game. But, the game should not begin until you find out if there might be potential there.
Follow Up (Reconnecting)
How and when you follow up can mean the difference between closing and not closing your lead.
Do: Get in touch within 24 hours of meeting someone. Times 100 if you actually told them you would get in touch.
Don’t: Worry about how you get in touch. Email, call, text, connect on LinkedIn, whatever. It doesn’t really matter how you reach out. Just do it.
Overcoming Anxiety (Social Comfort)
Fear is normal. We don’t have to let it stop us from accomplishing our goals, though.
Do: Talk to strangers like you are already best friends. This strategy can eliminate a lot of the stress, awkwardness, and anxiety. If you are already best friends with someone, that means you aren’t nervous when you talk to them. You also don’t feel like you have to try to impress them. So, imagine that everyone you meet is already on your good side. You will be in a much better frame of mind if you do.
Don’t: Worry about being liked. Talking to strangers for business purposes is about finding good connections. Sometimes you will find them, sometimes you won’t. There should be no reason to worry if things don’t work out in any one situation. The last thing you want to do is take things personally.
Conclusion (Winning Time)
Talking to strangers is good for business, and it doesn’t have to just be reserved for the most extroverted people. It is a skill that can be learned by anyone – and it can take your business to higher levels.