Making New Friends: The Solution for the No-Leads Problem
Do you find yourself thinking, “I need more people to talk to about my business?” I did a small survey of my Mirelli Entrepreneur Training for Women members last week and the lack of leads, or not knowing how to find new customers, was their number one source of frustration in their business. My advice: you need to master the art of making new friends.
Making new friends is really not a hard thing to do – unless you look at every person you meet as having potential dollar signs on their head. If you can start to become genuinely interested in other people, you will start making new friends, and ta-dah, you’ll have new people to talk to about your business. And I’m not saying you have to make new “best” friends, but you need to expand your network of people who you know by name and that you know something personal about. Getting to know them personally is the only way you will be able to determine whether or not they need or want your product or service.
Not everyone wants to be your customer. Not everyone is interested in what you do. But everyone is interested in other people who are interested in them.
When you hear the word “networking,” what do you picture? Do you picture a cocktail party in a big ballroom environment where you need to go up to strangers and strike up a conversation? Or do you picture an expo where you are standing at a booth and trying to make small talk all day? Or is the first image in your mind you sitting in front of a computer sending messages to strangers on Facebook or emailing connections from LinkedIn?
Those are all great networking places. But I challenge you to think even wider. What if you change your idea of networking to include the people standing in line with you at Starbucks? Or the other parents waiting for your child’s class band concert? What about the family waiting for a table at a busy restaurant?
It doesn’t take a lot to strike up a conversation. But it does take courage. It takes guts. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable and make the first move. It takes practice. It’s okay to be nervous. But it’s not okay to sit at home and let fear stop you from connecting with new people who just might be the connections you need to take your business to the next level. Check out meetup.com or look for networking meetings or community events in the local newspaper. There are plenty of opportunities out there for you to find new people. Being shy or an introvert is not an excuse. If you are in business, you need to force yourself to learn a new skill – the art of making new friends. Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it kill you? No. And it just might make you stronger!
But here are some tips to make it a little easier:
- Be aware of the other person’s openness to being approached. If they are fixated on their cellphone or have headphones in and refuse to make eye contact, leave them alone. But if you can make eye contact, make a comment about what is currently going on around you. Ask if they have ever ordered your favorite drink. Offer a sincere compliment on their hairstyle or tee-shirt or shoes. If you can share a story or comment that makes the other person laugh, then you know you’ve got an opening.
- Be genuinely interested in the other person and ask questions to get them to open up. Newsflash: people love to talk about themselves. Listen to what they say and they will continue to talk. If they ask about your business, do not give them a full presentation. Just give them a quick elevator speech. If they do not ask, do not volunteer. Keep it casual. The only caveat, however, is if they mention something that you can help with, then it’s okay to mention what you do and how you could help. For instance, the woman beside you says she is going to the store next door to buy a wedding gift. You could mention that you sell candles and have some terrific sets that make great gifts (and make sure you have some business cards with you!).
- Do not attach any expectation to the outcome. Maybe you’ll never hear from or see them again. That’s okay. Or maybe they’ll ask for an appointment. That’s okay, too. The point is to contact new people. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become and the more you’ll be able to tailor your opening comments and follow-up questions to get the information you really want.
The more you can practice the art of making new friends, the better you will become. Make it a game for yourself. Practice, practice, practice. See how many strangers you can talk to in a day. I promise you, some of those people want what you have and are willing to talk to you about your business. But they want to connect with you first.
So get out there and start making new friends,