Communication is a fundamental skill needed for marketing, journalism, public relations, etc. Not only does it enable you as the message creator to get your message across to the audience, but it also allows you to converse with fellow business partners and prospective clients.
As these fields are, in simpler terms, businesses, the main goal at the end of the day is to earn money. While there are several ways to do this, developing relations with clients and fellow practitioners is a sure way to secure more connections – leading to more business deals for your company.
In order to meet new people and build business-minded relationships, there are several important rules to follow. These rules are general communication guidelines and aim to aide in approaching clients, conversing with them, and “getting on their good side.” At the end of the day, do what makes you feel comfortable (but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while!)
Be the conversation starter
For many people, this is the most scary part of meeting new people. If you know little about a person, but need to talk to them, what do you say? Each situation will be different in conversation starters, but there are a few general go-to’s to make this process a lot easier. This article from Wikihow offers a few great suggestions when you are lost for words in conversation starters.
Often, a good approach to the situation is to address something that both parties have in common. For instance, in many situations you are meeting new people in a professional/work-driven atmosphere. This gives you an opportunity to bring up general work related questions that can bring you into more specific questions (and information you actually need). Here are a few examples:
“Hi, I heard what you said in your presentation earlier. Can you tell me more about _____”
“Hi, I see that you work at _____. What do you do there?”
If all else fails, I have gone up to a person before and said “Hi, my name is ______.” While this may not be the most gratifying introduction, it get’s the job done in breaking the ice.
Make the first move
For whatever reason, the general population very rarely makes the first move in any kind of setting – social, business, etc. This isn’t as bad as it seems, however, as it opens the door for you to be the one who reignites the relationship. My grandpa once said, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” What this means is that in order sustain a healthy relationship, you must do your part. This quote can be applied to building business relationships. In order to get to know the client more, you must do your part in completing various tasks such as talking to them, inviting them to things (coffee), and being actively interested in their lives. You should leave no doubt in the client’s mind that they should work with you because you are a friendly, interesting person who cares about them.
Say the prospective client’s name several times in conversation
Let’s say you are at a social event and have been meeting new people. If you are anything like me, when someone tells you their name it inadvertently goes in one ear and out the other. This becomes difficult when soon after you wish to address them but have forgotten their name.
A small trick that a fellow coworker taught me is to constantly say the client’s name in conversation when first meeting them. This will teach the brain to remember both the face and the name through repetition in conversation. People also like to hear their names said by other people, as it makes them feel important.
Use lines such as: “Hello _____, nice to meet you _____.” “So, _____ tell me more about your position.” “What do you like to do in your free time, _____?” Now when you wish to talk to this person at a future social event, you will remember their name!
Actively interact with the prospective client on social media
As said previously, people like to feel as though they are important. For some, social media is an authoritative meter for social status. No matter how popular this client is, the more likes/retweets/favorite/comments they get on their posts, the more important they will feel. If you are among the group who is constantly interacting with their posted content, the client will begin to take notice. This is especially effective after meeting the client in person, as the client will be able to match a face with the name interacting with their social media content. Business is indefinitely built on relationships, so why would a client work with someone who doesn’t care about their life whatsoever?
Don’t be negative
While you might be truly sorry for yourself for whatever reason, nobody likes to meet someone who is filled with self-pity and negativity. Even saying something as miniscule as “This weather sucks” can convince that person right away that you are a consistent “Debby Downer.” Remember, first impressions are everything. Because your time to interact and grow with a person is usually very limited, it just doesn’t make sense to start off on a negative note. In order to grow a positive relationship with the person, it is completely necessary to start the relationship in a positive manner.
To turn things around, a person you are meeting for the first time may be the one who is overly negative. This is an excellent opportunity to step in and shed positive light on the situation. A leader in a social situation can be characterized with their positive rapport and by turning a negative situation into one with a positive outlook. By being a leader, you make yourself out to be a sought after business contact in the professional world.
Don’t be overly-opinionated
There are not many other things that can turn people off more than being a overly-opinionated person. This is especially harmful when the person you are talking to feels completely different than you about the issue. When meeting a person for the first time, a good rule of thumb is to play it safe when discussing hot-topic issues (or just avoid controversial issues completely). If that person brings up a topic that could cause heated discussion, steer the conversation away from the subject or politely respond that you “don’t usually like to talk about topics like this.”
Don’t be self-absorbed
We get it, you won employee of the year and want to tell the whole world about it. While it is great to tell your closest friends, it might not be the best thing to tell a new person you just met right off the bat. It is crucial that you keep a level-head in terms of boasting about things. When first meeting someone, a person probably doesn’t care about you personally – they care how you can help them succeed in their different goals and business plans. By driving the conversation towards building a fundamental relationship, both parties can be assured they are getting what they want out of the conversation.
The sports clothing brand Nike has an excellent motto when it comes to meeting new people: “JUST DO IT.” As a professional, you must ask yourself why you are at the networking event (to meet people!). To get more comfortable with some of the helpful tips provided in this post, make sure to first practice them on close friends who can give you critical advice on your performance. Remember to not commit the list of DO NOTS, like in the list found here.
If you still are struggling in approaching a person ponder this: What if this person helps to get you a job? Is it WORTH passing up this job opportunity by not talking to them? Remember, the person will probably be nervous to meet you too. IT’S UP TO YOU TO SHAPE THE WAY THE RELATIONSHIP BEGINS!