Referrals are a beautiful thing. But let’s be honest – there are going to be times when you have to get out there and look for work.
So you hit the next networking event. People are everywhere. It's chaotic to you. What do you do next? How do you build up to asking for a sale, when starting any kind of conversation feels really, really weird?
Here’s what I’ve found works for getting over that initial awkwardness and taking that first step towards a sale.
You’re not the only one who feels a little uncomfortable walking up and starting a conversation with a person at a party. Most designers tend to be introverted. I know I often feel a little uncomfortable talking to strangers. One thing I’ve done to try to get over that is practice on strangers.
We all meet random people throughout our day. We meet them on the street, in a restaurant, on a bus, in an elevator. And every time we do, we have a choice — do we ignore them, or do we take a moment to listen and learn more about who they are?
I look at everyone I meet as a chance to learn. I ask them questions and listen to their responses. I’ve found the more I do this in my everyday life, the less awkward it feels when I meet someone I want to do business with. The more comfortable you feel getting to know someone when you’re not trying to close, the more natural it feels to connect in a business-centric environment.
Unless you’re doing business with robots, everyone you could possibly build rapport with is going to have interests outside of their business. You need to develop those interests too.
Maybe you skateboard. Maybe you love comic books. Maybe you go nuts over a cup of perfectly brewed tea. Maybe you drive a certain type of car or listen to a specific genre of music. These are all entry points that can get you started towards a sale.
I’ve met people with whom I went on to do business with in completely random situations. How’d we connect? Over a shared interest. I didn’t dive in by talking about myself or peppering them with questions about their business. We just talked about something we had in common and the conversation naturally grew to a place where I could ask for a sale. The more entry points you have, the more well-rounded you are as a person, the more likely you’ll be to have these kinds of conversations.
Your leads are going to come from the people around you. In order to get them, you have to put down your computer and go outside! That doesn’t necessarily mean diving head first into an intimidating or awkward event, but it does mean pushing yourself outside of what you’d normally find comfortable.
Oh, and one more tip. Still not sure about getting out there? Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a classic for a reason.
Cultivate entry points, practice as much as possible, and just get out there in the world. Trust me – the more you do this in a non-business context, the easier and more natural it will feel when it’s time for you to ask for the sale.