I grew up in Vermont, so I really didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo (my favorite holiday) until moving to San Francisco when I was 23. But thanks to Jose Cuervo and Corona, I was able to quickly make up for lost time and get into the swing of things. Even though I was a software sales guy then, and many of the other attendees were technically adult corporate citizens with whom I might be able to transact business, I considered these gatherings to be much more “social”—as opposed to “business”—in nature for me. Translation: I was there to tie one on and meet chicks, not work. I now realize that gatherings of adults of any kind are opportunities to grow my business network.
Before you dismiss the observation and assume I’m suggesting you should be in “cheesy sales mode” at parties, hear me out. We always used to say at Jigsaw, “One man’s neighbor is another’s most valuable prospect.” We said this to explain why all contacts were worth the same on the system. Similarly, any time that you attend an event of almost any type, you could easily meet your next customer, investor, business partner, etc.
Do you hate “mingling” with new people? Join the crowd. It’s a very low percentage of the population that loves meeting new people—or, at least the first couple minutes of that process. Below is a short list of tips that anyone can try for introducing yourself to potential business contacts at social events. (Interestingly enough, you can replace “attractive people that you would like to get to know better”)
How to Meet Your Next Customer
- Be prepared. Find out who is going to be there ahead of time, and look them up on social networks. This way, you can have something to talk about when you “bump into” them at the party, soccer game, demolition derby, whatever.
- Use your resources. Ask the people that you already know at the party to introduce you. Even if you just met that person on the way in, or they are the corporate host of the party, people respond better to a third-party introduction than a blind walkup.
- Get in the right frame of mind. Chances are the prospect that you want to meet is a normal, friendly person that is feeling just as awkward as you are.
- Separate from the herd. No matter how confident and friendly you are, it’s awkward to cut into a conversation between people that you don’t know. Wait until the person is alone. Walking to the drink line is ideal, but walking toward the bathroom could work as well. Please note: standing at the urinal or ATM is not a place to introduce yourself.
- Stick to the basics. If you must approach a person “cold,” look them in the eye and say “hi” first. Slick pick-up lines or inane observations, such as “it’s pretty hot in here”, make you look like a donkey.
- Have thick skin. People are going to snub you sometimes—keep that smile on your face and try again with someone else.
- Go slowly. People, like all animals, can sense when you want something from them. Don’t force the topic of conversation to your business. The goal of the “chance” meeting should be to get their business card/contact information and the permission to speak with them again.
My final suggestion would be to make sure that you don’t lose the contact information that you have acquired. A quick scan of the business card with your phone using the ScanBizCards or CircleBack app ensures that you never lose the info, and you can reach out at the appropriate time. Yes, you just got pitched.