How to Master the 'Soft Sell'
Social prospecting makes lots of sense. You can make the case for compartmentalizing your life and not having your business radar switched on 24/7, but it's a good idea to raise your visibility in your local leisure and community activities. Everyone should know who you are, what you do, and why you are good. You want to know who they are, where they work and what they do.
You aren't going to circulate at summer picnics and museum openings meeting everyone and shaking hands. Leave that to the politicians running for re-election in November. You are going to be yourself. Somewhere along the way you will meet some charming people. Your business radar beeps: "This person might be a good personal client." Or "He's over his head in his business and doesn't know it." Opportunity knocks softly.
You need to develop a social relationship first. Become friends first, see where it goes. Let them get comfortable with you. They already know what you do: They asked in the first 60 seconds of conversation.
So how do you lay the groundwork for seeing them again? While you are having that polite conversation and your business radar starts pinging, mentally shut it off. Make your polite excuses and detach yourself from the conversation. Circulate. Why? Because less is more. You've left them with a positive impression.
At the end of the evening, circle back to them. Bottlenecks like the coat check line or the parking valet stand are the ideal venue. Walk up to them. Let them know you really enjoyed talking earlier. Acknowledge you share lots of interests in common. It's likely they will be foreign travel, food, spectator sports, or something similar. Name those interests. It demonstrates you were paying attention.
"I would like to stay in touch. How do I do that?" Stop talking. They will likely offer a business card or write their email address on a cocktail napkin. Offer your business card in return. Personally I write "Bryce and Jane" on the reverse side of the card along with our home phone number. I present the card handwritten side first. They understand it's a social connection, but they also know exactly what I do when they flip the card over.
If they hand you a business card, borrow a couple of tips from Asian cultures: Take a moment to study the face of the card. Put it into your jacket's top pocket. Take your time. Every gesture is a sign of respect. Don't put the card in your wallet and slip it back into your rear pocket. In Asian cultures the business card is the person's professional face. By putting it in your rear pocket you are sitting on their face. Very disrespectful.
So how do you get together again? Like dating, you make the first move. It's likely you met at a recurring event. Call them before the next meeting. Ask if they will be attending. Perhaps you meet beforehand for a drink.
You've positioned those personal interests as the rationale for seeing each other again. Now put them to work. It's summer. The other couple are beach people. You previously talked about a popular seaside resort nearby. Call them up. Explain you and your spouse are going for the day. Would they like to ride along? Invitations based on personal interests are appealing because people can be passionate about their hobbies. Enthusiasts enjoy sharing with fellow fans.
Inviting them to your home sounds like an obvious step. Now their radar starts pinging. Are you moving too fast? They wonder about ulterior motives. If they are successful they are hit on all the time for business. You haven't achieved friend status yet, so your motives are still suspect.
The solution is to invite them to dinner in the context of joining a group including another couple you all know in common. This dials down anxiety levels. They call up the friend in common and check you out. They say you are charming. You pass the test. They rationalize even if dinner conversation flows like cement they know at least one other couple, so the night's not a washout.
OK, dinner parties aren't your style. You will see them again and again at community events. Don't assume they will remember meeting details of last month's conversation or even meeting you previously. Covering your nametag and saying "What's my name?" would be a bad strategy.
Make it easy for them instead. Walk up to them and introduce yourself. Put things into context. "We met at the museum opening last month." Supply additional details. "You mentioned you were going on a river cruise in Europe. How was it?" They may or may not remember you, but you made picking up the conversation very easy. They respond: "Oh, yes. The Impressionist exhibit opening. I remember now. That river cruise was great, thanks for asking…"
They know what you do, they are starting to like you more and more. You are having a good time. That's why social prospecting is worth the effort.
About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on Amazon.com.