Increase your business network by talking to strangers
How many of you grew-up being told, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”? If I only had a nickel for every time I heard this. Heck, Rick Springfield even wrote a song about it, remember?
I was taught strangers often try to lure you in by talking to you. They may try to find something in common with you or get you to laugh to lower your guard. Bottom line – Don’t Talk to Strangers if you want to be safe in the world.
As we mature, talking to strangers becomes a common happening, although some of us still may not be comfortable with it. From High School on, people would begin talking to me in stores, elevators, and hospitals without me even making eye contact with them. Never understood why and I felt like I had a magnet attached to me. But looking back, it helped me develop a healthy and safe way of interacting with strangers.
Let’s fast forward a few years to when I opened my business and talking to strangers became a requirement. Now it became, “You Must Talk to Strangers”! The little girl inside me would first try to protect me by avoiding the situation entirely, but if I was going to meet new people, prospects, referral partners, or clients. . .I now HAD to talk to strangers.
Have you considered what talking to strangers can do for your small to mid-size business? It may sound odd, but your networking skills with people not in your direct social or organizational structure can have a major impact on your business’s trajectory. Networking with unfamiliar faces is important not only for you and your business, but for other Business Owners too.
Bottom line: you need to be able to talk to people you don’t know. Entrepreneurship is largely dependent upon these new—and sometimes daunting—conversations. If you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with an influential businesswoman on the elevator, for example, you should be able to start a conversation with her. She may be the next client or know someone who’s searching for what you have to offer.
Not all interactions will be extreme or life-changing, but there are also numerous other benefits to trying it out.
Increase Your Business Network
Perhaps the most obvious benefit to talking with strangers is how it can directly expand your network and business opportunities. The businesswoman in the elevator may not pan out as your new client or customer, but she may introduce you to a friend at an upcoming event. You may even use the first few times as practice before things start snowballing, and that’s completely normal. No matter how big or small the direct impact of networking, there will always be an indirect benefit.
Improve Interpersonal Skills at the Office
If you make talking to new hires or stop-ins an intentional practice at the office (I call it Managing While Walking Around), odds are your team will feel more at ease and united, as opposed to a sterile or unfriendly atmosphere. The more comfortable they are, the more likely they’ll voice their opinions during meetings and help foster new ideas for your business.
Help a Fellow Business Owner
Striking up a conversation with a stranger may benefit you, but it can almost certainly help them out, too. You may find that your friends or skills are exactly what they need. In the small to mid-size business world, it’s important to keep an eye out for each other. And who knows, perhaps someday down the line you may find that they return the favor.
Parting thoughts. . .Even if you don’t feel like it or it’s not natural for you to be outgoing, give it a try. Pretend you’re an actor/actress playing a part in a movie where your role is to be an extravert. Step outside your comfort zone, tell that little voice inside your head that you are safe, and get out there and TALK TO STRANGERS!
Make it a profitable week and Stop leaving money on the table!
Teresa A. Pedigo