Social prospecting: Meet people without looking desperate for a sale

If you are active in the community, you are going to find yourself networking at an event where you do not know anyone in the room. This can be scary, especially if you think they are all older and richer than you. Meeting people can be a lot easier than you think though.

These networking events might be a museum reception, a donor recognition event at the hospital or the cocktail hour at a charity fundraiser. For others, it might be a wedding reception or alumni day at your college. In all these situations, you know few, if any, people. What do you do?

In my book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” I addressed these situations in the chapter, “How Does it Work?” Here are some key points.

  1. Arrive on time. If the event runs from 5 to 7 p.m., people might be welcome at any time. You want to maximize the time available to meet new people, arrive before the room gets crowded and see everything there is to see. If it is an exhibition opening at a museum or art gallery, look at the paintings and read the descriptive tags. If it is a charity gala, check out the live and silent auction items.
  2. Mingle with the crowd. You scouted out the room beforehand. You found three pictures you liked in the exhibition or four lots in the silent auction. Head back to those items. As people gather around one of them, start conversations with questions such as, “Which is your favorite picture in the show?” or “It looks like this silent auction lot is getting plenty of bids.” Listen to their responses and draw them out.
  3. What’s their connection? That previous conversation is good for a couple of sentences, but it will not go much further. So, change the subject and learn what brought them to the event. You can ask, for example, “What is your connection to the museum?” If it is 6 p.m. and they are dressed in a business suit, ask, “Do you work around here?” They might be friends of the artist, or they might serve on the board. You might find this intimidating, but remember, you received an invitation and bought your ticket. You might have been a member for 10 years. Your credentials are fine. Be proud.
  4. The “what do you do” conversation. This happens all the time. This is the standard icebreaker question along with, “Where do you live?” You should have a two-sentence answer about what you do that is no longer than 30 seconds. Once you mention you are in the insurance or investment field, you might sense barriers going up. They may assume you will try to sell them something. If this happens, change the subject and take an interest in them and what they do.
  5. Broaden the conversation. People like talking about themselves. Years ago, I learned that the person talking is the one who is having a good time. You can ask if they’re connected with other area organizations or if they plan on attending other events. You likely know about the big charity and cultural events in the local area that you can mention. If you talk with six people and five are going to the concert in the park next week, you should consider going too.

By meeting people and not swapping business cards, you are using a light touch strategy. When you think of it as community involvement and not networking, you’re perceived as a successful person who’s not desperate for a sale. And if you have met half a dozen new people and learned about more community events, you have accomplished a lot!

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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