By the time we’re in first grade, we’ve been programmed with hundreds of messages designed to keep us safe.
Don’t touch the stove!
Don’t cross the street without looking!
Don’t talk to strangers!
But now, you have to sell things to strangers, causing you discomfort. Not only must you talk to them, but you also have to get them to buy something from you! It goes against our programming.
Good news: God helps us re-program!
Our programming can be over-written. This is the process described in Romans 12:2 as mind renewal. It says “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Flip the script so you can fully engage with strangers.
Here are some strategies that facilitate productive first-contact conversations. These apply to meeting people in business, at church, at your kids sporting events… anywhere!
- Ask questions that draw out someone’s passion. My neighbor raises tea roses. He was thrilled to tell me all about them when I asked. Ask any business owner how they got into the business they’re in and you’ll get their story.
- Create some informal research questions. Ask questions about topics you want to learn about. For example, supply chain has caused problems for many business owners. Ask what this person’s experience has been with shortages. Customize your questions to elicit information that pertains to your product or service.
- Consider questions that help you qualify someone from “suspect” to “prospect”. In a first conversation, you may suspect this person could buy from you. Be ready to ask questions that uncover if you can help them or not. For example, a roofer that only installs shingle roofing can start with a question about the type of roof someone wants to install. If they say “metal”, they are not a viable prospect.
Be prepared and have fun!
When you’ve prepared questions in advance it is easy to engage the stranger in front of you. Having various questions ready allows you to relax and enjoy the interaction, putting you and those you speak with at ease. You never know the “gold” they may share because you took the initiative to talk with them.