The Engaging Game (Issue 459)

In which we are reminded that starting conversations with people is the heart of prospecting. “We are trying to break through the noise and we are using all these scripted lines,” he said, referring to calling prospects for appointments. “At some level, what we need to do is ‘connect with people,’ and start conversations and connections. Eventually, conversations lead to business.”

A major element of sales involves the first few seconds of engaging with prospects and clients. An idea from the Clarity Lunatic Fringe Department of Engagement:

I was in Chicago last fall to make a presentation at a banking industry conference and to meet people in the industry. Sensing a need to warm myself up for the first day of the conference, I walked north on Michigan Avenue.

To everyone whose eye I caught, I smiled and said something like, “Hey, what a great day, don’t you think?” At any traffic signal where I had to wait, I picked one person in the group of people waiting with me, found something about them or the day to comment on playfully (I recall one particularly memorable line about a scarf that seemed poised to tickle the ear of the person standing to its owner’s right), and engaged them in about 30 seconds of conversation about the day, about where they were headed, or about something they were wearing or carrying.

In the round trip north and south on Michigan, I attempted to engage fifty people of the several hundred I passed. A few people blew me off in V E R Y obvious ways. Some diverted their eyes. More than half engaged with me, most frequently with a surprised smile and a few words. The more connections I made, the lighter and more relaxed I felt, making it easier to engage the next person quickly, then to look for the next, and the next.

I carried my Michigan Avenue lightness and momentum into my conference meetings and had an absolute blast, meeting some wonderful people.

The point from the Lunatic Fringe Department of Engagement is: Approaching prospects is about starting conversations, reaching beyond our normal, task-oriented, minding-our-own business, doing-my-job behavior, to have a little fun with a twinkle in one’s eye. Some people will play, some won’t. Engaging total strangers on the street, in airports, or in hotel lobbies can be great fun and good practice. Engaging total strangers (thems would be the prospects) on the telephone, in the same spirit,  can be great fun and good practice, too.

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