Networking with Strangers in comfort

We know we need to talk to people, so let’s look at a situation we all find ourselves in when we attempt to speak with someone we don’t know.

Place and time: an elevator in a professional office building, late afternoon.

You get on the elevator, push the button for your floor, and watch the numbered lights flick on as you climb.  What’s on your mind? Things you need to take care of at work before 5pm; what you might have for dinner that night; weekend plans. . . .

Then suddenly the elevator stops. It’s not your floor.

The doors slide open and there is a woman:  “Going up?” she asks, as she steps in. You smile politely and nod. She pushes the button for her floor, and the doors begin to close.

The woman looks very professional and carries a stuffed briefcase. She leans back against the wall and sighs. “What a day,” she says.

You smile politely. “Yes, yes, what a day,” you respond, and then you look away.

Suddenly your mouth goes dry and your mind goes blank—you stare up at the numbers above the door. Yikes! It’s like you’ve completely forgotten how to speak. You know you’re being rude, but, well, you don’t know what to say anymore.

The elevator continues to climb: 6…7…8…

All you can think about is your MLM business, and the fact that you know you should try to contact this woman — she’s professional and sharp-looking; who knows, she might be interested. You’ve read all the books and listened to the tapes.  You know you should — but your heart is racing.

9…10. . . 11 …

You smile in her direction. She’s watching the numbers. You think: This is the longest elevator ride of my life!

A voice inside you — the brave, confident, I’m-a-leader voice — whispers: Just talk to her, get a business card, do something.

But you’re frozen. Because there is another voice inside you — the scared, embarrassed, I-can’t-do-it voice — yelling:

Don’t say anything! She wouldn’t be interested? She’s too corporate, she’s not the Network Marketing “type,” she doesn’t need it. She would laugh at you.

12 … 13 … 14 … the elevator stops. The doors part, and the woman steps out and disappears. You lean back against the wall.  The doors close, you are alone.

And you . . .feel horrible.

Where The Action Is

Welcome to the Frontline — the Frontline of Networking.

Of all the “lines” in the world of Network Marketing — upline, downline, crossline, bottom line — the Frontline is perhaps the place of greatest fear and greatest productive action.

Whether it’s on an elevator, at the hairdresser’s, in line at the bank, or any number of places you happen to find yourself in the course of a day, the Frontline is where you and your opportunity meet the world. It’s where you smile, make conversation, stick out your hand and say hello. It’s where folks with natural charm and charisma shine, and have little problem.

But for the rest of us, the Frontline can be a scary place.

How many times have we found ourselves in that elevator or at that money machine or in line at the grocery store, face-to-face with a friendly, sharp-looking person, with no idea what to say.

Even if we did know what to say, we couldn’t — fear has us so tongued-tied that it’s nearly impossible to even think straight.

We want to prospect, we know we should, but something stops us.  Then the opportunity passes, the heartbeat slows down, and we find ourselves feeling guilty and thinking: maybe next time, maybe next time.

Networking is all about people, no matter the MLM product or service involved— it’s about people and relationships and building a team. It’s there on the frontline where those relationships begin — be it a stranger, a previous acquaintance, or even an old friend.

Let’s go to the Frontline and take a look at what goes on.   Specifically, how exactly do you find out if a stranger might be interested in your business? What can you do or say to get the opportunity in front of them? We’ll consider some advice from Networking leaders about the nuts and bolts of contacting.

Now, let’s get back on that elevator and see if we can’t help you out.

When the woman stepped onto the elevator with you, you did the right thing by making eye contact and smiling politely. We’re so accustomed to avoiding the gaze of strangers, almost as if there might be something sinister lurking behind every hello.

The first step in successful contacting is to engage the other person. You have to make eye contact, you have to nod or smile politely — let them know you’re there. You’ll be quite surprised how many people will not only smile back, but will start making small talk.

If you’re really nervous about contacting, start with simple baby steps. Just go about your normal routine, but make a point to make eye contact, smile, and say hello to at least one stranger every day. Do this for awhile and you’ll be ready to start talking. Besides, if everybody did that, the world would be a much nicer place, don’t you think?

When the woman on the elevator made small talk (“What a day,” she sighed), you did great by responding to her.   Countless millionaires in Networking will tell you: small talk can lead to big bucks and wonderful friendships, so don’t be afraid to shoot the breeze.

That’s the next step in learning to be an expert at contacting:  just speak up! Be a professional at making small talk. Again, you’ll be surprised at how willing most strangers will be to just chat. You’ll also notice how friendly banter will brighten up any

So the next question is, what do you talk about? Most people with natural charm have no problem thinking of things to say — they can ramble on and on, and make any stranger a fast friend.

But while natural charm may work very well for some folks, it’s not duplicatable in a Networking business. Sometimes it helps to have some notes about what we might say.

Perhaps the most common small talk “cheat sheet” is the acronym F-O-R-M: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message. You may have heard a slightly different version, but I like working with this one. Whenever you find yourself at the Frontline with nothing to say, simply remember the word FORM and you’ll be alright!

You can always talk about family (“Oh, you have kids, how old are they?”), about occupation (“How long have you worked here?”), and recreation (“How often do you go skiing?”). The M in FORM stands for the message, the part where you bring up your business or ask for a business card.

The only problem? Most people are so nervous about the “M” that they sweat all the way through the “F-O-R.” The best way to practice in the beginning is to just forget the message, forget contacting for your business, and just practice chatting with people. Get really good at just meeting people while you’re out and about during your day. Practice asking people about themselves, and get comfortable with that first.

Getting to M

Back on the elevator, you’ve remembered FORM — and instead of staring at the floor or the numbers above the door, you’ve been chatting with the professional woman.

You now know that her name is Elaine; that she heads up a marketing division for the corporation based on the 14th floor; that she has a three-year-old daughter who spends a lot of time in daycare; and that she hasn’t been on a vacation in over five years. Before she gets off of the elevator, just ask her for her business card. The “M” can be that easy.

It’s this simple: “Elaine, do you have your card handy?” You’ll be quite surprised how many people will gladly hand over their card. It’s no big deal to them — they have a box of 500 or a 1000 of them sitting in a drawer in their desk, and they’ll happily hand them over if you just ask. Believe me, they will not think it’s strange at all if you ask for a business card.

The first thing you want to do when you get a card after chatting with someone is turn it over and write down one or two things on the back, just to help you recall the conversation.

In this case, jot down: 3-year old, daycare, very busy, met in elevator. This will come in handy when you find yourself going home each night with four or five business cards, and they start to stack up on your desk.

Now what? Two or three days later, pick up the phone and give her a call. Ideally, you’ll want to call a person at home at night.  (Who has time to talk at work?) If all you have is the business phone, that will be okay, too. Here’s what you might say:

“Hey, Elaine, this is Cheryl. We met the other day in the elevator at the office. Yes, you were talking about your baby girl, and how you haven’t been on a vacation in awhile. (“Just refresh her memory so she remembers you.”) Listen, Elaine, I’m calling for two reasons. Number one, I wanted to say how nice it was to meet you. It’s rare that you meet someone who is so comfortable talking with a stranger, and I appreciate that. Which leads me to the second reason for my call: I’m in the process of expanding a business in the area” or “I’m working with a (fill in) Company out of (whatever location)” or “I’m with a direct sales group that’s looking to grow into this market” or “I represent a marketing company that’s expanding a distribution network into this area.” Choose whichever you feel comfortable with, and whatever works best for you and your group.

At this point, you have two options: you can bounce the idea off Elaine to see if she herself might be interested in your MLM opportunity. That might sound something like this:

“The company I’m with has a plan that is retiring busy people 15 to 20 years early. Does that sound like something that might interest you?” or “Do you ever look at other ways to make money?” or “I think I’ve got something that might interest you — especially if you’re excited about spending more time with your daughter,” or “Based on our conversation, I think you might be interested in getting some more of your own time back in your life, and I have a way to help you do that.”

Pique her curiosity, get her email address to show her what you are doing, and let her get back to work.

Do You Know Anybody?

Another option, and one that has proven to be a real asset to new Networkers who are terrified of the rejection they tend to face early in their business, is to simply ask for a referral. Most professionals in business are very used to getting calls for referrals, so this will not come as a surprise. It might sound
like this:

“Elaine, maybe you can help me. I’m calling for a referral. I’m looking for a sharp professional, someone who’s already busy, but who might be interested in making an extra paycheck each month.  Do you know anybody like that?” (Make sure you say “extra” so Elaine knows you’re not calling with a job offer.)

Elaine will do one of four things:

1. She will give you the name of someone she knows who fits that bill (“Call Doug Johnson, he’s an old friend and he’s always talking about wanting to make more money on the side.” You can call Doug and say, “Hi Doug, my name is Cheryl Gonzalez. I was talking with Elaine Perkins the other day about a business I’m in the process of expanding, and she suggested I give you a call. She said you’re a real go-getter who looks at ways to retire early or perhaps develop a secondary income. I can’t promise you anything, because I don’t know you— yet. But if you’re interested in getting some information, we can get together on Tuesday during lunch, and I’ll show you what I’m doing. If you want to get some more information afterwards, I can arrange that. If not, no problem.” (Make sure Doug knows that you are not calling with a job offer, just an opportunity.)

2. Elaine might also tell you that she doesn’t know anybody like that to refer you to, at which point you can thank her for her time, tell her again how nice it was to meet her, and say goodbye. At the very worst, you’ve made a new friend to chat with on the elevator.

What’s really wonderful about asking for a referral is that it is rejection proof: Elaine never says “No” to you or your MLM opportunity. The worst that will happen is that she will admit that she doesn’t know anybody who wants more out of life — which includes herself.  Then you can just pick up and move on to the next person. Remember, you are looking for people who are looking for an opportunity — and they are out there!

3. Elaine will tell you that she is that type of person, and ask for the information herself. You get her email address and home phone, ask when she has the time to review the website and set-up a follow-up time to get back together, and let her get back to work.

4. The last thing Elaine might do is start asking questions about what you are doing. Be VERY careful here because you have to tailor this to what you know about Elaine.  Some folks are comfortable with saying: “I’d prefer to have my website explain all the details as I don’t want my opinions or excitement to be transferred to you and I prefer you judge this for yourself” or “I’m with a direct sales group that is growing like wild fire in this area” or “I’m with a Network Marketing company that has a great early-retirement plan for professionals like you.”  You have to play to Elaine’s hot buttons and if she is at work, it’s not usually the most appropriate time to have a full conversation.  You also don’t want to turn her off by seeming to put this off!

Other groups prefer to avoid details over the phone and employ a more subtle approach: “I’d rather not get into it over the phone.  If you’re interested in getting some information, I have a website that you can explore and then we can set a time to talk after you’ve reviewed that, how does that sound?” or “It’s really hard to explain over the phone, but I can arrange to get you some information.  Are you on the Internet at home?” Then follow with an email. 

The great thing is both approaches work. Both tactics have produced millionaires.

If you’re brave — and odds are you will get braver and braver the longer you stay in motion and practice your contacting — you’ll get to the point where you can ask for a referral in person, and save yourself the time of waiting to make the phone call.

Let’s get back on the elevator really quickly, and I’ll show you what I mean:

9 … 10 … 11 … and you and Elaine are chatting. Before she gets off at her floor, you ask:

“Elaine, you might be able to help me. I’m in the process of expanding a business in the area, and I’m looking for a professional who would like to retire early and spend more time with their family; someone who might like making some extra money. Do you know anyone like that?”

Again, you’ll get one of the four responses discussed before. If Elaine is interested herself, get a card from her, or have her put her name, email and home number on the back of her card. Then you can phone her later and get permission to send her an email so she can visit your site. 

One word about business cards: avoid handing your card out in a situation like this. Why? Because then the momentum and progression of your business is out of your hands. You’ll be sitting at home waiting for someone to call you. Chances are that they won’t — nothing personal against you, but people get busy, and your business is not their priority, it’s yours.

There have been some notable exceptions to this, but for the most part, they are exceptions. So keep the ball in your court — you get the phone numbers and you decide when the calls are made.

Be You

These are just a few suggestions about things you might want to say when you’re out contacting.  Just remember to be yourself, don’t bombard people with information, and relax! No matter what you might imagine, just because you start chatting with a stranger on an elevator, they don’t immediately think you are in Networking.

Just learn to have fun with it and enjoy the process. Practice.  If you stick with it and stay dedicated to learning a little bit more each day, you will get to where you want to be, and probably a lot sooner than you think.

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