Strangers are usually seen as very scary or intimidating people and while in some cases it's true, lets relate this directly to your business. Everyday each of us pass a stranger, talk to a stranger and in-fact are seen as one ourselves.
I was walking to the studio this morning and it came to my attention that on a daily basis I deal with strangers! Ten years ago the thought of a stranger scared me...I always worried what to say or how to say it and avoided any call numbers I didn't know. Today I connect with clients from all around the world, some in America, New Zealand and even Germany... so how on earth did I suddenly become so comfortable talking with people I don't know? I pushed myself....
Early on in my Freelancing career, I noticed clients felt more comfortable hiring after they had directly connected with you... sounds creepy, but in business, it makes perfect sense. The first few months of working as a freelancer I missed out on great projects because I lacked the confidence to communicate and now that I reflect on the matter...it took a-lot of practice to get past.
Here are a few tips to breaking the ice with new clients or connections! Now some may be really left field for your circumstance but others will relate closely.
- Do a little homework. If you have a call scheduled or planned with a new connection, do a little research into their product, business or online presence. Familiarise yourself with their processes, business and location but never assume ones personality. Doing a little research will also build good rapport with your "stranger" and will demonstrate that you have shown interest and not been unorganised going in blind.
- Introduce yourself clearly and leave no confusion as to who you are, where you are from and why you are reaching out.
- Be honest and transparent from the start. When entering into a discussion always be honest and realistic to avoid putting yourself in the dangerous territory of over committing, stumbling, mumbling and even embarrassment. Keep it real!
- Listen, Pause, Respond. Its easy to get nervous when talking with a stranger so take a breath, listen carefully and think before you speak (just don't let that thinking time turn into an awkward pause)
- Regardless of if you are meeting with a new connection via web chat or for coffee, make sure both yourself and surroundings are clean. Take a quick look around your office and make sure there is nothing in view that could be of distraction or embarrassment for both parties and the same applies to finding a coffee spot... make sure its clean, comfortable and quiet.
- Practice Politeness. Regardless of if its written or verbal communication, you should practice polite speech.
- Write Stuff Down. I am going to keep this short and sweet...carry a pen an paper!
- Ask open ended questions