Imagine this Scenario:
You are in line waiting to buy a bagel and coffee at your favorite shop and you see a person who can dramatically help your career. Let’s say it is the Managing Director of a business that you have been talking to for months but you just can’t gain any traction. How do you approach this powerful person without looking like an aggressive psychopath?
When taking advantage of the random encounter, there are four steps you should follow for maximum effectiveness and to keep from being punched in the nose:
- Allow the other person to assume a position of power. When you ask for advice, directions, or even something as simple as the time, who has the power? The person providing the information has the power and control of the interaction. They can walk away or refuse to answer. Most people, when they have control of a situation, are immediately more comfortable and less intimidated – which means they are more likely to be open and receptive. I have seen frantic businesspeople rushing to meetings on the streets of
stop and spend ten minutes explaining to a tourist how to get to a landmark.
New York City
- Establish common ground. You can do this by talking about a third party, a neutral subject, or an experience that everyone can relate to. The key here is to establish some sort of small emotional connection with the other person. You want them to feel what you feel.
- Compliment them and ask for some harmless information. You have now exchanged at least two sentences with the other person. The next step is to make him feel good. Say something like, “I could not help but admire your watch. Did you pick it because it is functional or because it looks great?” Now you should be off to the races. The idea is to get them to give you advice. Eventually you can work a question about where they work and what they do into the conversation.
- The “By the way.” After you have had your two-minute conversation and you prepare to leave, say something like, “Oh, by the way, my name is Dave,” and offer your hand for a handshake. Then you can say, “May I call you if I need some advice on _______?” They will most often respond affirmatively. If they don’t, just give them your business card and say that you enjoyed speaking with them.
The random encounter is just that – random. You don’t have to make a perfect presentation. Act naturally and remember the individual you are speaking with is a person just like you. Don’t be intimidated. Be yourself and you’ll win them over.