When I first moved to New York City I didn’t know anyone. The only contacts I had in my flip phone were my mom, my dad, and my older brother Jimmy. And none of them were interested in renting an apartment in New York City (believe me, I asked. Multiple times). If contacts are a sales person’s currency, my account balance was ZERO.

Unless I wanted to move home or give up eating, I had to rent some apartments. Asking pregnant women on the street if they needed a larger apartment was a start, but I’d have to run into a lot of pregnant women if I was going to make rent. I knew I needed to branch out, meet people, make contacts – but just the idea of going to a networking event made me want run back to my shitty Korea town apartment and drown my sorrows in a huge bowl of Lucky Charms.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I eventually figured out that making contacts doesn’t have to make you break out in an anxiety-induced sweat. It can even be kind of fun if you think about it differently. Forget the idea of traditional networking and just think about making friends:

5 Quick Tips:

1. Remember Your Best Friend Was Once a Stranger:

Think about your best friend, the person who you have the most fun with. That person, who now knows all of your super embarrassing secrets used to be a total stranger. At some point you met, developed a rapport, and over time you became friends. You probably didn’t think about it while it was happening, because making friends is generally fun and easy. There is no reason why making contacts has to be any different!

2. Everyone Loves a Compliment:

I remember how hard it can be to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. Just open with a compliment. No one has ever gotten mad at someone for saying, “Hey. Cool sneakers man.” Be genuine, don’t over think it and let the compliment act as an opener to a quick conversation about sneakers, dog breeds or the latest Spiderman movie franchise. Don’t immediately try to direct the conversation to whatever you’re selling. Right now you’re just making friends!

3. Basics Matter:

Make good eye contact, speak clearly and shake hands with confidence. No one wants to be friends with the quiet talker (what? Sorry what did you say??) or the guy who shakes hands like he’s trying to crush your large and small metacarpals – because that guy is weird. Practice with your real friends if you have to because first impressions are everything!

4. Ask Questions:

The quick connection is everything in sales. If you can’t make a connection quickly your customer is going to go elsewhere. Once you’ve opened with a compliment, start asking questions to keep the conversation going. If you sell dresses you might start with, “Do you go to a lot of formal events?” or “Do you get invited to parties frequently?” Or even “I met a woman who buys a new dress every once in a while so she’s totally prepared in case she gets invited to something last minute! . . . Don’t you think that is a great idea?” Asking questions allows you to get useful information without coming off as a pushy salesperson, because once again, you’re just being friendly.

5. Get Contact Information:

If you don’t have their email address or their phone number, they aren’t really a contact. Exchange cards and say something like “I’d love to let you know when we have our next sample sale” or “We have fun events sometimes and I think you’d enjoy it.” People are happy to offer their contact information to someone when it sounds like there’s something in it for them, and you’re not just going to bombard them with gross spam emails.

Once you get that contact information – use it! Follow up with meaning, “It was great to meet you at the taco truck today. I agree with you that mild salsa is lame. I’ll definitely add you to the list the next time we throw a party to launch one of our new products.” That’s not a generic, cookie cutter email that will get your message dumped in the trash – that’s a friend-making follow-up!

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It’s been about ten years since I was asking pregnant women if they wanted bigger apartments, and I still force myself to make new friends every, single day. I have my friend quota set at five people per day (please say hello if you see me on the street because you’ll be helping me hit my quota). Set a number of people to meet, and do it every. Single. Day. While my flip phone has thankfully been replaced with an iPhone – I’m proud to say that I’m not related to every person listed in the contacts.

It’s full of names of people who have trusted me to sell their homes or find a perfect home for them – people I’ve gotten to know who may never ask me to sell their apartment, but that doesn’t matter because I like them.

My contact currency has grown because I shifted my thinking from making contacts to making friends. A simple hello can change everything. That person in line in front of you at the coffee shop could be your new best friend or most loyal customer. But you’ll never know unless you take a moment to introduce yourself.

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