Despite your level of expertise on a topic, the beauty of knowledge is that there is always more to be acquired. A great leader is an avid reader. Reading, however, often goes beyond the words in the books. This weekend I spent some time in the business section at Barnes and Nobles. While there, I noticed a man searching, unsuccessfully, for a book. Becoming discouraged, he asked me if I’d seen it. I could have easily told him it was on the next aisle and continued my own book search. Being able to read his need allowed me the opportunity to address his concerns and build a relationship. We walked to the next aisle and struck up a conversation. He explained that he was a small business owner and became familiar with this particular book at the library. He mentioned that it had a great wealth of information. After a few moments I found the book and handed it to him. We exchanged business cards and promised to meet in the coming week. Here are the take-aways from this experience.
1. Be Where They Are
Finding new customers is challenging. One thing that might help you is to think like your client. What is it they need? Where are they likely to fulfill this need? Bookstores provide an excellent opportunity to source clients (and contemporaries) who have an interest in your field. Be creative and think of places that your clients may go to engage in their needs or interests. For example, if you are a dog trainer/groomer you might consider visiting a dog park.
2. Know What They Need
In my case, because I had already perused much of the business section, I benefited from knowing exactly where the book he was looking for was located. I was able to help him in his time of need. When you find yourself in a similar situation, you want to make sure that you provide superior customer service even though the service isn’t your particular service offering. This shows your potential client your character and goes a long way towards building what could be a great business relationship.
3. Don’t Sell!
While this seems counter-intuitive, it is very important that you don’t turn this chance meeting into a sales-pitch. The potential customer likely feels comfortable with you because you met outside of a normal business setting. Turning this into a sales-pitch will make your meeting seem disingenuous. Use this opportunity to build the relationship. Exchange contact information and set up a meeting at a later time.