15 years ago, I visited a Masonic Retirement Center during lunch, and I noticed an old man eating alone. His name was James. He was hunched down in his chair, leaning closer to the dining table, holding his fork in one hand, and a newspaper with the other. I asked, “How are you?” His eyes smiled, and I could see his inner child excited to have a conversation, “I’m good, young man.” For the coming 45 minutes, we talked about life, business, politics, and sports.
I still remember the conversation vividly. Our conversation was much more than words. Anytime I asked him a question, he would listen patiently, think deeply before speaking. My last question to him was about talking to strangers, and his answer was intriguing, “There are cultures that have no such word in their language. They refer to strangers as friends.” This statement got me to thinking about marketing.
Marketing is the art of talking to strangers. If you are good at it, strangers become your customers. If you want to master the art of talking to strangers, get out of your mind, and say “Hi.” Ask questions about them, not the weather. If you see them wearing a baseball hat, ask about their favorite team. Ask about their opinions and interests. Do not be afraid to have meaningful conversations.
Stop thinking about elevator pitches because they do not work anymore. Stop trying to be interesting and be interested in them. Ask better questions. People will always talk if you give them a chance to talk about themselves.
Every one of us has a desire to be heard and understood. Oprah Winfrey attributed her success to this principle. She said, “Understanding this concept allowed me to hold the microphone for my guests for 40 years.” It does not matter if you are at work or home, people want validations, and they want to know that they matter. Follow these 7 steps, and you will be able to talk to anyone without trouble.
- Say hi.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about their opinions or interests.
- Be interested in their stories.
- Listen, do not wait for your turn to talk.
- Don’t judge.
- Find a common ground between you and them.
- Talk about what makes you similar.
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