There is a fine line between utilizing social connections to generate new leads and not allowing business interests to interfere with personal relationships. It is one of the inherent challenges of being in a sales-oriented industry. Yet there are ways to utilize social connections without ruining friendships. It requires maintaining a delicate balance on what is otherwise a very thin wire.
Here are five strategies you might consider trying:
1. Frame Your Conversations
Just about every conversation you have can somehow be tied to health insurance, 401(k) plans, etc. But you know enough not to pursue shop talk incessantly. A good way to balance the two is to frame your conversations. For example, you might be talking to a friend frustrated by her expensive prescription medications.
This is an opportunity to generate a potential lead. Say something like, "If I might, let me talk shop for just five minutes. I think I might be able to help; here's how." You speak for five minutes and then allow the conversation to move on.
2. Look for Common Ground
Another great way to generate leads is to take advantage of common ground. Maybe an acquaintance does business with a company you have dealt with in the past. Assuming that person's relationship with the company is positive, you have something to build on.
Explain what you did for that company. By focusing on common ground, the conversation is less about selling something and more about helping your acquaintance the way you helped the company in question.
3. Talk About Your Day
This next strategy is as simple as answering one of the most common questions in the small talk world: how are you doing? We ask some variation of that question nearly every time we meet up with someone. The question is an opportunity for you to briefly mention something positive you accomplished that day. It doesn't have to be detailed and boring. Just a brief, "I helped so and so find a better health plan today" will do.
4. Request to Scheduled Time
Next, you can always ask for some scheduled time to make a presentation. You could say something like, "I have this great new health package I think your company might be interested in. However, I don't want to interrupt our golf game with business. Could I have an hour of your time on Monday?"
This is a very professional approach that recognizes the distinction between work and leisure. Hopefully, potential clients will respect your willingness to keep the two separate.
5. Share Your Life
This last strategy is somewhat unconventional. Still, it works quite well at a time when so many people live their lives on social media. Utilize your social media channels to share your life with your friends and followers. As you do, show genuine interest in their lives as well. Every now and again you can share a brief thought about what you do for living. You're not selling here; you are just letting people know what you do.
It takes time, but this sort of social cultivation establishes relationships in which others feel they can trust you. When they have a need for your service, they'll actually come looking for you because they are already comfortable with the relationship they have with you.
The key to utilizing social connections is to find the right balance. If you are always pushing as hard as you can, your social contacts will avoid you. But if you can be as social as you are business oriented, you'll create a lot more inroads.