We’ve all heard it before: network, network, network. Of course, in a professional environment, it’s necessary to make connections to get your name into the public consciousness. We hunt for relationships and networking opportunities so much that we sometimes forget the most basic and efficient way to connect: a simple “hello.”

Everyone has a story. People have jobs, connections, friends, and family. Every person you meet on the street has the potential to help your business endeavors in some way.

It Could Happen to You

Reaching out to people has tremendously helped my career. From billionaires to celebrities to pro athletes, every connection counts. I’ve found investors who have helped me grow my domain name company, as well as people with great ideas that I’ve invested in. I was even introduced to the domain name business by a man I met at Starbucks. I simply got out of my comfort zone and said “hi.” Having a conversation with a random stranger led me to my career and a seven-figure business!

Personally, I find it fun to meet new people. I love introducing myself and trading ideas with strangers. Even when I’m out with my wife or friends or in line at the grocery store, I make an effort to be friendly and open to talking to anyone. It doesn’t matter where — interesting people never stick to one place.

And you never know how that connection will impact your work. One day, I struck up a conversation with a guy. A few weeks later, I saw him again, and after talking, he offered to introduce me to a tech-savvy guy he knew. That guy ended up becoming a key member of my Internet-based team — he’s made me a lot of money and kept me from making several mistakes. That random conversation impacted my bottom line and my daily life.

Taking the Leap

But how do you introduce yourself? It never feels natural to walk up to someone you’ve never met and engage in conversation. And once you have introduced yourself, how do you make a lasting impression? These things can be a challenge for even the most seasoned businessperson. Luckily, I have a few tips for those of you who might find it difficult:

  • Assess your options. It’s important to approach people who will be receptive to your attempts at conversation. If you try to talk to negative people, you’ll be quickly dissuaded and disappointed. Look for people who are polite and friendly on the phone calls they take in your presence. Are you getting eye contact from someone? He is likely to be open to you.
  • Be friendly. If you give off positive vibes, people will want to be around you. Make yourself someone people want to talk to. A smile, a wave, or any gesture that feels natural makes you seem approachable. A little positivity goes a long way when it comes to making connections. If someone gets a negative feeling talking to you, good luck ever counting on him for connections again.
  • Dress to impress. Clothing goes a long way, especially when it comes to first impressions. When getting dressed, think, “What type of person do I want to attract?” If you want to meet a businessperson to invest in your product, you’d be hard to take seriously in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. A sport coat and dress slacks are a classic — and classy — look for professionals.
  • Carry business cards. A flashy business card is a great way to leave a mark on a person. Make it stand out from the rest — I have black metal cards that cost $3 each to make. It’s worth the cost if people can tell you apart. Think of a business card as a paper LinkedIn page. It’s a quick way to connect with people, show them what you’re about, and give them contact info — all in one tiny package.
  • Help out. Show the person you’re willing to help. That way, he’ll be willing to help you. It can be as simple as picking up the extra change on a bill that the person doesn’t have, or bringing him the wallet he dropped. He’ll be much more likely to pay it forward if he has proof that you’re a good person. Endear yourself to him in the same way that you’d like someone to act toward you.

Getting Past Small Talk

Sure, introducing yourself and saying hello is half the battle, but what do you do after that to gain traction? Follow these two steps to find common ground:

  1. Get to know the person you’re with. People want to talk about themselves. Ask questions about nearly anything: their friends, family, occupations, organizations, hobbies, motivations, or education. Strangers will open up because everyone loves to chat about their own lives.
  2. Use good conversational skills. Make sure your body language is giving off positive vibes, and actually listen to the person you’re talking to. Don’t prepare your next comments or think about other things while he’s talking. If you’re interested in him, he’ll be interested in you.

I cannot stress it enough: Just say “hi.” It really is that easy. Whether you’re trying to land a dream job, get your business funded, gain a big deal or partnership, or just meet friends, putting yourself out there is the first step. You will soon realize that it really is a small world with an infinite amount of opportunity. Make networking a priority in your life. It’s the single most powerful business skill you can ever learn.

Ready to start? Say hello at www.twitter.com/aaronpitman.

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