When we were growing up, one of the first rules from our parents (besides don’t eat that) was don’t talk to strangers. It’s a good rule when you’re a kid, be careful of strangers, especially strangers with candy, or with a creepy van. BUT as an adult, my advice: talk to strangers.
Obviously this is the goal of networking events, so I won’t cover that here. I’m talking about when you are out and about in your day to day life. In line to pick up lunch, at the store, at an event, out at a restaurant or business, talk to people.
The receptionist is your best friend at any company. If he or she likes you, you’re golden. Get their name, thank them before you leave. If you’re dismissive, boy if those schedules aren’t full every time you call…
This says more about my hobbies, but any time I can sit at the bar at a restaurant, do it. Talk to the bartender, ask questions. If they aren’t busy, they’ll answer every weird cocktail and spirit question you’ve ever had (and sometimes include samples!). Remember the waitresses name and ask for her suggestions and favorite menu items. Remember, if the hostess at a restaurant hugs you when you come in, that means you’re a REGULAR, not that you have a problem.
AND if you have a great experience, take to social media and thank that person! Leave a tip on Foursquare, tweet to the restaurant or post to their Facebook page. Companies like to know when their team is doing GREAT. I love that when I tweet to Nordstrom, they always ask for the name of who helped me at a store so they can tell their manager. As someone with a background in sales, I can confirm that if someone uses your name in follow up comments it often leads to extra spiffs.
Make someone’s day, it takes no time.
Social Media makes it a lot easier to talk to strangers too. Any time I go to a new business (client, restaurant, museum, event) I check out if they’re on twitter and post about it. If the company knows what they’re doing, they’re on top of it. Alaska Airlines is a great example of this. They always comment back, and have taken care of more than one question I’ve had, and even gave me the heads up on a sale that was happening for tickets I needed to buy. Like many people I’ve also taken to social media to complain about stuff. And had great response and customer service taken care of. It’s lead to a few great relationships even. And now I often tweet really great things about the company.
So there you have it. Talk to strangers. You never know what adventures it can take you on.