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Life Health > Running Your Business

6 Ways for Social Prospectors to 'Read the Room'

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You’ve bought into social prospecting.

You’ve found that museum opening/charity gala/country club cocktail reception that attracts the movers and shakers. There are about 200 of them in the room! You’ve read all about becoming part of their world. It’s time wade in, “grip and grin” and make those social contacts.


(Related: 5 ‘One Liners’ for Asking Friends to Do Business With You)

It makes lots of sense to survey the landscape, determine who’s there and how they are behaving.

1. In the room vs. in the mood

An advisor in Northern California explained everyone in attendance is not necessarily supporting the event. Let’s assume it’s a museum opening sponsored by a major bank. The bank president might be on the museum board. Lots of the other folks in dark suits may be there because they were press ganged into it. This isn’t their first choice of activity. Someone else might be present because their spouse is heavily involved. He would rather be watching sports on TV. These folks are in the room. The bank president is in the mood.

Tip: If they keep looking at their watch, they are probably an “in the room” person. Try to find some “In the mood” people.

2. How are they dressed?

Most of us wear the business uniform. People judge us by appearance. The Devil Wears Prada had a great line: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Don’t write off casually dressed folks too quickly, especially on the West Coast. They may be wearing jeans and a blue blazer because they are relaxed and aren’t too concerned about fitting in.

Tip: Try to recognize the movers and shakers you want to meet. Spend some time with the well dressed, casual folks too.

3. What are they talking to?

That smartly dressed person – they are making the rounds. That might be the host of the party, sponsor of the show or executive director of the museum welcoming guests, making them feel at home. Stand in the right place and they may come to you.

Tip: If your sixth sense tell you this is probably your host, tactfully put yourself in their path.

(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

4. Group dynamics

There’s a small group clustered around a cocktail table, apart from the crowd. They are speaking in whispers, examining sheaves of papers. They might be attorneys who moved their meeting here because the “Had to be in the room.” Bounding in and saying: “What are you guys up to?” probably won’t go over well. You see a large group of people drinking and laughing, with people peeling off and others joining in. You will should fit right in.

Tip: Seek out the backslappers. You should be welcome. You will have a good time too.

5. How long is the conversation?

The group above is having short conversations. The attorneys are 1:1 for 15 minutes at a time. It’s another clue if you would be welcomed or considered an intruder.

Tip: Are you a pet owner? If those attorneys look wary or start growling as you approach, keep on walking.

6. They stand alone because they don’t know anyone

In country club and museum circles, people often belong to cliques or fit into silos of people with similar interests. You see someone standing alone. The logical reason may be, they don’t know anyone. They are a fish out of water. They might be very important, perhaps the event sponsor or the honoree. The advantages of walking up and making them feel comfortable far outweigh the disadvantages.

Tip: Now it’s your turn to be the host. Make them feel comfortable.

Before you even think of getting a business relationship going, you need to get a social one started. These tips should help.

—-Read 5 Ways to Prospect in Retirement Communities on ThinkAdvisor.

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