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How many sales opportunities do you miss?

And I mean every day!

I often share a story about one of the networking connections I made when on an airplane. I struck a conversation up with a young woman who was seated next to me. In fact, I always say hello to the person seated next to me on a plane. It feels weird to me not to at least say hello since we’ll be neighbors for some time and we’re only a few inches away.

(Related: You and Your Elevator Speech)

Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not “that guy”! That guy who is seated next to you on the plane that never shuts up and annoys the heck out of you. (Just putting it out there!)

I introduced myself and learned her name is Nicole. I asked Nicole if she travels on business regularly and we got into a nice conversation. I let her know upfront that I was not going to bother her the whole flight in conversation (she laughed), but we truly did connect.

Turns out Nicole headed up human resources for a big-time accounting firm.

It was only a two-hour flight. We spoke intermittently during breaks from our laptops.

The plane landed. Nicole introduced me to a couple of her colleagues at the gate and boom! I was ultimately hired to help the rainmakers at her firm.

If I don’t strike up a conversation with Nicole, that piece of business never happens, and I have one less great story to share!

How many sales opportunities do you miss every day?

Truth be told!

I shared this story with a group of bankers that need to be better networkers and ultimately better at originating new sales. One of the bankers shared with me privately after speaking with the group that he was uncomfortable with my story and my experience. In fact, he said he was cringing just listening to me tell the story. He said he would never talk to someone sitting next to him on an airplane or speak to someone he doesn’t know during his business travel.

Hey, this is not good, bad, right, or wrong.

That said, if you’re serious about growing your business, practice, or bottom line, it helps to be open to talking to new people, listening, sharing ideas, and offering to be a resource as appropriate.

Speaking to people you don’t know (again, as appropriate!) is a great way to challenge yourself to get better at connecting with people and becoming more confident. The better you are at connecting with people, the more opportunities will come your way.

That’s just the way it works!

And that goes for introverts (a chance to work on becoming more comfortable speaking with those you don’t know), as well as extroverts (perhaps a chance to become more focused and better listeners when speaking with others).

As a friend of mine often says, “It’s all good!”

Funny, I was in a hotel lobby working on this very article. I overheard the guy sitting next to me mention he was speaking at an event later. I asked, “If you don’t mind me asking, what type of event are you speaking at?” Turns out he is the national sales manager for an asset management company that hires speakers like me to help financial advisors.

That turned into a great conversation, an exchange of business cards, and a next step. If I didn’t ask the question, I never would have known and would NOT have made the connection.

The next time you’re on a plane, train, at your kid’s soccer game, or in the produce section of your favorite supermarket, listen, learn, and practice!

It’s all good!

— Read 7 Business Networking Reminderson ThinkAdvisor.

Michael Goldberg (Photo: MG)

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, consultant, and the founder of Knock Out Networking. He’s also the author of “Knock-Out Networking!”