We tend to think of icebreakers as team-building activities for the workplace or classroom, but from time to time we all find ourselves in positions where breaking the ice would definitely ease some tension. Working with new prospects takes time, dedication, and attention to relationship-building, but you still need to open the door so that you and your new prospects feel comfortable with each other. Here’s how you can make that happen.
Offer Information in Advance
Do you have a meeting set with someone? If so, send a confirmation email or text and make sure you include a link to your online portfolio or LinkedIn profile. This will give your prospect a chance to go on his own reconnaissance mission and learn about you. It’ll give him a sense of control because you’ll feel a little less like a complete stranger, and by the time you actually meet, your meeting will feel much warmer than it normally would, making breaking the ice that much easier!
Try to Get a Referral
Believe it or not, “social proof” speaks volumes. Do you already know someone who can introduce you to a prospect you’d like to speak to? Asking someone you know to make an introduction or referral will make you seem like less of a stranger when you make your initial call. Do a quick check on LinkedIn to find out if you have a mutual connection you may be able to reach out to.
Learn to Smile
Seriously. Don’t be so serious, nervous, or lost in thought that you’re not smiling when you introduce yourself to someone. Not smiling will make your prospects feel uneasy, even if it’s just subconsciously, dissuading them from further developing your relationship. Your smile will make them smile. It works. We promise.
Ask Simple Questions
Don’t start out by talking about business. You both know why you’re having a call or meeting.
Instead, start out breaking the ice with some simple questions to build rapport. How long have you been here? What got you started in this line of business? You can even keep it detached from business at first by looking for other common interests – weather, football, crafting, cars? Are there clues in the room? Use them.
Don’t Forget to Be Human
Asking questions doesn’t mean listening for an answer and then asking the next question. You’re human - act like it. Did your prospect tell you something about his partner? Tell him something about yours. Did your prospect tell you something he loves to do that it off-the-wall or completely unique? Share something unique about you. It’s OK to have a casual conversation, even if it will later turn to business.
Actually listen. Listen without thinking about what you want to say next or how you’re going to introduce your products or services. Ask questions that encourage your prospects to share their lives and their interests with you and pay attention to what they have to say. You may find someone merely hints at a common interest or a vulnerability, but picking up on those little nuances will give you the information you need to really build a strong relationship. Just be quiet and listen.
Take Personal Notes
Don’t focus on business alone. Make sure you are taking notes about all of the things you talk about while you are with your prospect. Is he having a work or personal anniversary? Did you happen to catch a mention of a birthday? He loves football? She loves cats? Kids have a big game coming up? Note these things and add them to your contact management platform so that you can draw on them before future calls or meetings. Remembering personal details will show you care about building a relationship and will help with breaking the ice for faster communication during future encounters.
Develop Better Phone Skills
Making a cold call on the phone? No one’s going to lie and say they aren’t painful, but how you open your call will make a huge difference in whether it’s successful. Don’t introduce yourself and ask if you can share your product; start by asking how the person is. Ask if they’re busy or if they have a couple of minutes to spare. Show that you respect their time and they will be more receptive to hearing what you have to say.
Learn to Find Triggers
Triggers are pieces of information that signal that your prospect may really need what you have to offer. Do a quick scan of social media profiles to see if there have been recent job changes or life accomplishments.
Are you selling makeup? You definitely want to talk to the newly engaged bride-to-be about the perfect colors for her wedding day.
Selling a business service? Look on LinkedIn for people who have just moved into different management positions. The opportunities are limitless.
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Don’t start every call or pitch with the exact same line. It will likely start to sound boring and rehearsed - and let’s be honestly, you probably will become bored.
If you aren’t inspired, how can you expect your clients to be inspired?
Can you think of a fun and engaging way to ask someone if they have time to talk to you? Is there a specific question you can ask about his business that will give you the opportunity to introduce what you have to offer? Figure out how to motivate yourself and the people you talk to every time.
Laugh a Little
It’s OK to have a sense of humor – just make sure it’s not off-color, rude, vulgar, or offensive. Crack a benign joke; respond with a touch of obviously humorous sarcasm; or even make fun of yourself a little bit if you need to. People like to laugh and they like to be around people who are in a good mood. All business, all the time is a mood killer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in network marketing or if you’re working directly for a large corporation. The key to breaking the ice is to find common interest areas so that you can establish a basic relationship from which you can learn and grow.
You may find you need to spend more than one call or visit getting to know your prospects before you can even begin to introduce the concept of a product, service, or solution to his or her problem. That’s ok! It’s all part of the process. Just make sure you’re keeping track of your conversations and the most key points so you can draw from them again later on. Cultivating your sales relationships early on will ensure a stronger business partnership later.