What does the ice cream shop clerk and the secretary of your potential buyer have in common?  They both have something you want.  And if you approach them like everyone else, chances are you’ll get the same minimal results from them.  There’s an easy way to get much more from them than that.

I have a frequent bet with friends when I go to the ice cream shop.  I bet that I can get 50-100% more ice cream than they can from the same person, for the same price, in the same amount of time.  How do I do this?

If I just ask for more, they’ll certainly say they can’t, or that I need to pay more.  So what’s the secret?  I give them something they need first.  Everyone needs to feel important and appreciated.  They need to feel connected, and in a sincere way.  It’s a fundamental human need.  So I engage in small talk.  Not just any small talk; our time is limited.  They have other customers to deal with.  I have maybe 30 seconds to make a genuine connection.  I want more ice cream and they’re in the process of dishing it out as we speak.

As silly as it sounds, I invite them to share an accomplishment, but not just any accomplishment – it has to be relevant.  If they’re serving a cone, I ask them “what’s the highest you’ve ever stacked it with that machine?” shortly followed by “let’s see how high you can get this one!”  It’s important to have a playful tone in the voice at this point so that they feel like they’re part of the fun, rather than fulfilling the request of a greedy person.  They need to feel connected like a friend so that they do it for me like they would for a friend.  If their boss/co-worker is visibly difficult, I share a sympathetic grimace.  When they’re done, I show that I’m genuinely impressed.  And I should be.  They stacked it for me much more than they did for the person before me.  If they choose not to play along, nothing was really lost.  It was playful banter, I still walk away with what I went there to get, and they get to feel special for a moment of their repetitive day.

The key to success can get lost somewhere in that brief exchange.  What it boils down to is quickly making genuine human contact.  Many people call this “charm.”  If you make the same contact as everyone else they come across, you’re just another number and hardly worth remembering or going out of the way to help.  Remember that they have limited time, and that your conversation needs to connect you in a human way quickly and appropriately.  If you have a problem that they can help solve, be honest about it (but don’t share inappropriate elements of the problem!).  Be genuine.  Don’t waste their time.  Don’t tell stories, don’t “set the stage,” just get to the point.  In their minds, that’s what they’re saying anyway.  But most of all make them feel important, accepted, and appreciated.  They’re much more likely to go a little out of their way for you then.

So while I can get extra ice cream, you can get past the secretaries, suspicious doubts, cold calls, and potential buyer walk-bys.  This approach works more often than not in all kinds of scenarios, and either way puts you in a different mental category.  As long as you weren’t creepy, that’s a great place to be for this encounter and the next.

As an experiment, I invite you to try these quick connections with people this week. Just remember that you have to give them something first. The more you practice it, the more natural it will become. So treat yourself to an ice cream cone this week and share your results in the comments section below!