4 Ways to Build Your Business Being Nice to Strangers at Parties

If you're determined to drive explosive growth at your business, stop hiding in your office like a mole, playing the latest version of Black Ops in the dark.

Smart CEOs think like tigers: They hunt at night—making the most of parties and events to find new customers. But CEOs beat the tigers’ one-in-10 “close” ratio. Instead of killing their “prey,” CEOs cultivate it. For me, the greatest pleasure is to meet a stranger, learn about who they are and what makes them tick. Business opportunities grow naturally and gracefully out of these friendships.

Related: Make a Friend, Get the Sale

1. Kill the terminator. Starting out, I tried a few networking meetings. Within 30 minutes, I was face to face with the human version of Terminator 2, scanning me like a business card to see whether I fit his agenda or what I could do for him. It’s a huge turnoff. These guys are typically broke. They open their wallet and you hear a sucking sound.

2. Be clean and connect. A recent study published by Harvard Business Review analyzed workers in North America and Europe, asking them: Would you rather work with a lovable fool or a competent jerk? Nearly every person preferred to work with a lovable fool.

“A little extra likability goes a longer way than a little extra competence in making someone desirable to work with,” wrote the authors. Walk into a room as an open, friendly human being without an agenda. This is how I naturally live my life. What I have noticed is people respond unconsciously and relate automatically.

Related: Charm Offensive: The Power of Being Nice

3. Search and rescue. You can tell who feels anxious. Spot someone standing alone who looks to be feeling awkward. Approach them from a genuine place of friendship and desire to make them comfortable.

This desire to help them and to connect is both compassionate and a great way to make new friends. They will open up and enjoy the conversation, too. This is how real relationship begin.

At a recent party, I complimented a doctor on his beautiful silk pocket square. That led to a discussion of my new men’s accessories business. Then his wife, a successful wealth manager, joined the conversation. After 20 minutes, we exchanged cards and made dinner plans. It was all because we genuinely hit it off, not because of strategic plans to do business.

4. Beat your ego into submission. Perhaps it is my intensity or the fact that I body build or was a full-contact fighter but I’ve been told that I can seem intimidating. I’ve worked to counteract that by revealing I am naturally warm and down-to-earth.

If you feel insecure or are too cerebral about a new situation, make a self-effacing joke. I used to always feel like I had bad hair. It was either too much or too little. Someone on Twitter likened my hair to octopus piss. I’m not even sure what that means, but it always cracks people up when I tell that story.

Find ways to get completely out of your head and fully into your heart, your emotions. A heart, especially if it’s big, is the universal language. People can’t help connect to it.

Related: Richard Branson: Nice Guys Can Finish First