How to approach and contact are skills we use constantly, and mostly unconsciously, as we move through the rhythms and routines of our daily lives. Whether at a party, in the mall, at the bank or gym, we are always contacting and making impressions. To make our contacting more enjoyable and successful, both for ourselves and for our prospects, is a matter of acquiring and practicing a few simple skills of courtesy and attention.

A participant in one of my training classes was invited to attend the wedding of her husband's close friends. As she is a shy person, this was not an occasion she looked forward to. Furthermore, she had on past occasions felt judged by this particular group of her husband's friends, and felt like an outsider at their social gatherings.

This time, however, she resolved to apply some of the training we had been practicing.

At the wedding, she greeted each person in turn as if he or she were a long lost best friend. Moving from one table to the next, kneeling down so she'd be at eye level, she enthusiastically told each friend how glad she was to see them. She asked them how they were doing. And whenever they turned the conversation back to her to ask how she was doing, she skillfully wove it back around again by asking another question, showing a persistent interest in their lives and families.

By the end of the evening, this shy wallflower was literally leading a conga line of all her new friends around the wedding reception.

As she buckled herself into their car at the end of a long, happy evening, her husband turned to her and remarked, with a mixture of wonder and admiration, "Well, weren't you Miss Popularity tonight!" She smiled a secret, satisfied smile to herself...

And she smiled that same smile now as she told us this story, adding that this one evening had given her a whole new confidence in approaching prospects for her business.

In reading and imagining the scene unfold, you've probably already observed some of this woman's secrets to successful contacting. She approached others first. She made contact with her eyes, her voice, her touch if appropriate. She expressed genuine enthusiasm about seeing this person. She immediately paid a sincere compliment, "What a beautiful dress; you look incredible tonight." She asked questions and showed intent interest in each individual and his or her life. When the conversation returned to her, she gently returned it to the speaker, asking further questions. On this social occasion, she left her own agenda at home, and instead simply expressed a desire to get together again very soon. She exuded an air of positive energy and delight.

Warm Voice and Eyes
Even if your contact is by phone, be sure you have a smile on your face. Lift your eyebrows when you make eye contact (or speak on the phone); this conveys your openness and interest.

Compliment
Always pay a sincere compliment. Studies have shown that people respond favorably and think highly of the complimentor even if the compliment isn't entirely true; for integrity's sake, make yours genuine! For example, if you are inviting Sheila to look at your business, first tell her why you think she specifically would be a great business partner. Is she a real people person? Well-organized? Especially honest and caring? Whatever it is, sincerely let her know what you think. Paying the compliment is your reason for the contact or call; no matter what other outcome this contact yields, you will have spread goodwill and lifted somebody's self-esteem today.

Questions
To have the most positive impact, stay on positive subjects or shift to positive subjects whenever the going gets persistently negative. The time-honored FORM formula (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Money) has worked for decades of conversation. Or you can try the Canadian version, FORM, EH?: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Moose (or if you prefer, Money), Education, and Health.

Invitation
Decide in advance what is the appropriate invitation. If this is a call or contact to catch up on a friendship, then an appropriate invitation might be simply to see or speak with each other again soon. When you call for a follow-up contact, clearly and sincerely state your invitation related to your business.

Your invitation might be: to see each other for something fun you both enjoy doing (coffee, tennis?); to attend a presentation about an incredibly exciting business you'd like them to benefit from; to try some products that you think will benefit them; or to listen to some information about your new business at a meeting, on a website, a three-way call or video and give you their valued opinion.

You can bring your own style to this formula for contacting. It doesn't require a script, and can be applied equally well on the phone or in person. Amazing things will happen, not only in your business but also in your relationships with family, friends and strangers.

With a few simple shifts in behavior and a conscious awareness of social interaction, we can all change from networking wallflowers to wedding-party conga-line leaders with ringing telephones.

  SHANNON ANIMA
is a writer, successful networker and co-founder of L.E.A.P.,
an organization dedicated to transforming lives through applied values in business and life.