When you have Woo, you are someone “who loves the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. You derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.” This is the Woo definition from Strengths Finder, our most favorite management book on the planet.
I have a strong Woo. It has served me well in my life. It got me thinking, can you teach Woo? Cultivating my own Woo has helped me in influencing others, selling, interviewing, negotiating. I figure others will benefit from learning Woo and I’d like to have a go of it.
Here are my 9 Ways of Woo:
You enter a room. You spot your target. The person you want to meet. Make eye contact. Hold the gaze with intention. Then, smile. (We will get to that in a sec.) Continue using your eyes throughout your interactions with others to show that you care what they are saying. It seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how few people hold eye contact when speaking with each other. You are telling the other person, the one you want to win over and influence, that you are confident, interested in them, and alert. Use this and be consistent. Please, please, please, stop looking at chests, feet, ears, the mirror or glass reflection of yourself behind me, the people walking by, or worse, your phone. These are the Kryptonite to your cause of winning people over.
When you see someone, smile at them. Notice what happens. It lets their guard down. Disarms them and makes them receptive to you. It’s a starting point for conversation. It draws people in and opens them up to conversation. Start smiling. Watch what happens.
Once you establish a connection with someone through your eye contact and a smile, you are ready to throw the handshake out there. Make it strong and obvious. Go in with confidence. Maintain eye contact while you shake their hand. If this is your first physical contact with this person, make an impression on their psyche, not on their crushed hand. Be firm but don’t break their fingers. Two or three pumps of the shake is plenty. Extra Credit: Use your left hand to lightly touch their right elbow or shoulder while you shake hands.
It seems strange and creepy to say this, but I swear it works. Try to mimic the general body language of the person you are talking to and see how it effects their comfort level. For instance, if they have their arms crossed, cross your arms. If they speak softly, tone down your voice to meet their tenor. If they fold their hands in their lap, do the same. Don’t go overboard with this one as studies have shown the line is very fine here, but trust me, a little mimicking goes a long way to gaining trust in a conversation or negotiation.
REMEMBER NAMES! End of story. Figure out how to do this and do it all the time. No excuses. Never, ever, under any circumstances tell someone you are “bad with names”. This equates to “I am lazy”, “I don’t care enough about you to remember your name”, “Everyone else who’s name I can remember is more important than you”. A few obvious tips: Use their name throughout your conversation. Introduce them to someone else near you, using their NAME. End your time together by using their name. “It was so lovely to finally meet you, Michelle. Your work with the homeless is stunning. The world is a better place with you in it.”
Make people laugh and they will remember you.
Use this one sparingly when first meeting people. Keep it to the arms, elbow or shoulder. Elbow and forearm are my favorites. Lean in a little, lightly touch their forearm, and share something interesting, witty, or funny. A little secret or question. Questions are the best. “Do you think they can really solve the world’s problems with their new software platform?”
Ask questions. Have your go-to questions handy and at the ready. Ask questions that make the other person think about themselves. Samples: How did you get to where you are today? What do you love about your work? How do you manage stress? How do you inspire your staff? What is meaningful about your work? Why do customers do business with you? Why do your employees stay? Asking questions makes people feel important and they will remember their time with you as positive because you are eliciting positive memories about themselves.
Ask how you can help them. This is my favorite way to end almost any interaction. It gives you something to react to and helps you solidify another interaction with this person. Only ask this question if you intend to help. Follow up with them via email, social media, or with another meeting. Asking how you can help someone puts you in their network as a resource. And now you have won the gold prize of networking.
Homework: Choose one or two of the techniques that are new to you. Practice them. Work them in to your day like you are in training. Like at a coffee shop, at your next industry event, or in the airport. Networking is a life-long pursuit you can invest in every day and the dividends are fantastic.