As business owners and instructors, you rely on the relationships you build, whether it be with a new client at your studio or with a brand you hope to partner with. It’s important to focus on cultivating a connection with a person, and not just focusing on whatever goal you hope to achieve. As a Partner Development Manager on ClassPass’s team in Australia, I learned a few tips along the way about developing such relationships back when we launched in Sydney in July 2015.
1. Watch & Mirror
When you’re meeting someone new — whether it be for business or personal, in a new culture or in your familiar surroundings — it’s important to pay close attention to the person’s body language and behavior and listen to make a connection and build rapport. We all tend to feel more comfortable around those who we’re similar to, but this may not come naturally with everyone you meet. If you watch their body language and mirror some of their actions they’ll get the feeling you’re on the same page. Usually this helps people to relax and ease into the conversation, because it feels familiar. You can also mirror the speed at which they’re talking. I know I’m a fast talker so I intentionally start out talking as slow as I can and then mirror the other person’s pace once they get started.
2. Do your research
If you’re headed to a new country or even a new city to network or prospect new locations for your studio, it’s important to know key cultural differences. I think we all know New Yorkers like to “get down to business,” but in other parts of the world, this can come off as rude and unlikable. To help get a sense of cultural differences, you can start with google, but I find more success in simply asking people from the area what it’s like and what I should know. If I don’t know anyone in that city, I send a few LinkedIn messages to strangers asking for a little insight. It can also pay off to do your research on the person you’ll be meeting with. I check if we have any mutual friends or hobbies (thank you social media for putting it all out there!), which can also help serve as icebreakers for your first conversations.
3. Break the Ice
The first three minutes of a meeting “talking about the weather” can be the most crucial part of the entire interaction, especially if you’re pitching your business. I think many of us get so focused on having our talking points prepared for later parts of the conversation that we forget to interact from a human level first — people need to ease into conversations to help it feel natural and not forced.
The first three minutes of a meeting “talking about the weather” can be the most crucial part of the entire interaction
If you’re not a natural gabber, I suggest keeping a list of friendly questions you can ask and tidbits about yourself you can share to break the ice. I keep these questions to fall back on: How was your weekend/Do you have any special plans for the weekend (depending on far along in the week you are)? I love coming to this neighbourhood, what’s your favourite cafe around here? How great is this space, what was your inspiration for your design? What were doing before you decided to open your own business? Ask them questions to get them talking and then relate to their answers with a personal story. Make a point of listening more than talking — if you find they’re talking more, this most likely means they feel comfortable around you.
4. Be You
With all these tips to listen and mirror the other person’s behavior, there’s also a balance to consider. If you don’t stay true to yourself, people will be able to read right through your mirroring and research. The worst thing you can do in an interaction is appear inauthentic. So once you’ve done your homework and are paying attention, it’s important to allow yourself to shine in the present moment and show your true colours.
5. Have Fun
Most importantly, if you’re having a good time, so will they. Keep things light, friendly and engaging. This way, they’ll walk away feeling good, knowing they’ve made the right decision, spent their time wisely, and looking forward to your next meeting together.
Allie Luetkehans is originally from small-town Iowa and is now fully embracing her Sydney Australia lifestyle. If she’s not in a Pilates reformer class, you can usually find her instructing paddle board yoga classes in the harbour, training for a triathlon or marathon, swimming in the ocean or eating green smoothie bowls.