To me, charity workers on the high street have always represented one of the most raw sales challenges.
They have to engage any passing member of the public in the space of a few fleeting seconds.
People's barriers usually go up instantly when asked 'do you have a few seconds to help out with issue XYZ?'
We all know it's a ruse and that it's going to take more than a few seconds - and all they want is our money! So we make our excuses and walk on.
Sometimes a smile can help engage us on a human level, but even when people smile armed with a 5 second elevator pitch, we still tend to make our excuses and carry on walking.
The other day I encountered a guy with possibly the best opener I've heard. He said:
'Hi sir, you have the kindest face I've seen all day, would you mind chatting for a couple of minutes about XTZ?'.
He got me! And it was delivered with such conviction that I fully engaged with him and donated. He built rapport from the start and I enjoyed our chat.
It was a very smart opener, and in the moment it felt both spontaneous and authentic.
Breaking it down - he's delivered a personal compliment that I look kind. Who wouldn't want to be thought of as kind?
If I then walk on I'm contradicting his statement.
So I stopped and showed him just how right he was by chatting and donating.
He made me feel good about myself, and so I followed through on his observation.
Simple, yes. Smart, absolutely. It's actually genius.
The following day I walked past the same guy. And there he is, delivering the very same line, with the same level of conviction to some unsuspecting woman. Naturally, she stops and engages!
Naively, I was still thinking yesterday's interaction was genuine, so part of me was irritated, but another part of me thought 'ah so that's his opener, very good, it worked on me!'
I've worked in sales for over 20 years, training and coaching, and like to think I know all the tricks...but I'm still just a human being and will respond to people in the moment if they connect with me.
If our friend is still out still there, I'm sure he's cleaning up! And as it's for a good cause, he should keep on doing what he's doing.
What's your best opening line?