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During vacations, holidays or other socially focused periods, many of us spend less time with business contacts and more time with family, friends and social acquaintances.  If that includes people with whom we wish to do business, it can raise the Social Dilemma:How do you pursue the opportunities that relaxed conversation often reveals without taking unfair advantage of the friendship or the occasion?  

Separation is the key.  

Follow these six steps to gracefully and reliably initiate business discussions with friends or social acquaintances -- without awkwardness or risk to your personal relationship.

  1. Show interest.  Ask the standard "How's business?"
  2. Probe to identify challenges with which you can help.  Ask questions that demonstrate that you have real knowledge about such problems.  Most people, particularly those who already know you, will ask your advice or opinion.
  3. Fully engage the problem discussion to the degree that the other person welcomes.  However, when the discussion shifts to possible solutions, acknowledge that you have helped others with similar problems, and suggest categories or types of approaches. Don't offer specific advice.
  4. Cut off any discussion of specifics with a gracious recognition that you’re together for social reasons, that you don't wish to monopolize the discussion or your guest's time, but that you are very interested in talking more about ways to solve the problem.
  5. Ask, “Does it makes sense to reconnect (outside the social occasion)to explore the problem some more, with possible dates, to be confirmed by telephone the next (business) day.
  6. Be sure to follow up immediately.

 For help with the "how" part of this advice, rent this RainmakerVT course for only $35.