Making-a-SaleYour birthday, favorite sports team, or hometown could help you seal the deal.

My birthday is January 19. When is yours? There’s always a feeling of amazement and connection when we learn someone else has the same birthday. This automatically opens up conversations about where we were born, what years we were born (not telling mine), and how we got from our birthplaces to where we are now.

What about meeting someone with the same name? One of my team members tells me there are at least a dozen people on Facebook who share both her first and last name. Several of them have friended her, and one even sends her a “Happy Birthday” message every year and signs it, “Your Twin.” These “twins” have never met, look nothing alike, and are even different genders. But they feel connected because of what pretty much amounts to a coincidence.

I’ve often called these types of connections “affinity networks”—meaning our natural, cultural, geographic, or special-interest connections that can lead to new and increased sales.

Think about people you know, with whom you share the same cultural background or who grew up in the same area. There is an affinity, a connection. For example, in the U.S., each region—the South, the Midwest, New England, etc.—has its own social, business, and historical culture. People from these regions often share a certain manner of speech, approach, or perspective. The same goes for people with similar political agendas, passions, or hobbies, or who like the same sports teams. You feel an immediate connection to people who have something in common with you—a natural liking, inclination, or feeling of identification.

From Social Media to Actually Social

Now I learn there’s a scientific term for affinity networks: “incidental similarities.”

Jonathan Becher, chief digital officer of SAP, talks about the research behind this phenomenon—and what it means for salespeople—in his post, “The Science of Social Selling.” He writes:

Social selling is one of the hottest buzzwords in the technology market. Unfortunately, social selling is usually misunderstood as navigating the sales process using only tools like Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook. While technology can help, social selling is about building stronger relationships with potential buyers, based on an authentic sense of empathy and a deep understanding of the problems they face …

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have shown that incidental similarities between a buyer and seller are enough to establish a personal connection and increase the likelihood to purchase. Incidental similarities include a wide range of events: a shared first name, birthday or birthplace. (Read the rest of the article.)

That’s right! Even something as simple as a shared birthday or hometown can help you sell more, and sell bigger!

The Death of Small Talk

When it comes to research, social media is the best thing that’s ever happened to sales. With a few clicks of a button, we learn all about our prospects—both personally and professionally. Most importantly, we can identify the “incidental similarities” that help us make personal connections with them.

Small talk, then, becomes something much deeper. Who cares about the weather when you can talk about how the basketball team you both love mopped the floor with their competitors the previous night, or how you both grew up in the same state, or how you plan to spend your shared birthday?

Personal connections couldn’t be more important in sales. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. Want prospects to like you? Start with a referral introduction, look them up on social media, and then make the personal connection to seal the deal.

For more on how to use social media for sales, check out my interview with LinkedIn’s Koka Sexton.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.