“Come here often?” “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” “Mind if I join you?” Yup, most of us have used these lines at some point, if not many points, in our dating lives in an attempt to capture the attention of some cute stranger. And while these ice-breaking basics can certainly get the job done on occasion, some single people out there might be wondering: Is there anything more sophisticated I can try? According to Neil Strauss, author of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, there are plenty of ways to hone your pickup skills and increase your chances of swapping phone numbers. Below, see how these single men managed to flirt successfully with their romantic targets — and learn how you can pull off their moves, too.

Way #1: Be brief and to the point before quickly moving on
“I started off a conversation with a woman by saying, ‘My friend feels sick, so I have to drive him home in a few minutes, but I wanted to introduce myself before I left,’” says Rick Sanchez, 30. “She said she admired me for taking care of my friend, and after flirting for awhile, she asked me if I was planning on coming back after I took care of him — which I did, of course!”
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The pick-up lesson learned: If you try to start a conversation with any hesitation, stammering, or other time wasters, you may well be shot down. Speed is your friend — as is being direct. “Give yourself a time limit,” says Strauss. “Say, ‘I only have a minute, I have to rejoin my friends soon, but I wanted to come say hello.’ People will be more apt to listen to what you have to say because they don’t feel intruded upon” — and they won’t be as concerned that you are going to be lingering next to them all night. Hopefully you can display enough personality to make them want you to stick around — if so, just say, “Looks like my friend got his second wind and wants to stay” and you’re golden.

Way #2: Keep some fun facts on hand to share that will make a memorable impression
“I was eating lunch in the park next to a really hot woman one day,” recalls Jon Thompson, 27. “I had a bottle of Snapple, and on the underside of the cap it said that a goldfish’s attention span is roughly three seconds. I leaned towards her and pulled a ‘did you know?’ She was surprised at my straightforwardness, but still laughed. While we didn’t speak about goldfish anymore after that, we did talk for another hour... and I got her number.”

The pick-up lesson learned: All those lonely nights you spent watching Jeopardy reruns may finally pay off. According to Strauss, “All useless information is useful. Fun facts, like ‘Hey, did you know that the average woman uses eight pounds of lipstick in her lifetime?’ can be great conversation starters,” provided, of course, that you offer them up with a casual smile and a gleam of interest in your eye. Not only will you win points for originality, these factoids serve as excellent distractions from the fact that you’re, well, hitting on someone.

Way #3: Impress the object of your affection’s friends first
“I was at a sports grill with some friends when I noticed a group of people at another table watching the same football game that we were,” says Bret Irvin, 33. “There was this really cute woman, some of her girlfriends and two guys sitting together. On my way to the bathroom, there was a great play in the game, and everyone started cheering. I stopped right next to the woman’s table and talked about sports with her guy friends. From there, I got introduced to her girlfriends, and then to my target herself. Turns out she was also a big sports fan, and we ended up talking for the rest of the game. She and her crew showed up at the same place the next weekend, but this time, she came to sit with me.”

The pick-up lesson learned: You’ve got your eye on some cutie who’s enjoying a laugh with some pals. What should you do? “Don’t hit on the person you want,” warns Strauss. “Instead, befriend the friends first.” Since you’re not interested in dating these people, you’ll be at your most comfortable and confident. Plus, the object of your affection is bound to let down his or her guard after seeing you bond with the posse. Sooner or later, someone in the group is sure to introduce you two, and if not, just say, “I feel like I’ve been snubbing your friend; mind if I switch seats and talk with him/her for awhile?”

Way #4: Forsake the flattery and say something sincere
“I saw a really gorgeous woman at the grocery store. What caught my eye wasn’t how pretty she was, though — it was the piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe,” explains Tyler Stone, 38. “I walked over and said, ‘I like your shoes... did they come with the toilet paper attached, or does that cost extra?’ She was so embarrassed at first, but we were both able to laugh it off. I think she liked the fact that I wasn’t straight-up hitting on her — and in the end, we exchanged phone numbers. I went out with her on our first date a week later.”

The pick-up lesson learned: Good-looking people get swooned over all the time, which is why you should avoid doing it at all costs. A better tactic? Try gently picking on that person instead, as if you were an older brother or sister. Tell a woman that she has lipstick on her teeth, or point out to a guy that he’s the only man at the club who cannot dance. They’ll be thrown by your gentle dig and be eager to change your opinion. “It takes a lot of confidence to use what’s called a ‘neg,’ but it’s a great trick,” says Strauss.

Matt Christensen writes for Maxim and other publications.