Wouldn’t life be perfect if you opened your own business and customers started to appear? The reality is, potential customers are everywhere if you can understand exactly what they are looking for.
You don’t need to know what flavour of ice cream they crave, or what features they want on their smartphone. You just need to get a better idea about their goals. Everyone is looking for something better: improved health, more money, career advancement, bigger goals… more adventures.
The story behind each person is worth discovering… just take the time to learn more about them by asking questions.
When you’ve got the undivided attention of a potential customer in front of you, that’s the moment to get to know them better. There are four types of questions to ask if you are prospecting your cold market (people you’ve just met). Where you start depends on the flow of the conversation and how social your prospect is. The four questions fall into a technique called the FORM method: family, occupation, recreation, and money.
When you have the opportunity to speak with your prospect, start with an ice breaker question. Find out what brings them to the networking event. Or ask them what they’ve been doing since your last conversation or meeting. Let the conversation develop organically. Don’t force a question to complete your checklist. Eventually, you want to find answers to the four types of questions to get as complete a picture about your prospect as possible.
Ask questions about their family.
The topic of family can be as casual or personal as you want it to be, depending on whether your prospect opens the door to this, or whether you feel comfortable asking questions about family. If your prospect mentions that the reason they want to start their own business is they want to be able to provide for their family, then you can find out more. What do they mean by family? Their parents? Their spouse and children?
If your prospect is asking about the health products you are selling, “Not for me, it’s for my sister,” then that comment opens the door to more discussion about why your prospect is the one doing the research. Perhaps they are the one who takes initiative. Or they are the one who will be paying for the treatment. It is also possible they are the family member who is most open to new techniques and inventions. Knowing this information will help steer you in the best direction for your business. If the prospect is seriously investigating products for their sibling, then meeting with the sibling is the next step.
Your prospect may be inquiring about your services because she is expanding her own business. You observe a wedding band on her finger as she is reaching for her coffee cup. You could find out about her spouse by making a comment about what it’s like for you to have a significant other who supports you as a business owner. Relating to the prospect helps you to start a discussion to find out if your prospect is hesitant to spend more on services because of family obligations.
Ask questions about their occupation.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to find out about a prospect’s personal situation while talking about business. Some people are just less likely to open up, or don’t see how their family life affects how they network with business contacts.
If your prospect has a job, it’s usually safe to ask what they do for a living and how long they have been working at that job. Other questions you might ask are whether they enjoy their work, or what they like about what they do. These questions about employment reveal quite a bit about your prospect.
If your prospect has been working for a long time at a job they hate and wish they could change their career, it’s possible they aren’t very ambitious. It’s also possible that family obligations prevent them from taking the risk to change careers or jobs.
If your prospect has a history of ambitious career advancements, and projects that involve leadership and responsibility, then you are likely to be dealing with someone who is open to changes and leaving their comfort zone if it results in self improvement.
Learning about your prospect’s personality and goals by asking questions about their occupation will help you to figure out how likely they are to try a new product or service, particularly if you are selling a high-ticket item, or something that is new to the market.
Ask questions about recreation.
What does your prospect like to do for fun? Where do they like to travel? What hobbies do they have? Do they play sports or enjoy fitness?
Of all the topics for FORMing, this one is best for small talk, particularly if you are just starting to get to know your prospect.
If your business is wealth creation, such as investments, then asking your prospect about their interest in travel or hobbies will tell you more about how they prioritize their money. Do they like to save up for long vacations overseas? Do they actively participate in activities such as skiing and fishing? Or are they happy with local day hikes and trips to the library? If they wish they could go on vacation three times a year, then find out more about their plans to see how your business can help them.
Similarly, discovering that your prospect is very fit and has a gym membership they regularly use, camping equipment that doesn’t catch dust, and an abundance of stories about local hikes, then they are more likely to be interested in your health business, particularly if they want to recover from muscular injuries faster.
The opposite can also be true. You may find out that your prospect spends his time watching shows on TV because his struggles with health issues. Finding out that he wishes he could play baseball with his friends can open the door to a discussion about how your health business could help him.
Ask questions about their financial goals.
People are more guarded when talking about their finances, particularly with people they don’t know well. If your prospect is someone you’ve just met, then asking about their financial goals is a lot more challenging, but not impossible. The line of questioning will be more indirect, particularly if the prospect isn’t as open.
Asking about the prospect’s occupation can tell you a bit about their financial goals. If your prospect is a lawyer who has expensive hobbies and just bought a house last year, this may tell you something about the income bracket he is aspiring to. Ask questions about how he is liking the new home and neighbourhood. Maybe he’ll drop a hint that his wife is happy and that’s what matters most to him. It could mean he is motivated to please his spouse with a certain lifestyle.
If the prospect says they want to cut back on spending, or they want to get another job to afford the things they want, then this information will reveal something about their income goals. One prospect may be in debt and believes spending less is the key to a better life. Another prospect may be struggling with living within their means, and believes it’s possible to afford more, if they increase their cashflow.
No matter which topic you begin with in the FORMing process, remember to listen and be genuinely interested in your prospect. Each piece of information may provide you with clues about your prospect’s values and goals. If you understand your prospect, then you will be better prepared to help them with your product or service.