Trying to have a conversation with someone who is unable or unwilling to have a conversation with you is awkward and challenging. We’ve all been there and it’s painfully uncomfortable. What’s worse is when this conversation partner is your prospect or customer. If you can’t have a conversation with this person you can’t bond, if you can’t bond you can’t develop a relationship and, if you can’t develop a relationship, you won’t sell a thing.
If you’ve met me personally, you may find that I’m a fairly gregarious guy. This helps my career for sure but there are times that my conversation partner, customer or prospect is either disinterested in having a conversation or they are simply have a low key personality or they have poor conversation skills. The truth is that my outgoing personality and ability to develop a conversation is learned behavior and I’m happy to teach it to you.
I am by no means a communication expert but I’ll tell you what works for me. Since most people can easily talk about themselves, I think of an acronym, FORM, to get people to open up about themselves. Once you get them talking about themselves, you can begin the probing questions you need to ask to facilitate the potential sale.
First, I try to get the participant to talk about their family. Most people can talk about their family both positively and negatively and often this opens the doors to other topics. I ask them the basic stuff: where are they from, are they married, do they have kids, siblings, etc. Some of the things I’ve heard about my customer’s family members has been amazing including several of my customers have family members who are professional athletes. The cousin of one of my customers is a mega-star celebrity.
Then, I ask them about their occupation. I ask about what got them interested in their job, how long they’ve been doing it, did they have any schooling, training, etc. I ask them about their customers and co-workers. Maybe they’ve been recognized with an award. I have found that some people are very passionate about their work and love to talk about it.
Then I move on to what they do for recreation. People are really into their hobbies. One of my customers is a champion target shooter. Several of my customers have traveled the world. One of my customers is an Elvis impersonator. Many of my customers volunteer at a charity. One of my customers is a Civil War expert. Ask about your customer’s hobbies and you’ll find a treasure trove of stuff to talk about.
Lastly, I ask about what they view as their meaning; their purpose in life. I don’t actually say it in those terms because I want to keep things light but I ask about where they see themselves down the road, what their plans are for the future and what gets them out of bed in the morning. Again, this can open doors into your conversation partner’s life and help you get to know them on a deeper level.
When using the FORM technique, the big idea is that you need to find some building blocks in order to create the foundation of a relationship. As you get to know your hesitant conversation partner better, you may find that you have some things in common and this will facilitate the relationship as it progresses.