Following this strategy can help you drive conversations to grow your personal and business relationships.
Most salespeople don’t have trouble talking; it’s often an innate skill, and it might even be the reason they got into sales in the first place. However, when it comes down to it, smooth talking and a bubbly personality can only get you so far. You need to know how to talk to people and what to say to make a memorable impact and connection.
Whether you’re networking, pitching your product, or prospecting, the FORD Method is a great way to keep dialogue flowing and establish a strong rapport. Here’s a closer look at the basics of this approach and how you can start implementing it in every conversation.
The 411 on FORD
Let’s start with what the acronym FORD stands for:
These four words are the building blocks of a person’s value system, and each is relevant to every person you’ll meet, no matter their age, who they are, or what they do. That’s why this method works so well; it’s a starting line for getting to know people and allowing them to get to know more about you, ultimately building trust. You can use the four components of FORD to draw up questions to ask in any conversation at any time.
This method is a two-way street, though. A good practice exercise is to jot down your own responses to these or similar questions:
- Family: Who in my life is most important to me? How often do I see them?
- Occupation: What do I do for a living? Does my career fulfill me?
- Recreation: What do I like to do for fun? What is my overall favorite sports team?
- Dreams: Who do I aspire to be in five years? What are my goals?
It will be easier to ask these questions to other people once you’ve practiced your own responses. If you’re worried about getting too personal too soon, know that you don’t have to open with the most personal questions (dreams); start slow (family/occupation), and work your way up. This method allows you to lay the groundwork for establishing a bond early on in your relationship so you can present yourself as more than a salesperson pushing a product.
Put FORD into Practice
Are you ready to take a crack at the FORD Method? Try these ideas for inspiration.
On social media
Your social media pages are the perfect place to put FORD into action. They are often used as a communication platform, but they also can be an opportunity for you to open a window into your personal and professional lives.
- Use the 80/20 rule to highlight aspects of your business and life that you want clients and prospects to know about. Following this rule can help you ensure your content is informative but also relatable. For example, you could share industry insights and business updates five days per week and post something personal (e.g., pictures of your family, fun videos of your pet, or a look at your daily routine) the other two days.
- Make it a habit to direct-message new connections on LinkedIn or Facebook to thank them for following you. Review their profile, and ask them a question using FORD that relates to something they’ve recently posted about, such as a child’s graduation, a family vacation, or a personal achievement.
These days, face-to-face conversations can be more intimidating than those on social media. But the FORD Method can be used to help you avoid awkward silence and prevent you from asking the wrong questions at the wrong time.
- Some networking events and conferences will post a list of attendees beforehand. Take a look at the list, and jot down the names of any individuals you think would be particularly valuable to talk to. Look at their business and personal profiles, take notes on questions you can ask them, and practice asking those questions to help you prepare for the event.
- You can use the FORD Method in different ways for different types of conversations. If you’re meeting two clients at the same time, such as a couple or a parent and child, you can ask questions with FORD related to their relationship. For example, “How did you two meet?” could be an icebreaker for the couple, and “Do you have any other children/siblings?” could work for the parent and child.
- FORD can be particularly useful for gauging a person’s place in life and the likelihood of needing your services. A financial adviser, for instance, may want to ask a potential client “Where do you see yourself in five years?” to help identify the prospect’s goals and present a plan to help them achieve them.
As a business professional, you’re likely having dozens of conversations every single day. If you want your conversations to stand out and lead to lasting relationships that drive sales for your organization, effective communication is key. Keep track of any new information you learn about a client or prospect in your CRM so that you can reference it in future conversations. Soon you’ll have a database full of helpful information you can use to maintain these powerful connections.
Come up with a list of questions for each area of the FORD Method that you can routinely ask prospects in new conversations.