by Tony Vidler
One of the areas which you would think would dominate our prospecting activities is one where many professionals struggle: getting friends and associates onboard as clients.
A fantastic adviser that I knew well and who is since retired working in rural town in New Zealand managed to be one of the top producing agents for well over a decade using a simple technique that seemed to ONLY involve talking to friends and associates, so it is worth sharing.
He would simply ask the people he knew – but who were not clients of his – as he wandered around doing his business a question. Well, it was two questions really.
The first question was “Do you mind if I ask you something?”
Invariably people respond: “of course not”.
Think about the psychology of that simple opening; a courteous request, seeking permission (so you are not in obvious control of the discussion), and it is virtually impossible to politely decline if you are the person being asked the question unless it is a genuinely inconvenient time (in which case no harm is done and the conversation can be had another time).
It would be rude to say no, wouldn’t it, and nobody wants to appear rude? So typically everyone agreed that he could ask them a further question.
The key question that followed was: “Can I ask you why you have never done business with me?” (said very politely, quizzically, and most emphasis upon the “me”).
It is an almost apologetic approach that caused no offence or discomfort to people as he was careful to set it up correctly, and ask the question in the right tone.
Responses varied of course, but could be grouped into a simple set of about 4 types of responses:
1. I have a great adviser and am happy
2. You never asked me to do business with you
3. I thought you were too busy/tooexpensive/too….something or other
4. I don’t know why I never have/I’ve never thought about it.
In the case of the first response (I have a great adviser!), the best course of action is to congratulate them, thank them for answering, and move on from that topic. Stay engaged in the conversation of course, but leave that topic. In doing so you have been just as courteous and respectful.
In all other cases though, the opportunity for a business discussion has just been created….
This is an incredibly simple technique for determining whether you should be having a business discussion with people you know. It causes no offence (if asked correctly). You have been given permission to ask the question, and the prospect is then compelled (having given you permission) to respond sincerely.
The follow up to engage the prospective client in the business conversation was also a very politely framed question, that usually started with “I’m sorry I never explained properly how I help people, do you mind if I go through that with you sometime?”
The overwhelming proportion of people would then agree to meet up later and have a business chat….and that is how a single adviser working in a small rural town became one of the best producers and most popular people in the region.
It is amazing how many people we know who are willing to talk business with us – if we just ask the right questions, the right way!