How to Connect at a Personal Level with Your Clients
How do you prepare in advance of your client discussions? I welcome you to comment below. Let's get better together.
Early in my career, I did not take a proactive approach to conversations with prospective clients. I just went in without having given much thought to the discussion. Yes, I had an open mind. But I also left the agenda open and asked reactionary questions. That approach often led to reactionary conversations that focused on the features and benefits of my product or service rather than the needs of the prospect.
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Potential Clients Form Opinions at the Subconscious Level
Unfortunately, people do not make buying decisions based on features. The buying decision is more of a feeling one. Potential clients form opinions at the subconscious level. In many cases, they do not even realize that they are forming opinions. But if the prospects stop and pay attention to how they feel about a particular business owner or salesperson as an individual, they may realize that the feeling is affecting their decision about whether to buy from that person.
Given this, we should be proactive when we go into conversations with prospects. When I learned about this approach and recognized the correlation between the richness of a conversation and my success rate, I made a conscious decision to improve.
We need to set up conversations so that we provide value every time we talk with a prospective client. We want to steer the conversation so that we gain an understanding of the prospect’s personal motivations and determine whether he or she needs the product or service we’re offering. Ideally, we can customize the offer to the prospect’s personal motivations.
In advance of my sales discussions, I proactively think about the questions that I will ask. My approach is the following:
Three Layers of Conversation
Our brains are hardwired to disclose and absorb information in layers. I think of sales conversations as having three layers.
Layer 1: The FORM technique
When you meet a prospective client for the first time, you cannot have a deep conversation right away. Instead, you need to start by asking easy questions that will enable you to get to know each other. I use the FORM framework to find areas of common interest. The asking and answering of questions about these four areas fosters good feelings and mutual trust:
F - Family
O - Occupation
R - Recreation
M - Motivation
Layer 2: Business Motivations
After you have created a bond based on common interests, you can ask questions about the person’s organization. What are the organization’s motivations? What’s going on within the organization? Typically, prospective clients’ replies are matter of fact: We need to upgrade our ERP software, because the vendor who supplied it is discontinuing service.
Note: This is an example of a B2B environment. However, it applies equally in a B2C environment. Layer 2 questions focus on the outer side of the person. Why would you like to lose weight? - I need to lose weight because my family has a history of heart disease.
Layer 3: Personal Motivations
As trust continues to build, you can ask the prospective client about his or her personal motivations. Ask what the person wants to accomplish in terms of career, how the person is progressing up the company ladder, how the business is growing compared to what the person envisioned, and so forth. Your ultimate goal is to tie your product or service to the prospect’s personal motivations. I’ll write more about that topic in a future article.
Note: This is an example of a B2B environment. However, it applies equally in a B2C environment. Layer 3 questions focus on the inner side of the person. How would losing the weight make you feel? It would be a massive burden off my shoulders. I would regain my confidence and I know it would change my outlook on life. I would be happy again.
If you want to explore further about how to make authentic connections with your clients and prospective clients, you can download the worksheet that I have developed and posted below. The worksheet will give you some ideas about how to structure your questions for sales calls in advance. When I really began to take this approach seriously, my results shot through the roof!