The best ideas withstand the test of time. One of the best techniques to encourage a person you meet socially to open up is with a strategy known as FORM.
Let’s say you occasionally run into someone, and you’d like to learn more about them and get past the surface without seeming like you’re prying. You can do it gradually and tactfully with FORM.
F stands for family. You know their name, and you can see how they look because they are standing in front of you. Based on what you observe, you can guess their heritage, so you might say something such as, “Your last name is Windsor. That sounds English. Am I right?” They might smile and then answer your question. You might get a “yes” or “That is close. I am Canadian.” This is your opportunity to share your background. Generally, people are proud of their heritage.
O stands for occupation. You mentioned that you are a financial advisor or an insurance agent. This has not scared them away. So far, so good! You might ask, “What do you do?” but that can sound contrived. Another strategy is to take an educated guess at their profession, saying something such as, “It looks like you have the hands of a surgeon. Are you a surgeon?” Then you stop talking. Usually, they smile and tell you if you were right or not and then what they do for a living. The key factor is mentioning a distinguished profession that generates pride. Visual clues might have led you to guess they are an accountant, engineer, diplomat or accountant.
R stands for recreation. You want to learn what they do for fun. You might get clues based on where you are having this conversation. If you are at a tailgate party, the tennis club or the gym, you know at least one of their interests. Another strategy is to ask about vacation plans, especially if you are approaching the holiday season when people often take time off. People like talking about how they enjoy their vacation time.
M is for money. This conversation takes place later in the relationship. One strategy is to find a common reference point and bring money into the conversation. For example, when talking to someone with children, you could say, “We have two children we intend to send to college. You probably do as well for your children. I was wondering how to pay for it and learned about 529 college savings plans, so that’s the route we are taking. What about you?” They might ask for more details or mention they have it covered because a rich relative promised to help. In either case, there is future business potential.
You likely learned about FORM in your early days in sales training. You might have forgotten about it; however, FORM is a strategy worth revisiting.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” is available on Amazon.
For more tips to increase your networking skills:
Read “Four quick ideas to network and prospect”
Watch “Missing opportunities? Widen your network and build influence” (MDRT-member exclusive)
Read “10 tips to shine at a social event” (Available in nine languages)