Turn Prospects into Friends with 3 Simple Questions

This week, we’ve been talking about how to improve your professional, people, and personal development skills in order to find success with your freelance career.

Today, I’m going to show you how to build rapport with a potential client in just a few minutes over the phone.

It’s important to establish a great relationship with prospects because they will call you for more projects and mention you to other potential clients.

Before we get started, I have to mention that this technique, while amazing, is best used after you've established whether or not the company hires outside copywriters.

Here’s the advice I’ve heard most often for cold calling prospects:

  1. Find potential clients in your niche.
  2. Call the company and ask if they hire freelance writers.
  3. If they say yes, ask if you can send over your information packet, get their email address, and follow up later.

This is pretty good advice. But what if we add a little something to it?

What if we ask a few questions while we have them on the phone and build rapport? Then when we follow up, they’ll remember us and want to talk to us.

It’s possible – and it can be accomplished without keeping busy prospects on the phone too long.

Here’s how to do it:

First, take a deep breath and imagine you’re calling your friend.

Then, realize that marketing and sales is about building relationships. The goals of the call are to (1) find out if they hire copywriters and (2) build a relationship by getting to know them.

When you take the time to get to know someone, you let them know you truly care about them and their goals.

This will set you apart from other freelancers and make you memorable when it comes time to hire someone. And after you’re hired, it will also get you referrals.

To show someone you’re interested in him or her, you should FORM them …

What does FORM stand for?

  • “F” is for Family
  • “O” stands for Occupation
  • “R” is for Recreation
  • “M” means Message

Make a point to ask people about their family, occupation, and recreation – after you ask if they hire outside writers – but before you share your message.

You want to get them talking about what matters most to them …

If you’re not sure how to get started, you can say something like, “I see your company is located in Florida. Do you like living there?”

Then ask about their family – where they’re from or how long they’ve been married. You can ask them when they moved to the area or if they have kids. Anything about their family or home life that’s not too personal. (Hint: If you wouldn’t share your answer with someone in a checkout line, it’s probably too personal to ask a prospect you just started talking to.)

Then ask about their occupation. If they’re a potential client, you know where they work. So you can ask things like how long they’ve been working there, what they like most about their job, or how they got into that industry.

Third is recreation. What do they do for fun? How often? How did they get interested in that activity?

The last step in FORM is the message. This is where you can mention that you’ll send over your information package and that you’d love to follow up with them. If you’ve really had a great conversation, you could even ask if they have any current projects they need help with.

You don’t want to spend too long on the phone. Just a few minutes. But by the time you’re done, you should feel like you have a friend there. They should be someone that will say, “Oh yes, I remember you!” when you follow up with them.

Also, while you’re FORMing them, listen for what they need. You’ll be able to connect with them and present your message in a way that makes sense.

Let’s say, for instance, it comes up that they’re interested in automating parts of their business so they can get out of the office a few times a week to see their kids play baseball.

When you know this, you can beat out your competition by saying, “I know how important it is to you to get out of the office earlier so you can go to John and Billy’s baseball game, so here’s what I have in mind to help automate your sales process …”

If you get stuck talking to the receptionist instead of the president of the company, don’t blow her off. FORM her. You never know how much pull she has in the hiring process. She may just get you through to speak to your dream client.

Also, after you secure the clients, make sure you continue to FORM them. When you call to check in, make sure you ask how little Billy is doing.

When you FORM your clients, you’ll be able to beat the feast-or-famine cycle because they’ll be more likely to refer you to other clients and keep using you.

Start building relationships by using FORM today.

If you need practice, try FORM when you call your plumber, cable provider, or handyman. Notice how nice they are when you talk about them first. All day long, people call and ask them for something – never caring who they are or what they need.

Recently, I shared FORM with my husband when we were trying to get a few documents from our insurance company. The front desk girl has always been less than polite, but he took a few minutes to FORM her. Now when he calls, she goes out of her way to help him with whatever he needs.

FORM really will make your life – and your business – better.

Comment below to let me know how you tried FORM and what happened.

The AWAI Method™

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Published: November 10, 2011

5 Responses to “Turn Prospects into Friends with 3 Simple Questions”

  1. As a European my reaction to most of this would be 'none of your business' and I would not want to deal with the caller. Occupation - fine. But my private life (Family and Recreation) are just that - private. I think this is a cultural difference, not just a personal one, so beware when dealing with European companies!


  2. Usually, I'm very open to new ways of doing things. But for this, I'm highly skeptical. If a complete stranger calls me and start asking me about personal stuff, albeit not deeply personal, I'd feel uncomfortable and probably would want to hang up the phone.



    Guest (Mark Foo)

  3. Christina, this is outstanding. For us introverts, this is an outstanding template to form bonds with strangers quickly. Thank you so much!!! This is vital for building relationships with prospects and new clients! I'm putting it on my wall by my desk!!


  4. It would be fun to read some replies from people who tried this as part of their marketing. I think it depends somewhat on the personality of the individual on the other end of the phone. For myself, being introverted, I'd get off the phone as quickly as possible if a caller I don't know started asking me personal questions.

    Hannah in Oregon

  5. I actually use this method with clerks, waitresses, waiters etc. I's a good way to connect (and get unusually good service)by asking about them. I really just like to make them smile, but it WOULD be a good idea for cold calling.


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