As a business developer, I constantly look for new, streamlined ways to improve my methodologies. I recently came across a method that is simplistic in the best way possible (credit to my brother-in-law).
The FORD method is a communication tool that can be used across organizations and industries to improve your relationships and land more clients. FORD is an acronym that stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams.
This technique is meant to be incorporated into your conversations so you can ask the right questions to build trust and more meaningful connections—the focus of my methodologies and what I teach to other business developers.
Let’s dive into each piece of this acronym and how you can apply them in future conversations.
Most people have a family and consider them to be an important part of their lives. Even for people who do not have a traditional family structure, they typically have a community of support in its place. Family can even mean close friends and pets.
As a proud family man, I enjoy incorporating family into conversations with strangers and clients alike. And it is easy to weave family into the conversation without being too personal.
I recommend starting with an anecdote to prompt a question. For example, “I am looking forward to my daughter coming to visit this weekend. Do you have any children?” Or, if you are meeting a couple for the first time, you can ask, “How did you two meet?”
The best situation is when the person brings up their family in conversation without being prompted. Now you have the perfect opportunity to ask more questions. If they mention a child, ask how old they are. If they happen to be the same age as your child, you now have a perfect way to connect with them and discuss shared experiences.
If you already know a person and some of their family background, keep track of what they say and be thoughtful in future conversations. I like to ask how their partner/sibling/child is doing the next time I speak with them.
Just remember to stay away from invasive questions. For example, never ask whether someone is going to have children, when someone is going to get married or move in together, or why they are not close with family or a specific family member. Unless they bring it up themselves, it is none of your business.
Occupation is the easiest topic to bring up in a professional setting. If you are new to networking, talking about what someone does for a living is a given. Even for seasoned business developers, we often start a conversation with, “What do you do?”
I will not dwell on this topic since it has been covered ad nauseam. However, I will add that although it is important to know what someone does, do not force the entire conversation to surround work. When building trusting and long-term relationships, their occupation should not be the only topic covered.
For me, I like to know what someone does, who they work for, and how I can help. When talking about occupation, my goal is to see if I can help either by way of introduction or by my firm’s legal services.
Recreation includes everything you like to do outside of work. If you are looking to spice up a conversation, start by asking a simple, “So, what do you like to do outside of work?” or, “What do you like to do on the weekends?”
If the question seems abrupt, weave a personal story into the conversation to lead into the question like, “I like to start my mornings with a swim. Do you play any sports?” or, “I just got back from a trip to Florida to escape the cold weather for a bit. Do you like to travel?”
Even if the person has completely different interests than you, this will make for better conversation. Get curious about their recreational hobbies and ask questions. In the end, they will appreciate your interest in them and will leave the conversation feeling more energized and valued.
Everyone has dreams, whether it is about their career or different aspects of their life. For those of you who are not a fan of small talk, this topic can quickly lead into deeper, more meaningful conversations. Although, I like to reserve this topic for a later conversation with someone, not for our first introductory meeting.
When I incorporate dreams into conversation, I ask a question like, “Where do you see yourself/your business in five years?” This usually leads into the perfect opportunity for me to offer my firm’s legal services or a helpful introduction.
Author: Jim Ries email@example.com