Scare Up New Sales: How to Network Your Way to New Clients

This Halloween week, our fabulous clients are helping you get your business back from the grave by scaring up new sales. First up is Matthew Ozolins from Webics teaching us the networking magic of F.O.R.D. 

I never had any fancy sales or relationship training before jumping into the deep end of the business world (although now I have invested $240,000 in my education over the past 2 years.) For that reason, I get really excited when I go to conventions or network with people and learn awesome concepts that help me break down barriers and build better relationships. When this happens, I instantly create a plan for implementation in my mind during one of those “It all makes sense now” moments.


Halloween Sales InfographicRecently this happened when I was in Melbourne at an event called The Young Entrepreneurs’ Unconvention. One of the speakers introduced me to the FORD method. FORD is a method of building relationships with new people in any situation from a networking event to a cab ride from the airport. Let’s break the acronym down:

  • “F” stands for family

  • “O” for occupation

  • “R” for recreation

  • “D” for dreams

If this is how you structure conversations with new people wherever you go, there is no reason why you can’t turn those strangers into clients, referral sources or just good friends. Here’s how to do it successfully.

Find out about their Family

This is easy to do without being intrusive. But it is important to initiate this using something relevant to your situation. For example, if you are at a conference with a lot of international attendees, you could ask someone where they are from, which could lead too “Wow! You’re a long way from home. Do you have a family?” From there the conversation will flow freely without any awkwardness.

I have, however, seen this be messed up badly at a networking event here in the Whitsundays (Australia.) I had just explained the method to someone I had been chatting with for some time. Apparently, after having a couple of beers, I hadn’t been detailed enough in my explanation. They shook hands with a friendly looking businessman who joined our little pow-wow and opened with “So, how old are your kids?” Don’t do this. I can’t stress enough how important it is to actually use the situation around you to find your opener. Otherwise, you are going to have a really weird time involving awkward backing away and total silence. (Plus, this question could become as personal as asking “What’s your age?” or “How old were you when you first had kids?”)

Find out about their Occupation

So this one is probably where you need to be taking a lot of mental notes for the rest of the conversation. If you are in a B2B — which if you’re reading this, you probably are — this new acquaintance’s occupation is ultimately what is going to determine whether or not they are a qualified lead. This one is generally the easiest of the four. Just ask them what they do for work. If a uniform is making their occupation blatantly obvious, ask them how they got into it.

This is simple, but it is really important to be genuinely interested and make them want to talk about their work, so ask follow-up questions. A good example of such a follow-up question would be “That profession has always interested me; I have always wondered how you guys manage to blah blah blah.” Once you ask a follow-up question or two, you have the green light to move onto recreation.

Find out about their Recreation

We all love talking about the things we do for fun. However, linking fun with work — which is notoriously not fun — without seeming unnatural and losing the conversational flow requires some thought.

I briefly spoke with an interesting guy who owned a painting business and managed to get to the recreation stage of the chat before having to board my flight. To tie work with fun I said something along the lines of, “I only just realized how early Tradies [contractors] knock off work when I had my place painted a few weeks back. What do you get up to while the rest of us are still slogging away?” This worked perfectly. This guy said that when he isn’t too exhausted after a day of painting, he’ll go fishing or go and have a beer with his mates at the pub. Now we’re getting into lifestyle discussions so we can move right onto the dreams.



Find out about their Dreams

Let me make something clear, once someone opens themselves up to you enough to honestly reveal their dreams, you definitely have permission to sell. So long as you’re a skilled enough wordsmith to make them realize that your service will help them reach their dreams.

So you could say, “Sounds like you enjoy your work, but would like a bit more time to [Insert their stated recreational activity here] or hangout with the family.” Now the only real reason folks invest in B2B services is to make more money or to save more time. Your service does one, maybe both. By the time they have finished talking about how and why they would like more time to spend on recreation or with their family, in your mind you have determined how you can help them reach those dreams or goals. This is when you drop something along the lines of, “You know my business can help you you get there. We offer [Insert your awesome service] and loads of our existing clients are really happy with how the results have grown their business/increased their free time. I don’t mean to be too forward, but did you want to set up a meeting to have a more detailed chat?” There you have your appointment.

Turn F.O.R.D. into SALES

Think of a time when you have had a detailed conversation with a friendly business type, during which you told them all about your family, the details of your work, the things you do for fun and how you would like to shape your life and turn dreams into reality. You let that person into your life on all major levels. If that person were to then align a service with your dreams, it would make total sense to book a meeting with them because you already trust them with information about your family, occupation, recreation and dreams. The FORD method works. I am a total advocate for using it to build stronger relationships in less time. When the relationship is there before the opportunity to sell, the deal is going to be far easier to close and the relationship will be continually profitable into the future, all because you and your business will be pushing them closer to their dream.


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