As real estate agents, it’s up to you to initiate and maintain “small talk” with anyone and everyone regardless of with whom and where you are.  Meeting on the phone, in the office, at a networking meeting, in a social setting, think of yourself as the catalyst for conversation. Who knows?  Anyone has the potential to become your client.  Anyone can refer someone they know who’s looking to buy or sell to you.

A tried and true technique that helps even the shyest among us initiate and maintain a conversation with anyone is called the FORD method.  The FORD method (F = Family; O = Occupation; R = Recreation; D = Dreams) suggests that the conversation catalyst, you, ask people you meet in any situation about these four topic areas…family, occupation, recreation and dreams.  Everyone’s lives are centered around these areas (everyone has or came from a family, right?) so everyone can talk about these topic areas.  (Obviously, if your emotional intelligence cues you that the person standing in front of you down’t want to engage with you, simply move on easily and courteously.)

Depending upon where you are, use the situation to determine your opening question.  If, for example, you’re meeting someone in your office for the first time, you might say something like…”It’s so nice to meet you.  Do you live here?”  And the conversation might go something like…”No, but I’ve been here before.  I’m just here for a meeting.”  “Oh, where do you work?”  “Canada.”  “Where in Canada?”  “Quebec.”  “I was in Quebec once for the opening of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ play in February.  It’s a wonderful city but the weather there is its own personality, isn’t it?”  “Yes, actually that’s why I wandered into your office.  The weather’s getting quite exhausting for me and I’m considering buying a condominium to get out of the cold during our winter season.”

There you go.  You’re on your way to making a connection.  To continue that connection, you might ask this person about her Family…”Are you here by your self or are family or friends with you?”  Whatever she tells you will inform you that either she alone is the decision maker or she has a spouse/partner who “helps” make decisions or she has some number of children or she travels with colleagues/friends who are important to her and therefore, how many bedrooms she may need in her condo.  Again, ask, listen and engage with what she is telling you about herself. Conversations are two way streets, not monologues spouted by her or by you.

Just like everyone has a family, 45% of us have/have had an Occupation. We all have something to say about that occupation.  All of us enjoy some sort of recreation whether that recreation is knitting or kayaking or riding horses.  And by the time someone has told you…because you have asked and listened to them tell you how meaningful riding horses is to them…that person will trust you enough to tell you what they dream to be able to do right now or in five years from now.

There you go.  You’ve made the connection.  Whether that person becomes your client, a referral source and/or your friend, the FORD method has helped you make that connection closer, faster and more easily than if you hadn’t used it.  By channeling your curiosity to ask about family, occupation, recreation and dreams, it will be interesting to see how far FORD will take you.