If you’re like most advisors preparing for a networking event or to grab coffee with a prospect, you’re wondering what you should say, how to connect.

You might come up with a slick sentence or two, a so-called elevator pitch that you think will grab someone’s attention. And then you overhear another financial advisor at the same event: “I help retirees more effectively manage their financial lives in a unique way.” Hey – that’s your value proposition. That’s your “unique” line.

Consider this: Your go-to networking spiel might make you blend in with the crowd. And if you blend in, you’ll never stand out.

If you want to truly stand out from the crowd – which is key to effective networking – there’s a better way to prepare for those conferences and coffee meetings.

Ask yourself instead not what you can say to a prospect, but what you should ask.

This mindset shift can change everything. How much time do you spend thinking about your elevator pitch, your cool one-liners? How much time and effort do you spend during the week preparing and practicing the questions that you’ll ask any new person you meet?

Let’s take a look at Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s popular for a reason. Carnegie’s advice: To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other people will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.

I would add: “Encourage them to talk about things, ideas and experiences they are excited about.”

It’s a best practice to spend time every week thinking about questions that you could ask anyone you meet. An even better practice is to write them down. Then, as you review what you’ve created, continually test out your questions. Trash them if they didn’t quite fit your style or personality, and tweak them to become even more effective in conversation.

To help you kickstart your list, here are three highly effective questions you can ask to connect quickly and more powerfully with prospects.

1. What are you most excited for this year?

This one is a game-changer. It’s simple, yet powerful. Why? Because it’s open-ended – the other person can bring up any topic that’s on their mind – and it literally invites them to feel excited as they’re searching for their answer.

Don’t believe me? Test it out. What are you most excited for in the new year? Come on, play along! You might be thinking of an upcoming vacation, a move, a new child or grandchild, retirement, a career change. As you’re thinking about what you’re looking forward to, you can’t help but begin feeling excited.

If you can help someone else feel more excited, you’re quickly positioning yourself as someone who that person wants to be around and spend more time with.

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A question like this is so powerful because we’re all looking for positive feelings in life. Why do you want to earn more money, go on vacation or give to charity? Because of the feelings you get in return. And if you can help someone experience those feelings through interacting with you, they’ll be hooked.

2. What’s the biggest obstacle holding you back right now from achieving your most important goal?

Yes, answering this question involves some vulnerability. Would it be easier to talk about the weather and the Chicago Bears? Absolutely. But small talk won’t get you where you want to go. If you want to stand out, then step into the fear of discomfort and vulnerability and ask.

Some people might push back on this and say, “But, J.J., don’t I need to model vulnerability before I ask someone else to be vulnerable?” 

You think you should say instead, “The biggest obstacle holding me back right now from achieving my most important goal is my inability to get out of my team’s way and let them shine at the work I hired them to do for our firm.” At that point, you’d ask, “So, what’s your biggest obstacle holding you back right now from achieving your most important goal?” 

This sounds a bit robotic, doesn’t it? I’ve framed it in this way to underscore my point. 

Yes, you do need to model vulnerability. But I’d suggest you’re modeling vulnerability by asking meaningful questions.

Again, how many people do you know who are having these types of conversations with someone they’re meeting for the first time? It will set you apart from everyone else they encounter. They’ll leave the conference thinking, “You know, I met some interesting people, but there was one person I met who was completely real with me. And I appreciate that.”

What else will happen as a result of asking about someone’s biggest obstacle? That’s right: You’ll also learn their most important goal. How valuable is that for an advisor who wants to powerfully and quickly connect with people? 

Make a note of their pain points and what they want to accomplish. Then, when you next connect with that prospect, offer resources that could help them break through the obstacle and achieve their goal. That will build what could quickly become a virtually indestructible bond.

3. If you could do any work other than what you’re doing today, what would you be doing?

I stopped counting the number of times I met a person who seemed to enjoy their job but weren’t passionate about it. So, when I asked this question or a variation of it, it wasn’t surprising to see them light up as they talked about another line of work that they would really love to get into.

Once you know the work the person you’re talking with is truly passionate about, you can more easily have a conversation around something that’s sincerely important to them. Remember what happens when someone talks with you about something they feel positive emotions for? They begin to associate you with those positive emotions – and they’ll want to be around you.

They might also say they love the work they do now. That’s great to know, too. At least you’ve given them the opportunity to divulge their true passions with you.

Looking through The Right Lens 

A question is like a lens. What happens when you put in your contact lenses or put on your glasses? You see the world differently. When you ask a question of another person, that person begins to see the world – and you – differently.

Since very few people are willing to ask these questions, you will undoubtedly stand out. And standing out in this very crowded field is one of the fastest ways to build your business and serve more people. 

What questions will you ask every new person you meet?

If you want to take a deeper dive into the power of questions, get yourself a copy of “Questions Are the Answer” by Hal Gregersen,  Executive Director of MIT’s Leadership Center.

How can we help you? Carson coaches are veterans in the profession who can provide insight and help your practice thrive. Get in touch today!

Develop better ideas, smarter strategy and greater accountability. Schedule a consultation with Carson Coaching today.

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