Image credits: GETTY IMAGES (STURTI)
An advisor in California came to the United States after growing up in the Far East. Upon moving to America, he attended a class that taught “How to talk with Americans.”
He told me about an interesting acronym: FORM. I’m sure it was invented by someone else; however, he shared the story with me:
‘F’ stands for family
When meeting a person, you can take a guess at their background based on their name and appearance. Upon being introduced to Thomas Johns, you might say: “That sounds English. Are you English?”
He may say yes, he may say, “No, I’m Welsh,” or you may be way off-base. However, he will probably smile and answer your question. This gives you the opportunity to talk about your background.
People are usually very proud of their heritage.
‘O’ stands for occupation
There’s a technique here; you can’t just ask, “What do you do?”
First, you volunteer what you do: “I’m a financial advisor at XYZ.” Then, you take an educated guess at their occupation: “You look like you might be an airline pilot. Am I right?”
It’s prudent to choose a profession people would be proud to have. Don’t suggest they look like a convicted felon or a hit man.
Most people are proud of their profession.They will smile and tell you about it.
‘R’ stands for recreation
People are excited about their vacation plans. Years ago, studies were said to show that people put more time into planning a two-week vacation than they do planning their retirement.
Consider the following example: You are at a museum opening. You see someone across the room. You say hello. You ask: “So, are you folks around for the holidays, or are you traveling?”
You learn they are taking a cruise between Christmas and New Year’s. They do every year.
“Where to?” “The Eastern Caribbean.” You are able to reply, “The Eastern Caribbean, I’ve always wanted to go there! How did you choose to go there? Or “The Eastern Caribbean — We went there last year and it was great! What islands are you visiting?”
People love to talk about their vacations and it gives plenty of opportunity to identify common interests.
‘M’ stands for money
You need to do “F” and “O” and “R” a lot before you get to “M.” This isn’t all done in one night.
Here is an easy way based on mutual interests: “Bill, you have two children, I have two children. They’re all about the same age. I’ve been wondering how I’m going to pay for their college education so I’ve looked into those 529 plans (a type of account the government allows for saving for a child’s college education with significant advantages such as generally lower rates of taxation.). I think that will work for me. What are you doing to fund your children’s college education?”
You have identified a problem you both face and introduced a solution, whereby the friend would become a client.
FORM is an ideal way to start conversations when you know little if anything about the other person.