Tactful questions can prompt revealing answers that let you know what they are looking for, possibly in a future client-advisor relationship.
Let’s assume part of your practice involves working with individuals. When you meet someone socially (which today could be onscreen or even through social media) the question “What do you do?” or “Tell me about your business” comes up early. It’s a standard icebreaker question.
The response you often get when you mention your occupation is “I already have an agent (or an advisor).” What now?
Your objective is to draw them out. They often mention the firm name. A good follow-up question, after you’ve said, “They are a fine firm,” is:
“How long have you worked with them?”
They will likely volunteer lots of information, perhaps without realizing it. If they say: “I just started with them” or “Six months” you realize the relationship hasn’t developed deep roots yet. They might say: “Been with them for ten years.” It provides perspective.
They might say: “I’ve been with (firm) ten years, but only with my new guy for six months. My previous agent retired.” Again, there aren’t deep roots.
Let’s continue drawing them out. I came across a very good approach years ago from a successful person in the field:
“What do you like best about them? Would you recommend them?”
You are getting lots of information, even if the words are few. If they hesitate and can’t mention a positive attribute, that’s telling you something. They might even say: “No, I wouldn’t recommend them.” File that away for future use. If you get that answer, you might then ask:
“Why do you stay with them?”
Stop talking at this point. You’ve put them on the spot, but you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. They might say “Habit, I guess” or “I’ve never thought about it.” Bottom line, this is a situation where there’s opportunity.
I’m an optimist. It’s more likely they will have good things to say about their agent. “She’s great. Always there when I need her.” There are still possibilities for you if you ask the next question:
“In your opinion, where do you think there’s room for improvement?”
Put another way, you are asking what they could be doing better. When a person tells you what they aren’t getting in a relationship, they are letting you know what they are looking for, possibly in a future relationship. You might follow with:
“So, in the ideal relationship you would want an agent who does (this.)”
They will likely agree, since you just repeated what they told you, in slightly different words. This is a good moment to change the subject. You’ve learned enough without being pushy. You have different ways of reconnecting in the weeks ahead.