There is something unique about the relaxation and bonding that occurs when people eat and socialize together outside of the office. Trust develops when you and a potential employer are casually interacting. These conversations can develop a depth in the relationship that phone and office visits alone usually do not.
A few years ago, I made a last-minute trip to Montreal, Canada to visit a potential customer where he had traveled to attend a trade show. Over a two-day period, we ate meals together and attended several of the trade show events. It changed our relationship. We had a great time and I knew a friendship was developing. Soon after the trip, despite robust competition, he chose to buy from my company.
Because I made an effort to get to know him outside of the office, our business relationship became a friendly, mutually beneficial one that has lasted for years. Lunches and other face-to-face activities provide you with opportunities to build trust in your relationships. In these more casual settings, your interactions with prospects can be transformed into deeper, more meaningful connections.
Asking good questions and listening to the answers is the discovery process by which you find common ground with a prospect and begin to establish trust. Thoughtful, relevant questions open people up to discussion and dialogue. Questions create opportunities for needs and feelings to be shared, in addition to facts.
As you ask questions, find opportunities to ask deeper questions which may lead to more meaningful dialogue. Here are some examples of starter questions that can lead to trust-building interactions:
• Where are you from?
• How long have you lived in this city?
• Where did you go to school and what did you study?
• What do you like to do in your free time?
• How long have you worked here? In what capacities?
• What are some of your current business challenges?
• How does that impact you and the company?
• What are your career goals beyond your current job?
If you are not accustomed to asking questions like these when you are networking or interviewing—practice. Find chances to get to know someone better by using one or more of these examples. You will be amazed at the connection you are able to create.
I was recently selling my services to a technology company in a competitive situation. My competitor was in the conference room with the prospects while I waited for my turn. After he left, I sat down with the three buying managers and without slides or brochures, I started asking questions about their current situation. What was working for them and what wasn’t? What problems were they actively trying to solve?
For over an hour, I continued asking questions about their business and listening to their answers. I understood what they needed, and they knew it. Then I was able to share with them how I could assist their company.
How was I perceived in comparison to my competitor? One of the managers unexpectedly called me during my drive home to offer me the contract—specifically, he said, because I had spent the time in our meeting learning about their business needs. Instead of focusing on myself, I focused on their problems and where they needed help. And this immediately built trust with them.
When in an interview or similar situation, remember—it’s all about them. Ask questions until you understand their needs. I guarantee you will capture their attention and spark their curiosity.