Your business opportunity is fabulous, your products are life-changing, your compensation plan offers terrific incentives, a wonderful corporation stands behind you and your upline is the "best of the best." So what's the problem?

You've run out of names to share this magnificent business with! A discouraging thought? It doesn't have to happen--ever!
All things being equal, people will do business with (and refer business to) people whom they know, like and trust. Asking feel-good questions is the first step to accomplishing that goal.

One reason distributors are often intimidated by the prospect of prospecting is that they think they have to put on their "prospecting hat" before they step out the door. It's as if, to be successful, you need to sneak around the mall, lurk behind a door, eavesdrop on people's conversations, and find all sorts of clever ways to begin conversations with strangers. (Then, of course, once the conversation takes place, you must ask pointed, personal questions in order to discover needs.)

This sort of approach typically accomplishes nothing more than making your prospect feel nervous and defensive--and you, too. Instead, why not just let your prospecting happen naturally, in such a way that the prospect enjoys the conversation as much as you do--maybe even more.

How? Ask questions.

Not just any questions, mind you. Try "feel-good" questions: questions that are designed to put your prospects at ease, to make them feel good about themselves, about the conversation, and most importantly, about you! All things being equal, people will do business with (and refer business to) people whom they know, like and trust. Asking feel-good questions is the first step to accomplishing that goal; and such questions never come off as invasive or "prospecting" in nature.

"Feel-good" questions are questions whose only purpose is to elicit good feelings in the other person. So don't ask, "Are you in a rut, totally dissatisfied with your life, ready to throw yourself off a bridge unless a great business opportunity comes along?" [Note Marcy Koltun-Crilley's encounter with precisely such questions in this issue's Profile --Ed.]

"How did you get started in the widget business, Susan?" I call this the "Movie-of-the-Week question," because most people love the opportunity to tell their story--and they live in a world where most people don't care enough to want to know their story. Give them a great audience, actively listen, be genuinely interested in what they are saying.

"What do you enjoy most about what you do?" You are giving them something very positive to associate with you and your conversation. This is much better then the alternative: "So, what do you just hate about what you do--not to mention the wretched life you are so obviously living?" Okay, I'm kidding: no one would ever ask that question, out loud--but keep in mind, it's not just what you ask, but also how you ask it.

You've begun to establish a nice rapport with your new prospect. You are focusing on her, as opposed to you and your awesome products or opportunity, as most distributors do. She is starting to feel good about you and has enjoyed answering your first two "feel-good" questions. Now it's time for the One Key Question--and here it is:

"Susan, how can I know if someone I'm speaking with would be a good prospect for you?"

By asking that question, you have accomplished two things.

First, you've further established yourself as different from all the other people Susan meets, people who only seem to want to know, "How can you help me?" (Sure, they might not come right out and say that--but isn't that what they imply when they hand Susan 10 business cards, saying, "Keep one for yourself and give the rest to your closest friends"?) Instead, you have let Susan know that your interest is in helping her.

Second, since you are asking for help in identifying her prospects, she will gladly supply you with an answer. And nothing will build trust and credibility with Susan than when you actually do refer business to her whenever possible.

Your conversation is over--and you never even brought up your products or opportunity! Good. Your relationship with your prospect may not be far enough along for her to be receptive to it. (There are times when it's very advisable to bring it up right away, but that's another article.) Hopefully, you've gotten Susan's business card.

Notice, I didn't say, "Hopefully, you've given her your business card." Why not? Because she neither needs nor wants it right now (unless she directly asks for it). And since you have hers, you are in the position to follow up correctly and systematically.

If you have met this new prospect at a public gathering, such as a Chamber of Commerce function, charity event or social gathering, make sure to introduce her to others whom you already know or have met. Give each person a nice introduction, describe what each does for a living, and suggest how they can each know how to know who would be a good prospect for the other. Do all this without ever mentioning your products or business. You are positioning yourself in their minds as a true "center of influence." People are very receptive to meeting with, and receiving business advice from, centers of influence.

Whether meeting new people in a one-on-one situation, for whatever reason, or meeting people at gatherings, small or large, follow the steps you've just learned, and you will very quickly build your names list with high-quality people--and in a way that is fun both for you and for your prospect.

Bob Burg is author of Endless Referrals,
Winning Without Intimidation and
a free weekly e-zine on networking.