Log in to access resources reserved for MDRT members.
  • Learn
  • >
  • Building conversations
Building conversations
Building conversations

Jul 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine

Building conversations

Bestselling author and entrepreneur Jay Baer shares 3 "talk triggers" that can turn your clients into volunteer marketers.

Topics covered

You almost never see three-star reviews. What’s the point? “I took my vehicle in for service and got pretty much what I asked for. Three stars.” Few people take the time to write this because it’s not interesting enough to bother sharing.

While competency is important — it’s what keeps your current clients from leaving — to get those clients to recruit new ones, you must give them a story to tell. That story is never about what you do day to day because we don’t talk about good; we talk about different.

Since data shows that 58% of wealthy clients choose advisors based on referrals, it’s essential to develop a strategy for word of mouth based on a story of uniqueness. You must create a talk trigger: a strategic operational choice, something clients do not expect, designed to create conversations among friends. For example:


Giving clients more than they expect is the most common type of talk trigger because it’s often the easiest to implement day to day. One of the most successful talkable generosity programs in the world is DoubleTree hotels. Owned by Hilton, each DoubleTree has an oven behind the guest registration desk. At check-in, each hotel guest receives a warm chocolate chip cookie, baked on-site. Before the pandemic, Hilton was baking and distributing 75,000 chocolate chip cookies per day.

I conducted a global survey of their customers and found that one-third of them have told someone else the cookie story. That means that DoubleTree benefits from 25,000 stories being told about their brand every day. This is also why DoubleTree spends less on advertising than any other hotel chain in their competitive set. The guests are the sales and marketing department.

Talkable generosity works best when it is experiential. DoubleTree doesn’t just have a pile of cookies under a glass dome on a counter; they hand you a warm cookie in a paper sleeve. You see, touch and smell that cookie long before you taste it. The experience makes you more likely to tell the story.


In many circumstances, we interpret speed as caring, and you can be unexpectedly fast for your clients. One of the best ways to do so is to answer questions before clients ask.

Dr. Glenn Gorab is an oral surgeon outside New York City. In the U.S., citizens select their own surgeons, and there are more than 400 oral surgeons in Gorab’s region. They all do just about the same thing for about the same cost. Every Friday, Gorab’s office staff gives him a list of names and phone numbers. On Saturday morning, he calls each number. “Hi. This is Glenn Gorab. I understand you are coming to my office for the first time next week. Before you arrive, do you have any questions I might be able to answer?”

This phone call has a huge impact. Seventy-
five percent of Gorab’s patients mention this phone call to him when they come to the office. And every day he gets new patients who say, “Your office isn’t close to my home at all, but I wanted you to be my doctor because you’re the doctor who called my friend Shirley before she ever came to the office.”


This is when you anticipate client needs and concerns and provide utility that they do not anticipate. Joe Manausa, a real estate agent in Florida, only works with people who want to sell a home. He does not work with buyers. In the U.S., real estate agents split a commission of 5% or 6% with the buyer’s agent if they help you sell your home. However, you also can sell your home without an agent’s help and save on paying that commission. Most real estate agents try to convince the public that they shouldn’t try to sell a home without professional help. Manausa does the opposite, and that is how he creates word of mouth.

Manausa wrote a 63-page guide that is available as a free download on his website. It’s called “How to Sell a Home on Your Own.” Manausa told me: “People get to about Page 13 of my guide, and they realize, wow, it is really difficult to do this yourself. I don’t want to try it.” This booklet is his No. 1 source of new clients, many of whom were told about it (and about Manausa) by current clients.

Competency doesn’t create conversations. We can’t just talk about being good. We should talk about being different. So be different. Give your clients a story to tell. Something they don’t expect. That story is your talk trigger, and it will power your next wave of success. 

Jay Baer is an author of six bestselling books about marketing and the customer experience and the founder of five multimillion-dollar companies.