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Converting Personal Relationships into Business Relationships


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Recently, I lead a workshop in Seattle for a group of very experienced advisors with one of the largest firms on the street. The program focused on creating new business opportunities.  Shortly after the workshop I received the following email from one of the Financial Advisors.

“I quite often built friendships at my athletic club with very successful people.  I never know how to ask them for a “meeting” and take it from a personal relationship to potentially a business relationship as well.  Anything that you could suggest that I say to be able to “ask” for a meeting with them?”  T.

Here is the email I sent back to him with my suggestions.  Let me know what you think.

Dear T.
Thanks for the question, I suggest you try one of these two approaches. First, here is a way to ask for an appointment, particularly if this is someone that is a relatively new acquaintance. 

“You know Bob, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet you socially through the club and was hoping that I could have the opportunity to introduce you to myself professionally.  Maybe we could meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee one morning this week, and I could share with you a little about what I do in my role at UBS.  I think it would take about fifteen minutes and from there we could both decide whether it makes sense to continue talking along those lines.   Would that be ok with you?  What morning works best?”

Another approach you may try, and this might work better with a more established relationship, is to start with an email and follow up with a phone call.  The email could simply read like this:  

“Bob, I am reaching out to people I know who either should be clients of mine or they know people who should.  I’ld like to buy you lunch this week and I think by the end of lunch we will know which camp you fall into.  I’ll call you later this morning to check your schedule.”   

Then call and ask for the lunch appointment.

In both instances when you get the face time I suggest the following 4 Point Agenda:

First, position the conversation as exploratory.  Frame the discussion around these two points: One – “I want to share a little about my role at UBS and how I help other people like you”.  Two – “Since my focus is on helping other folks like you, I would love any insights that you may have from the “client” perspective that could help me in my practice”.    Set the expectation that at by the end of the conversation you will probably both have a better feeling of whether it makes sense to take the discussion further.  Then gain permission to proceed, “Is that ok?”

Second, be prepared with a concise and solid “Branding Message”.  Be conversational but confident.  Describe the profile of the client you can help the most.  (It might/should sound like them.)  Describe what you do, how you do it, the resources available to you, and the service aspects of your practice that you feel differentiate you and your team (communication!!!).  

Third, probe to understand how they currently have their financial resources/services organized and why they think that is the best way to do it.  Be careful how you approach this.  Don’t assume that they have problems.  Approach it as though you don’t expect them to have any problems.  The implied assumption is that “you are smart, you probably have a good handle on everything, in fact your insights could be very helpful to me as I make decisions about how to shape and run my practice”.  Ask permission to ask them about the firms they currently work with and their experiences with financial service providers both past and present.  “Would it be ok if I asked you a little about how you have things organized and why?”  Ask questions about each of the relationships they have with financial institutions/advisors/etc..  Think in terms of PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.

Here are some example:

PAST – “How did you get started with them?  Who introduced you? What attracted you to them? Where you considering other alternatives at the time? What were your criteria for selection?  What pushed them over the top? If you were to go through that selection process again, what would you do differently?  Who else have you worked with in the past that you no longer work with?  What caused you to move from that arrangement?”

PRESENT – “What do you like best about how you have things currently organized?  What do you like least?  If you could change something what would that be?  What kind of client satisfaction score did you give them the last time they asked?  If they asked today what you say on scale of 1 to 10?  What do they need to do to be a ten? How do you pull this all together into one plan?  Is there one overarching plan in place?  Would that be important to you?  Would it make a difference in how you made decisions, or felt about your decisions if there was one plan that integrated all these pieces?”

FUTURE – “What would you like to see changed with regard to the financial products and services you use?  If you were in charge, how would it work?  What would cause you to move any of these relationships? Do you see anything like that on the horizon?”

Fourth, you will need to set the next step based upon what you hear.  There are at least four potential outcomes.  One, you got a “qualified prospect”, that is someone who is dissatisfied with their current arrangement and willing to explore further with you.  Two, you got a “prospect”, that is someone who is not yet dissatisfied with their current situation but you can see (or suspect) that they should be dissatisfied based upon what you heard.   Three, you got a “long term prospect” someone who actually has a good handle on things.  And based on what you have heard it would be near impossible to unseat the current advisor unless something changed dramatically.  (They are probably dealing with an Advisor who is a Cannon disciple.)  Four, you got a “non-prospect”, someone who just doesn’t qualify for your practice.

So, let’s look at each of these.

  1. Qualified Prospect – Go back to the points in your branding message and “bridge” or connect those to the points of dissatisfaction that they expressed.  Connect the next step to your planning process and set the appropriate expectation for what you will do, what the outcome will be and the time and information required from them.  Then close for the next appointment.
  2. Prospect – Go back to the points in you branding message that differentiate you from the providers they currently work with.  Suggest to them that a deeper discussion around the details of what they are doing would be beneficial.  You can successfully position this around a “risk management” conversation.  This works really well when you discover that the prospect has their assets spread across multiple firms.  In that case you can describe how that often leads to greater risk because of three “risk factors” that are inherent in the multiple advisor approach.  First, often with multiple advisors there is not one overall asset allocation strategy.  So people often end up with an asset allocation strategy that is in appropriate for them.  Second, in the multiple advisor scenarios it is extremely difficult to manage an overall asset allocation.  It is difficult to know when you are out of range of the asset allocation targets and it is difficult to rebalance when assets are held at different locations.  Third, there is often not one person who is looking at how each individual investment, mutual fund, or manager interrelates.  This is critical to avoid overlaps or gaps in a portfolio. These three factors can contribute to greater risk of achieving the prospects goals or objectives.  Offer to review their overall portfolio; with out regard to firms they work with, but rather to look at the portfolio in its entirety to make certain that they are not exposed to these three risk factors.  Connect this next step to your process and set the appropriate expectation for what you will do, what the outcome will be and the time and information required from them.  Then close for the next appointment.
  3. Long-term prospect – Be honest.  Let ‘em know your opinion, but check to see if there might be any changes coming.  “It sounds like you have a good handle on things.  Tell me, is there anything you see on the horizon that might cause you to rethink the way you have things organized?”  You may find out that their current advisor is nearing retirement, then what will they do?  That could move them into “qualified prospect” territory.  Otherwise go back to the points in your branding message that reinforce the things they find most valuable and then ask for introductions to people they know who should be working with someone like you.
  4. Non-prospect – They could be a non prospect because they are not financially qualified or it could be because they are not someone who wants or values advice (you know, self directed and proud of it).  If it is because they are not financially qualified you can go back to the “profile of the client you can help the most” and how your practice is really aligned for people with those asset levels.  If they are in need of planning help, suggest an alternative that they may consider.  Perhaps a rookie advisor in you office.  If they are a non-prospect because they are not a good fit for the advice model, go back to the points in your branding message that demonstrate that you are in the advice business.  Congratulate them on their ability manage all of this and to have the luxury of the time required.  Go back to the points of your branding message that connect to how your practice is aimed at helping people who don’t have the time or expertise to do this for themselves, and who want and value advice.  In either case, remind them of the “profile of the client that you can help the most” and ask if they know of anyone they could introduce you to.

I hope this helps. 

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