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From Prospects to Clients

By Bryce Sanders

You want to move your practice upmarket, and have identified business owners, professionals, or executives you want to meet. You join the right organizations, and it all comes together when you actually see potential clients at events. Knowing what to do next comes down to embracing an eight-point action plan.

  1. Identify an organization. Find at least one group that will likely draw your target audience. It might be the Chamber, or it might be a museum or private golf club. These organizations come at different price points. Pick at least one to join.
  2. Attend an event and observe behaviour. You aren’t making your move yet. How are people dressed? This determines how you dress for future events. Observe people chatting. Are the conversations long and deep or quick and casual? How many people are involved? Are people coming and going? Is it a clique? Are they smiling, laughing, having a good time? Can you pick up on the topics of conversation without eavesdropping?
  3. Choose comfortable questions. You are back in your office. Think about what you observed. Which conversation groups would you have joined? Which would you have avoided? For the next event you will need something to say. Start planning now. You will need comfortable questions in three areas:
    • Meeting people. Maybe a friend could walk you over and introduce you. Maybe there’s an absent person belonging to the organization you both know.
    • Learning about their interests. Where do they live? What’s their connection to the organization? Do they have weekend plans? You want tame questions that draw them out.
    • Seeing them again. Let’s assume you are working the room. Maybe they are, too! You’ve disengaged. Plan to circle back before everyone leaves. What shared interests have you identified to lay the groundwork to see them again? How will you make the suggestion and get contact information?
  4. Attend another event. At the next event, you’ve set yourself a goal to meet six people. You’ve probably got an hour or two. Resist the temptation to stick with friends. Walk up to people you want to meet. Put your questions to work.
  5. Review what you’ve learned. This takes place in two stages. After that evening, you won’t remember everything you heard, especially if cocktails are involved. From time to time during the event, retreat to the rest room and make notes on a pad or your smartphone. Why the restroom? Because it will look creepy if you talk with someone, step away, and start writing notes. The next day, pull out those notes and set up records in your CRM system. At this point they are social acquaintances. They may progress to friends, prospects, and clients. You want details in an easy-to-access place to prepare for the next time you see them.
  6. Contact them. Suggest getting together. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For some people, sending an invitation to connect via LinkedIn is the comfortable option. What about the guy who loves wineries and said: “I lived in Montreal and went to McGill, too!” Call and suggest going out to a wine bar. Maybe you email someone else, mention you met at the event, and ask if they are attending the next one.
  7. Identify their needs. This takes time. If someone says: “You’re an advisor. Mine just retired. I’m looking for another,” you know what to do. Getting to know them socially and learning a little more each time might bring a need to the surface. If not, you keep up the friend relationship. When we think of needs, we often think of ones that ring the cash register. There are non-financial needs, too. The prospect might require a good babysitter or lawn service, for instance.
  8. Discuss addressing the need. You’ll know when the time is right. At that point you reintroduce what you do in the context of their need or issue. “I realize this is the biggest thing on your mind. I’ve thought long and hard about it. I think I might know of a solution.” This applies to the financial needs, not the babysitter or lawn service question. Those you should have addressed immediately.

Think about what you have done. You’ve met people as peers. You haven’t pushed or led with business. You’ve found interests in common that establish the rationale to see them again. You’ve developed a social relationship that could add a business component at some point. You had fun doing it.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book Captivating the Wealthy Investor can be found on Amazon.

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