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Practice management: Transforming wealthy friends into clients

Have you ever considered asking high-net-worth friends for their business but have been reluctant to do so? While you may be an expert at approaching strangers, you may find it difficult to ask successful friends or acquaintances to become clients.

Thursday, May 14th 2009, 1:26PM

By Bryce M. Sanders

In interviewing high-net-worth individuals, who are always being "hit on" for business, I asked them what they do and don't like about how people approach them.

The general consensus was that they prefer gentle persistence and patience, not pushiness. They also want to see a willingness to be thoughtful and to learn something important about their life. This can establish a basis of trust, which high-net-worth interviewees mentioned as key to winning them over.

They also like to be introduced through a peer, whether it's a client relationship or a peer-to-peer relationship.

Finally, they would like you to satisfy a need, so it's important to spend time learning what their needs are.

With this feedback in mind, the following strategies have been developed to increase your chances of success when approaching friends and acquaintances.

Increase their understanding
Help successful friends figure out why they need you by privately meeting with an individual or couple and increasing their understanding of what you do for a living. The meeting can be spontaneous - perhaps at a clubhouse after a golf game.

Ask about their business and listen carefully. Then, explain your business, experience and professional qualifications. Discuss your work in a way that highlights the value to your clients. Give them an idea of how many clients you have, so they understand that you know and care about your clients.

Win them over
To win over your friends and acquaintances, you need to teach them more about what you do and why you are good.

One approach is to use an anonymous story format to explain how you've helped someone lately. When your friend asks about your business, recall an anonymous story of a time you kept a client from doing something financially unwise.

In addition to the friends and acquaintances you already have, take the time to invest in a new relationship. This can be as simple as taking your clothes to a new dry cleaner. Most likely, the owner will eventually ask what you do for a living, thereby opening up a conversation.

Ask for their business
This strategy can be described as "shooting them between the eyes."

The object is to identify a need, approach the person and offer a solution through which he or she becomes a client.

First, be sure you have invested the time to identify a need. Find out what keeps your friend or acquaintance awake at night. Look for major events in their lives to talk about. People talk to their friends before they talk to their adviser.

If a friend has aging parents, regularly ask about them. The discussion may evolve into one about assisted living or health care. Mention that you've helped clients at your firm with similar problems.

Follow up afterward and ask about your friend's parents as a way to tactfully put the problem in front of them. Eventually they need to make a decision and it may be your solution they accept.

Bryce M. Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions and a national speaker for the financial services industry on high-net-worth client acquisition. He is author of Captivating the Wealthy Investor, a guide to identifying, meeting and cultivating high-net-worth clientele. His entire 2008 Annual Meeting presentation is available at


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