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How to Turn Acquaintances into Clients

December 4, 2012

by Dan Richards

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dan Richards

The transition from a casual social conversation to a business-related one is tricky, requiring us to do it in a way that’s not intrusive and doesn’t make the person uncomfortable.   Here’s an approach that worked for one advisor.

Recently, I got an email from an advisor I’ve known for many years who works for a regional broker-dealer – let’s call him Allan.

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Here’s the email, reproduced with Allan’s permission: 

Last night my wife and I attended the 50th birthday party of a client who’s become a friend.  I ended up talking for a good length of time with a guy named Paul, someone I knew vaguely; we work out at the same gym, our wives know each other and we share a number of common interests.  

He and his wife are both partners at large law firms, so chances are they would be excellent clients.  We had a nice, engaging conversation, but nothing to do with markets or my work.  I am thinking of approaching Paul with a gentle email saying I enjoyed our chat, and that I’d love to learn more about how he and his wife are set up with regard to their investments and retirement planning.  Do you think an email approach is too “chicken” and that I should just pick up the phone instead?  How would you approach it?

In my follow-up phone conversation with Allan, I agreed that he deserves credit for intending to follow up on this conversation; many advisors would fail to seize this opportunity. The challenge is how.

Many advisors struggle with how to approach casual acquaintances about the possibility of working together.  Beyond our personal comfort level and the risk of awkwardness when we encounter someone down the road who’s rejected an approach we’ve made,  there’s reputational risk to consider – no one wants to be known as ”the guy” who’s constantly hustling for business in every situation.