Have you ever struggled to get the cursor on your iPhone just where you want it? You touch the screen, wrong position, touch again, wrong position. But positioning the cursor doesn’t have to be a struggle: If you hold down the spacebar, you can reposition the cursor easily by sliding your finger around the spacebar. It’s no longer a struggle.
Similarly, have you ever struggled to bring in affluent clients? You tried wooing them with your investing expertise. It didn’t work. Your planning expertise? Nope. Your firm’s brand and reputation? Still nope. They just didn’t respond. Research from the Oechsli Institute reveals a better way to acquire affluent clients, and it has nothing to do with typical advisor activities.
What we’re going to cover:
- Gaining trust through social activities
- Targeted social activities
- How to handle face-to-face interactions
First, Gaining Trust Through Social Activities
The affluent need to trust you before they’ll become clients. And they’ll put in the extra work to see if they can trust you—95% of affluent consumers will research you online before doing business with you, compared to 72% of non-affluent consumers.1 They’re trying to understand if you have the skills to solve their financial concerns, including retirement planning, portfolio building, estate planning, etc. Having these skills can help you gain trust, but these skills aren’t enough.
Instead, build trust by interacting with affluent prospects in social environments. The more they know about you, the more likely they are to trust you. Perhaps you’re thinking, “I can’t just leave the office to start socializing.” But it may be worth it. Research from the Oechsli Institute reveals that socializing with affluent prospects is one of the top methods advisors use to acquire new affluent clients. And when it comes to giving referrals, affluent clients are more likely to provide referrals if you have both a social and business relationship with them. So how do you go about spending social time with them?
Most Effective Elite Advisor Activities
Activities that brought in clients with $1 million or above:
Indirectly generated referrals: Gaining clients as a result of word of mouth, e.g. clients spreading good news about your practice to others
Referral alliances: Gaining clients by referrals from other professionals, such as accountants or attorneys
Networking and social prospecting: Gaining clients by learning about and getting introduced to affluent clients’ connections
Arranging personal introductions: Gaining clients by mastering the skills needed to get introductions
Intimate events: Gaining clients by hosting client events and asking clients to bring a friend
All five of these “high-impact” marketing activities involve socializing and relationship building.
Source: Oechsli Institute, 2017 Research. Most recent data available.
Second, Targeted Social Activities
One way to make social connections with affluent prospects is to join a community organization, a professional organization, or by volunteering. Some advisors join several organizations in hopes of meeting the right people. That approach can result in wasted time, because you may not connect with the ideal prospects and it simply eats more of your time.
Instead, use a targeted approach when choosing which organizations to join. First, make sure you believe in the organization’s mission. It doesn’t make sense to join if you don’t support their cause. Next, identify an organization that includes the kinds of affluent prospects you’re trying to reach. Do this by making a list of your top 25 clients. Then, review the list and identify organizations they belong to. If one of your clients is a member of a group you join, they’d likely be willing to introduce you to others in the group.
After joining, find out what committees within the organization exist, their needs, and how you can help meet them. Then make meaningful contributions. This will raise your visibility within the group. It will also open doors for communication with other members. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to casually share what you do with group members.
Types of organizations to consider:
- Alumni associations
- Chambers of commerce
- Cultural organizations
- Economic clubs
- Fraternal organizations
- Hospitals and other medical charities
- Professional organizations
- Social service charities
Think about starting your own recreational group, especially if you and some of your top clients enjoy similar hobbies or interests, such as golf, gardening, fishing, or cooking. Once your group is formed, encourage members to invite their friends to join.
Another approach is to host intimate client events. These aren’t large client seminars with 30 or 40 people that can make it challenging to speak with each guest. Rather, plan smaller events and invite a few of your top client couples, and suggest that they bring a specific person. When inviting an affluent client, say, “Bring Sally Smith with you” rather than simply “Bring a guest.” These events can range from a dinner, golf outing, or barbeque to an educational seminar.
Third, How to Handle Face to Face Interactions at Social Events Socializing probably sounds pretty easy. But a haphazard approach can botch these opportunities and erode trust. The Oechsli Institute recommends a three-step process to build trust during face-to-face interactions: build rapport, make a gentle inquiry, and request a business meeting.
Begin by Building Rapport
A big mistake some advisors make during this step is telling prospects all about their credentials—designations, expertise, experience, etc. Instead, listen to your prospect’s story. Ask open-ended questions to learn about them. Carry a small notebook to jot down details after the event. Here’s a list of questions you can ask to build rapport:
- How long have you been involved with the (name of fundraiser, charitable event, civic organization, social, etc.)?
- How did you initially get involved (charitable, fundraiser, civic group)?
- Are you from around here?
- Where did you grow up?
- Tell me about your parents.
- Tell me about your family. How many children do you have? How old are your children? What are your children involved with?
- How is the XYZ industry right now?
- What’s the most exciting part of your job?
- So, what do you think about (fundraiser, social event, etc.)?
- How did you two meet (couple or husband and wife)?
- How did you get interested in (music, sport, vocation – any topical theme)?
While you’re building rapport, the topic of finances may come up, especially if they ask what you do. Resist the temptation to launch into an exhaustive explanation of all the services you provide or your views on the markets. If asked, “What you do?” keep your response short and simple, such as, “I oversee the finances for a handful of families in the area.” Then, redirect the questioning back to your prospect, e.g., “So, how did you get involved in this fundraiser?” The idea is to stop talking about business, stop talking about yourself, and refocus the discussion on the person with whom you are speaking.
After You’ve Built Rapport, Make a Gentle Inquiry About Finances
Use info you gathered while building rapport to help you tailor a question about a topic your prospect cares about, such as:
- Who does your estate planning?
- Are you planning to relocate in retirement?
- Where are your children planning to attend college?
- What are your plans are for leaving the business?
- What resources do you use for investment information? Any particular publications or programs?
The goal with the gentle inquiry is not to get into a lengthy discussion about how you can solve their financial planning needs. Rather, you’re just trying to nudge conversations from purely personal to topics related to finance.
Invite Them to Have Coffee
After you’ve built rapport and made a gentle inquiry, invite your prospect to meet with you do discuss their financial planning needs. Keep the tone light by asking something like, “Let’s grab coffee next week to talk about [a topic you uncovered while you were building rapport or making a gentle inquiry], and allow me to be a sounding board.” Remember, this process takes time and should be done over several gatherings with prospects. Don’t try to do it all in one get-together.
What About Coming Off as Too “Salesy”?
This is your biggest risk. Affluent prospects don’t like being “sold to.” If you start asking too many business-related questions too early in the process, your prospect might get suspicious about your motives. If that happens, it’s going to be difficult to change it. Your mindset through the process shouldn’t be how you can make a sale. Stay focused on building rapport and learning about the challenges your prospect is facing in life.
Three Takeaways for Acquiring Affluent Clients Through Social Events
First, social events offer opportunities to connect and build trust with affluent clients and prospects. Second, there are plenty of options to engage socially with prospects, including joining a community group, starting your own networking group, or just asking prospects to do something fun with you. Third, when meeting with prospects, don’t try to turn a prospect into a client too quickly. Take time build rapport by asking questions to learn what they care about most.
Trying Traditional Prospecting Approaches Without Getting Results Is Frustrating
It’s natural to want to prospect by sharing all the best things about you—your experience, your designations, your expertise.
But if you’re hoping that affluent prospects will flock to your practice as a result of these skills, you may get frustrated—the same way you did when like trying to position the cursor on an iPhone the inefficient. Get out of the office and start building trust with affluent prospects.
- Download the worksheet below
- Identify local community groups you could join. Evaluate if it makes sense for you to join.
- Plan a barbeque. Invite a few of your top clients and ask them to bring their friends.
13 Ways the Affluent Consumer Is Different, The Oechsli Insider, 1/22/14. Most recent data available.