You like and respect your clients. Not surprisingly then, sometimes good clients become great friends. Yet getting great friends to become good clients seems much harder. How can you talk about business without making them uncomfortable?
You wear many hats
You interact with people in different ways. You’re a spouse, parent, sibling, neighbor, insurance and financial professional, volunteer and friend. You don’t act the same way with everyone. Your life involves different roles and priorities.
To approach a friend about what you do professionally and combine some of the roles in your life, talk to your friend when time isn’t an issue. Say: “I want to take off my friend hat and put on my advisor hat for five minutes.” Talk about business as if they were a prospect needing your help. When you are done, say: “I’m taking off my advisor hat and putting my friend hat back on.” Pantomiming the taking off and putting on these invisible hats helps.
Why it works: You are stepping from one role to another. It’s defined. They end up with “their friend” again.
The third-party approach
“I want you to do business with me” can scare people. They think, How can I get out of here? “You may know someone who needs my help” puts it into a third-party context. Your friend thinks, She’s not after my business, so I don’t need to feel on edge.
One of the best ways to get the conversation going is to draw a friend out concerning what they do for a living. If they are retired, what did they do? They might ask what you do. Maybe not. Instead of introducing the subject yourself, try this approach: “We’ve known each other for years. When you tell your friends about me, what do you say I do?” They answer, you add and subtract: “That’s part of what I do ...”
Why it works: Talking with a third-party approach reduces the tension.
Preventing risk to the friendship
We often don’t approach friends for business because we’re concerned about risking the friendship. The other person might be offended. They might feel like you stepped out of established boundaries. The friendship might never be the same. Use the “risk” as the “reason” for talking business.
Try saying to your friend: “You know what I do for a living. I’ve never brought up business because you are my friend. That’s very important to me. I’ve never wanted to put our friendship at risk.” You’ve shown great respect. “I assume you work with someone else already. They take great care of you.” More respect. “You may know someone who isn’t that lucky. I thought we could spend a few minutes talking about what I do. If you meet someone with a problem, you will know how I may be able to help them.”
Why it works: It’s the third-party approach described earlier, with lots of respect.
When in doubt, ask
Everyone should have the opportunity to say no. Don’t make the decision for them by never bringing up the topic of life insurance or financial planning. Suppose they told you later they bought insurance from another agent. You might say: “Why didn’t you buy from me?” Imagine if they said: “You never asked. I assumed you weren’t interested.”
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor can be found on Amazon. See more from Bryce Sanders in the video, “Turn clients into friends."
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This originally appeared in the MDRT Blog.