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Your action plan for transforming friends into clients

Bryce Sanders

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Follow this simple guide to find the right people to reach out to.

DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS who should logically do business with you, but haven’t taken the hint? You have an extended family and a large circle of friends. Not all will become clients. Some will be great surprises: “Why didn’t you ask me before?” Others will never pull the trigger. Here’s a comprehensive action plan for the rest.

Build lists

The first step in cultivating friends as potential clients is building small lists that combine into one larger list. We know people in silos. Yours might include neighbors, college alumni, nonprofits you’ve joined, fellow parents at school, people you see at religious services and extended family members. Cast a wide net. Pretend you are building a Christmas-card list or planning your child’s wedding.

Identify needs

On your first day in the business, someone probably said: “Identify a need your prospect has, then propose a solution that involves buying your product and becoming a client.”

You just established you know lots of people. A few are open books. They just retired after 40 years of receiving monthly paychecks. They wish retirement could be like that. They want a monthly check for the rest of their lives. An annuity might be the solution.

On the other hand, some needs might not have a financial solution. They might have been downsized. They need a new job. You have connections and might be able to help. No business comes your way immediately, but when they are settled into their new position, they may start to think about transferring their retirement assets away from their previous employer. You are top of mind.

You want everyone to know who you are, what you do and why you are good.

Divide the big list into three strategies

Imagine you sold clothing instead of insurance. You would know it’s not a one-size-fits-all world. Some want a tailored look, while others are casual. You need more than one approach. As you read through the next three steps, you will learn about three approaches. The first is increasing their understanding. The second, winning them over. Finally, you have asking for business. Assign each of the names on your big list to one of these three categories. Now you have three lists.

Increase their understanding

Does everyone know what you do? Of course not. They think you’re “the insurance guy.” You are much more than that. Besides, you don’t know enough about them either. Sit down when you see them casually. Explain you are curious about what they do. Listen.

Prompt them to verbalize what they think you do. Using their own words, clarify what you do. Align your explanation to their situation. Ask who they know with a specific problem. The example you use sounds a lot like them.

Win them over

You want everyone to know who you are, what you do and why you are good. This next group is people who know what you do but haven’t asked: “Can you help me?” You need to drip on them.

What’s one of the first things people ask when you see them at a chamber of commerce meeting? It’s probably “How’s business?” When you hear this, interpret it as: “How have you helped someone recently?” Share a brief, anonymous story. They will gradually learn about the many ways you help people like them.

What if people don’t ask? Think about the traits people look for in an agent or advisor. Advertise them. If you are late for drinks, explain a client called as you were headed out the door. They had a problem. You needed to stay until it was resolved to their satisfaction. People hear you put clients first.

Ask for the business

The two previous strategies help make people comfortable with approaching you for business. In this strategy, you are the one making the approach.

Some of the people you know have a need. Let them know you’ve thought long and hard about it. You think you might have a solution. Stop talking and assess their level of comfort or unease.

Assuming they seem OK, start outlining your solution by selling the firm. “Here’s your problem. I’ve seen it before. We’ve helped other people and we might be able to help you too. We have a guy who is a specialist; he’s helped others in similar situations. Let’s see if I can get you an appointment. I’ll come along if it will make you feel more comfortable.”

If everything works out, they become your client. You haven’t appeared predatory. You came across as a concerned friend wanting to help.

Do a good job. You want a complete, turnkey solution. They might not commit immediately. Don’t press, but ask them about their problem from time to time. They eventually need to make a decision.

Keep notes

You are learning more and more about people. Enter it into your client relationship management system. You run into these people routinely. You want to brush up before attending events where your paths might cross.

Follow up

You would never say: “Do you have any referrals for me? However, those problems you addressed earlier might come up in future conversations as an inquiry from a concerned friend: “How are your parents doing?” It keeps you top of mind.

By implementing this action plan, you are systematically identifying and following up with prospects, without being pushy.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for financial service professionals, and is the author of the book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor.” Contact him at


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