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Convert an acquaintance to a prospect – Part 2

13 September 2020 Myra Knoesen

How should you approach a casual acquaintance and open the dialogue about working together? 

Sara Grillo, a Financial Author, Podcast Host and Keynote Speaker gives some guidelines on how to ask an acquaintance to meet with you. 

Asking an acquaintance to meet

  • In order to get them to talk to you on the phone so that you can have the opportunity to pitch a meeting, call them directly. If they don’t answer, then leave a voicemail and send an email or text. This may sound like overkill, but most people don’t listen to voicemails nowadays.
  • In your voice message and email, tell the person that you came across a few things in the course of your work recently that made you think of them, and you wanted to run it by them. Give them a clue that you’re going to ask them for a meeting; don’t blindside or mislead them by saying that you want to talk about next month’s Boy Scout camping trip since your sons are in the same troop. Notice that Grillo said to mention “things”, not one thing. If you tell them you want to talk about something, they’re going to think you’re trying to sell them an annuity. That usually is “the thing” that people are used to from advisers.
  • When you talk, keep the pitch to two sentences. The pitch may fall flat on the floor so it’s better to get the whole thing done quickly if that happens. This will reduce pain for both parties involved.
  • Mention your observations of specific things you’ve seen in their life and how you think you could improve the situation.
  • This is not time to start rambling about how you’re a fiduciary and you’ve served doctors for two decades and use adviser jargon. They don’t care. You’re talking about yourself, not about them.
  • Talk about why you feel that you can help. Use what I call “the language of giving” to frame your offer in terms that reflect how they will benefit.

What to do if you fail

“I once asked a casual acquaintance if he would consider letting me review his portfolio, to which he replied, ‘Sara, I will never ever allow you to manage my money’. Okay…so that was a little awkward. I cannot say that I blame him, honestly. I was much younger, and this was before I had sales training. The whole thing was poorly executed on my part,” says Grillo.

“Well, I never spoke to him again, but there are others who I asked at some point to do business with me. Some did, some did not. If you do get rejected, it may take two or three years, but people will eventually forget – remember people have short attention spans. Just don’t do anything to offend them or they will have a reason to remember,” continues Grillo

In the moment you face rejection, though, Grillo says remember this: The way you handle it determines how they will handle it. If you show that you are okay with it, then they will be okay with it.

“The key thing is to have a few words prepared in advance to let them off the hook easily. Keep it light, humorous and friendly. Brush it off lightly and make them laugh,” adds Grillo.

“If you can end on a positive note the experience will be less awkward for everyone. Sometimes shifting the conversation to a referral can take the tension away,” says Grillo.

A valuable skill for an adviser

“You are not going to win every time you try, but the ability to convert casual acquaintances into qualified opportunities is a valuable skill for an adviser. You will maximize your chances of success if you utilize marketing tools that help you build comfort and trust before ‘the ask’, such as newsletters and social media,” continues Grillo.

“Be prepared because the conversation is going to be a little awkward, which is why rehearsal is so important. Use empathy, ask in a straightforward way that makes it clear what you have to give them, use examples from your experience knowing them, and be ready with words that will let them off the hook easily and help to minimize awkwardness,” concludes Grillo.

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