Sometimes it’s easier to bring up business with strangers than friends. If people you don’t know tell you to “get lost,” it’s no big deal because you will probably never speak with them again. Problems develop when you approach your brother-in-law, former roommate or tennis partner. If these people have the potential to be great clients, how can you bring up business without ruining the friendship? Here are three ways to do it:
- You wear different hats. This is corny but effective. “I am going to take off my friend hat and put on my business hat for the next three minutes. You know I work at firm …” You talk business, and then say, “I’m now taking off my business hat and putting my friend hat back on.”
Why it works: Taking off and putting on imaginary hats is a good touch. You are establishing a second, professional role for yourself. These are defined. You revert to your first role, unless they want to ask questions.
- The risk to friendship. Make the unspoken objection the reason for the conversation. “You know where I work and what I do. I have never brought up business because we’re friends, which is important to me. I never want to put our friendship at risk.” They will likely agree. “Besides, I have always assumed you work with someone else already. They probably take great care of you and give you excellent service. Most successful people have that kind of relationship with their advisor.” They might say “Yes, I do,” or admit they don’t have that quality of relationship saying, “No, I don’t. What can you do for me?”
Why it works: You compliment them with the word successful. They think they are successful at something! You position a quality advisory relationship that is almost an entitlement for successful people. If they have a good relationship, at least now you know.
- The “you can’t fire friends” objection. You have asked them about business in the past. They said, “I don’t do business with friends. You can’t fire friends.” You might reply, “I explain to my clients, ‘If you become my client and follow my advice, I think you should get a report card. If I am doing a lousy job, you should be able to fire me.’”
Why it works: Your periodic, scheduled reviews are the report cards. They were concerned if they needed to unwind the relationship, the friendship would likely suffer. You hand them a road map. They don’t need to feel guilty because this was your idea.
Friends can make great clients. They may even have already thought about it but haven’t brought it up in conversation. Maybe they don’t know how. Now you have a few examples of comfortable conversations.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon. Watch “Turn friends into clients” to see more from Bryce Sanders. (MDRT member exclusive)