The secrets of big fish selling

Working with high-net-worth clients can often be professionally rewarding for financial advisors. Like any niche, though, there are tips and processes that can help you offer what that type of client needs.

Let’s call the high-net-worth prospects “big fish.” I define a big fish as someone who is of a higher stature than you normally work with. And if you land them, it will move you into a whole new level of clientele. Because they may be spending bigger money, they likely expect you to have the professionalism to satisfy their needs. Yet big fish have so many people who want to work with them that they are often even more demanding than most advisors anticipate.

Managing the big fish sales process

This is often going to be a much more complex sale than where you have an initial meeting with the client, and then they quickly say “yes.” Big fish sales are rarely rapid, unless there is an exceptionally dire situation, and they know you are the one they need to help them solve it.

In big fish selling, there are typically many decision influencers working behind the scenes who are trying to bring in their own advisors. Always remember that your prospect is also dealing with an internal power structure. Be on the lookout for those people on the inside of your prospect’s organization who may help you better understand what it will take to close the deal. They may be able to give you the fundamental insight that will help you reel the big fish in to close the deal.

Also keep in mind that often big fish may want to test you first with something that is a smaller part of your overall proposal. Getting the smaller sale first is often the tipping point that gets you the bigger deal and longer-term money. If you can, break your proposal down into several component parts or additional optional services. Give them choices in how to work with you.

Focus on their needs

At its core, a big fish sale is just like any other. This is always about the client. Keep your focus on their needs, their desires and their problems. Focus on how working with you will solve their critical issues within a budget amount that works for you both.

Pay attention to the big fish’s media interviews. You can access print and television media interviews easily, but don’t forget to also look at interviews in industry publications or podcasts. You do need to actually read or listen to them. Bluffing to pretend you understood their point of view will lose credibility with them. Yet if you actually dive deep into the content they have appeared in, you will gain enormous insight into their pain points, concerns and view of the future. All of this insight is essential to your understanding the nuances of how to best position your products or services to meet their unique needs.

Managing yourself

Big fish are extremely pressed for time, and they do not have the time to care about your feelings. Take care of yourself. Reach out to a trusted friend and ask for a pep talk before you present. Write a note to yourself that only you can see with three or four phrases. These should be positive in nature and serve as reminders to you. A few examples of good reminder notes are:

  1. They already like you. (Or you would not be in the room.)
  2. They want to work with you someday even if today is not your day.
  3. Breathe!

When the day comes and the big fish finally says yes, don’t celebrate in front of them. You don’t want them to know that you cannot believe you finally got them to a yes. You want them to only think of you as belonging in the room — not that it might be the first time you ever were there!

Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services and author of the bestselling book “Compounding Your Confidence.” She helps clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. For more information about Johnson, visit

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