Connect, build rapport, offer your help

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC

​“I don’t want to cold call,” said Robert, a financial advisor in Michigan with whom I’ve been working. “But I don’t know how to fill my time.”

We were discussing Robert’s second career, which he has told me that he loves, but for which he just hasn’t been finding enough clients.

“Let’s start with the people you already know,” I advised.

“Well, I know a lot of people who could use my help, but I haven’t spoken to some of them in years,” Robert exclaimed. “And a lot of the ones I’m closer to are avoiding me now because I think I came across as too high pressure when I started, and it really turned them off.”

“That’s two different groups,” I told him. “The second one is going to take some time to rework, so let’s look first at the ones you haven’t yet spoken with.”

“Well, they taught us to just call them up and offer to sit down with them,” Robert offered. “But I’m not comfortable with that. How would I be able to convince them that I care about them if I called them up out of the blue after five years to ask for an appointment?” he asked.

An easy way to ask someone you haven’t had contact with in a long time if he or she might be interested in working with you is just to tell him or her that you wanted to reach out to everyone you knew, adding, "and that included you."

Rather than making a dozen calls to total strangers like a lot of advisors do, I decided I’d prefer to call people I actually have some connection with who might be ready — or have already started — to invest for their futures, and who might want some professional help.

"You were one of the people I thought of. Would you be open to discussing your situation with me for a couple of minutes?"

But this approach was way too “salesy” for Robert, so we discussed the approach that I actually prefer. It’s much slower, but I feel that it’s also much more effective.

Connect. Think about where your relationship is with someone. Could you call him? Could you email her? Could you connect with him or her on Facebook or LinkedIn? Then, start to move the relationship forward to the point where you can meet — for coffee or to see their businesses, or whatever.

Build rapport. Once you’ve connected and have started to engage, you will come to know your old contact better, and he or she will come to know you again. Inevitably, the discussion will turn to what you do for a living.

Offer your help. Once what you do is out in the open, there are many simple ways to suggest that you’d like to offer your services. Here’s one of the simplest: "So, that’s the work I’m doing, and I really enjoy it. Have you ever worked with anyone who does what I do?"

Whatever service you provide, once you have spread the word and continued the dialogue, don't forget to offer it up for help.