Friend or Client? Which comes first?

The ideal prospects of most life insurance agents are HNW individuals.

As living, breathing people, there’s probably a need for life insurance. If the person happens to own a business, there’s the additional potential for things like key person life insurance or employee 401(k) plans.

But that’s all down the line. The first thing you must do is find them and get them talking. But should the relationship start from the social or the business side? I think the social connection comes first.

If you’ve bought into social prospecting, you are attending the right events and meeting the right people. Let’s assume you are already pretty good at meeting strangers and identifying interests in common. Before the end of the event, how do you get contact information and lay the groundwork for seeing them again? In the weeks after, how do you make contact and suggest getting together to enjoy those shared interests?

Getting the contact info

It’s been a good night. You met several people. Understanding “less is more,” you knew when to break off and float around. So far, so good. The downside is we don’t have contact information.

At most events, the two bottlenecks are the coat check and the parking valet lines. If it’s a charity fundraiser, the line to pay and collect your live and silent auction items is a third. This is where you should find the folks you met.

Approach each one. Explain you enjoyed talking with them. Establish you have several shared interests. List them. (This shows you were listening.) Say: “I would like to stay in touch. How do I do that?”

Bryce Sanders

Stop talking.

They will likely say one of three things:

  1. “Here’s my card.”
  2. “Let me get a cocktail napkin and a pen.”
  3. “I’m on LinkedIn. Send me an invite.”

So far, so good. But maybe they don’t really want to connect. The first clue might be a patting of pockets followed by: “I don’t seem to have any cards. Sorry.”

You might be tempted to suggest options #2 and #3 above. If they don’t want to stay in touch, let them off the hook. “Well, it was a pleasure meeting you.”

Time to give your contact information. If you say, “Here’s my business card,” the magic of the moment might be lost. Here’s what I do: I take my business card, write “Bryce and Jane” on the back with our home phone number and maybe “fellow wine fan” as a reminder. I hand it over with the handwritten side facing them. This way, it’s a social connection, yet they can flip over the card and see my professional credentials.

Contacting them afterwards

You’ve scored a great achievement. You now have a connection to a person who could become a good friend through those shared interests and possibly a business prospect. I believe you need to cultivate the friendship first. You want them to like you. People do business with people they like. If you called and started talking business, the walls would go up. They might think you established a personal connection under false pretenses. At this point, you genuinely want to add a friend.

Like in dating, obviously you make the first call. Here are some approaches:

  • The next event. You met at the art museum opening last month. There’s a different exhibition opening this month. You call and remind them. “We met at the Impressionist exhibition in June. Hope to see you at the Realist exhibition next week.” You might suggest getting together for a light dinner beforehand.
  • Personal interests. They are serious wine fans. You are too. You buy your wine from a store with great prices. They didn’t know about your store. “We are going wine shopping on Saturday. My store called. They just got in some new cult California Cabernets. They’ve got some good Burgundy closeouts too. Want to come with me?” If they come, you have the added benefit of bringing a referral to your favorite wine store. Introduce them to the owner.
  • Invite them home. You met them at the town picnic. They are serious BBQ fans. They have favorite recipes and secret sauces. You do too. It sounds logical to invite them over, but alarm bells might go off if you’ve just met. “What does she want from me?” Include another couple you each know. If the other couple are clients, that’s even better! That fact stays confidential. Let them know this other couple has been invited. This gives them the opportunity to call these mutual friends and check you out. They can rationalize: “If the couple inviting us is deadly boring, at least we can talk to our friends, the other couple.” This should make accepting your invitation easier.

When you see this other couple you met just once, don’t assume they took careful notes like you did and have total recall. Bring up the context of how you met: “We met at the opening of the Impressionist exhibit at the art museum. You mentioned you were going to Tuscany on vacation. How was your trip?” These prompts help your guests feel more comfortable.

You’ve probably seen the acronym T.T.T.T. It stands for These Things Take Time. The friendship you develop with those folks will proceed at its own pace. This is why you are working on several connections, independent of each other. People get to like you. They learn about what you do and vice versa. People do business with people they like.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” can be found on Amazon.