You’ve heard about a successful person who could be a great prospect. You attend a party and see him across the room. This is your big opportunity. Now what?
In this setting, asking directly for business will backfire. Rich people have heard every financial pickup line, so take your time. Make friends first. Regardless of the business outcome, you’ll get to know some great, influential people. Like dating, the cultivation process has three stages:
- Meeting prospects;
- Identifying interests in common; and
- Seeing them again.
How to meet strangers
You’ve spotted your prospect across the room. Consider three approaches:
Introduction: Look around. Do you see a friend who knows this person? Will she walk you over? This is a simple request. It’s not a referral; it’s a social introduction. Your friend can say, “You have a lot in common, so I thought I would introduce the two of you.”
Friends in common: Your friend isn’t there. No problem. Walk over and introduce yourself. Say, “You don’t know me but we have a friend in common…” Give the name. The prospect will ask how you know that friend, and you should ask the same. That starts the conversation.
Compliments: He’s a major donor to your favourite charity. He recently won an award. He’s got a great lapel pin. Lead with a compliment to start the conversation. In fundraising circles there’s an old saying: “You can never thank a person enough.”
Identifying common interests
To get the conversation rolling, ask how he’s connected to the organization or event. How does he know the host? Another compliment is a good strategy. Admiring jewelry is fine; avoid getting too personal.
Build a list of safe topics: “Where do you live?” is a classic. “Where’s home?” is short and smooth. Travel is a good subject. If you’ve both been to the destination, share your observations. If not, ask why the prospect chose to go there. Would she return?
Ask what she does for fun. If she mentions golf, ask, “What do you do when it rains?” The real estate market is topical. Is she doing work on her house? Gardening is popular too. This can also be approached as, “How are you coping with the drought?” if the weather has been dry.
Prospects will likely ask what you do. You’ve got that one covered. Be proud of your vocation, but it’s too early to dwell on your job. Ask out about their careers instead, and take a sincere interest.
Finally, don’t overstay your welcome. Disengage from conversation after identifying common interests. Let her mingle with friends while you meet other people.
Seeing prospects again
Before the event concludes, circle back. The car valet or coat check line is an ideal venue. Mention you enjoyed chatting. You have several shared interests. Name a few – it demonstrates you were listening, a trait people seek in advisors.
Say, “I would like to stay in touch. How do I do that?” Then, stop talking. It’s likely the prospect will offer a business card or suggest connecting on LinkedIn.
On cards, if I’ve attended an event with my wife, I write “Bryce and Jane” on the back with our home phone number and offer it handwritten side first. That way, the prospect knows it’s a social connection. You’ve already told her what you do for a living.