One of the more effective ways to prospect for new clients is to invite existing clients to dinner and suggest they bring a friend.
But the strategy has an Achilles heel: the client who immediately accepts your invitation but can’t think of anyone to invite. The problem is they don’t know how to invite a friend without sounding like a salesman.
Read: Soft sell makes prospecting easier
This is avoidable if you nudge them in the right direction. Here are some examples of how it’s done.
“Steve, I’m having dinner with my financial advisor next Thursday. He said I could bring a guest. Would you like to come?”
Your client needs to give compelling reasons why his friend would want to meet you over dinner.
Introduction: “Steve, we’ve never discussed investing but I know you’re involved in the market, too.”
Rationale: “The ups and downs keep me awake at night. Fortunately, I have a good advisor. When we get together he puts things into perspective. He focuses on my long-term objectives and points out opportunities others are missing.”
Invitation: “I’m having dinner with him next Thursday. He let me know I could bring a guest. Would you like to come along? I think you would enjoy meeting him.”
Read: Efficient prospecting key to being up in down market
Concern for Spouse
Introduction: “Steve, I’m very concerned who is going to look after my wife, Jeanne, once I’m gone. I handle all our finances and she’s grown used to that.”
Rationale: “Fortunately we have a financial advisor who respects Jeanne and understands my concern. She and Jeanne get on well together. I feel if anything ever happened to me, Jeanne would be in good hands.”
Invitation: “I know you feel the same way about your wife. Jeanne and I are having dinner with our advisor next Wednesday – why don’t you come along? I think both of you would enjoy meeting her.”
Hot New Restaurant
Introduction: “Steve, you know that hot new Brazilian restaurant we were talking about last week? I know you’ve wanted try it.”
Rationale: “My financial advisor has invited me out to dinner next Thursday after my annual portfolio review – that’s where we’re going. I’ve told you about him before. He’s knowledgeable and discreet, plus he has great taste in restaurants.”
Invitation: “He said I could bring a guest along. Would you like to join us?”
In this scenario the client accepts the invitation immediately but says she’s coming solo. “Can’t think of anyone to invite.” Sound familiar?
The advisor is in a difficult position. Can he withdraw the invitation? The answer is yes.
Read: Prospecting tips from group RRSP pros
I learned this one from an advisor in Pennsylvania:
Step 1: “I’m sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. That’s the next dinner – a month from now we’re organizing a client recognition dinner. You are obviously invited to that one.”
Step 2: “This is a different dinner. It gives us the opportunity to meet people you think we might be able to help. But don’t worry, you’re definitely invited to the next one.”
The advisor has nimbly withdrawn the invitation for the client-prospect dinner by extending an early invitation for the upcoming client-recognition dinner. He’s tactfully said, “If you want to come to this dinner, you need to bring a guest.”