Tap your inner circle for new clients

Your inner circle consists of your family members, your friends and the acquaintances you make by being a member of clubs and associations. These people can be a rich source of new clients and referrals.

Most financial advisors rely on their existing clients for referrals and do not pay as much attention to their inner circle, says Prem Malik, financial advisor with Queensbury Securities Inc. in Toronto. They may be reluctant to discuss business with people they know socially.

“People go to clubs to relax and enjoy themselves,” Malik says, “not to discuss business.” The same thinking applies to gatherings of family members and friends.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get referrals from your inner circle. “The important thing is that through casual conversation you should make sure [your family members and acquaintances] are aware of what you do,” Malik says. “At some point in time, they may turn to you for advice or refer someone they know who is looking for the services you offer.”

Here are some ways to turn your inner circle into a potential source of new business:

> Be selective
Choose your inner circle carefully. Don’t join a club or an association just because you believe it might be a source of clients. “You must have a genuine interest in the activities so that you can actively participate,” Malik says.

This approach will allow you to build relationships with other members and be seen in a positive light.

> Let your inner circle know what you do
You don’t have to do a “sales job” in telling your inner circle what you do, Malik says. “People eventually learn what you do through casual conversation.”

Some people will be more interested than others, and might want more detail — which presents an opportunity for you to talk more about your business.

When talking to family members who may already know what you do, be objective in sharing your views on financial advice, without asking for their business.

“Let them ask you how you can help,” Malik says. Then, if the opportunity arises, don’t be shy about asking for their business.

> Present a professional image
The way you conduct yourself — and even the way you dress — can help you earn clients, Malik says.

Be sure to conduct yourself in an exemplary manner and display integrity, says Ron Fox, CEO of Glidepath Portfolio Services Inc. in Toronto. “People are drawn to people with integrity,” Fox says. “They will see that you are real, and you can earn their trust.”

And once you earn their trust, they will be more open to discussing sensitive issues.

If people see you as a person of integrity who they can trust, Fox says, they are likely to turn to you as a professional when they need one.

> Make some clients part of your inner circle
Malik has an inner circle of existing clients. “These are a few selected clients who are like my mentors,” he says.

Malik takes these clients out for dinners or lunches each month and seeks their views on growing his practice. Cultivating relationships this way encourages referrals.

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