Free time? What free time? “Social prospecting” is absolutely perfect for the single agent, advisor or manager who has recently relocated to a new city. The reason why it’s perfect for these single individuals is because they have no time commitments.
But that’s not you. Your young children keep you busy attending soccer games and school plays. You attend religious services, and this also involves extra activities. You attend community association meetings regularly because you’re afraid if you relax your guard, someone will build a strip mall next door to your house.
The Case for ‘Why?’
Social prospecting makes sense even if you are busy. You know firsthand how much hard work goes into getting a new client. Suppose the clients came to you instead?
Most advisors have no free time – their schedules are programmed. They have to attend meetings and go places. I surveyed advisors and asked: “Have you ever gained clients through community involvement?” Of those who replied, 71 percent said “yes.” I asked: “Did you approach the clients or vice versa?” Of those who responded, 65 percent said the other person approached the advisor. Do the math. You have an almost 50 percent chance of getting new clients just by showing up and doing what you are already doing. The key is raising your visibility.
Regardless of the activity you choose, you have plenty of opportunities to raise your visibility.
 Do You Know Everyone? – It’s a small organization, such as your homeowners association. You should know most of the people in the organization: who they are, where they work and what they do. You want them to know who you are, what you do and why you are good.
In a country club, it’s almost impossible to know everyone. Do you know the major players? They are the officers and established members. With school sports, it’s much easier to know people. Of course you know the parents, because if your child is playing at a teammate’s house, you checked out the adults beforehand.
 Attend Meetings – Some think joining is everything. Like in the movie Airplane where the flight attendant asks the passengers, “Is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?” – they assume business finds you. But you need to be involved and raise your visibility. Visibility equals credibility.
Advisors are busy people, often arriving after the meeting starts and leaving before it’s over. Why? We’re busy! We have places to be! News flash: the rest of the world sees that as self-absorbed and rude. Arrive at meetings early. Stay afterwards. Chat with people over the coffee and doughnuts. Ask them what issues are important to them. Ask them why they attend the meetings.
Stand up and ask questions. State your name and pertinent information. Get the audience to connect a name with a face. Ask articulate questions so the other attendees conclude, “She’s smart!” If the issue under discussion involves finance and you are offering your opinion, inserting your business credentials adds credibility.
 Speaking – A New York advisor called speaking the future of prospecting. Think outside the box. Speaking equals investment related topics. That’s thinking in the box. It’s useful when the group has speakers at every meeting and they need content. Hint: If you live in an area where the weather can turn nasty, offer yourself as a backup speaker. Sometimes the scheduled speaker can’t make it, but the audience still expects to hear a program.
Aren’t you proud of what you do? Of course you are! You aren’t wearing it on your sleeve because talking about your field comes across like selling, which can be seen as self-serving and predatory. It takes a long time to undo that perception.
Consider speaking about a noninvestment-related topic. You restored a 1967 Ford Mustang. Have pictures? That’s a great subject for a twenty-minute talk. Full disclosure is a two-way street. The host of the event will introduce you as a financial advisor because it’s imperative that the audience understands you don’t run an auto body shop. Do a good job and you will be “passed around” – referred to other organizations.
Why does this work? According to the New York advisor, it works because audience members bond with you. They like you and assume, “If she is this good at an outside interest, she must be great at her chosen profession.”
 Publications – It’s likely the organization has a newsletter. Publications need content. Does your firm produce ghostwritten financial articles, allowing you to attach your name? Check it out. OK, you did and they don’t. Can you write a nonfinancial column with a byline highlighting your profession? You have hobbies, those activities consuming your free time. Maybe you bike, travel, run or dine out. That could be your topic.
Opportunities three and four raise the word “compliance” in your mind. Here are two solutions. First solution: emphasize the nonbusiness nature of the article. Write the articles in batches ahead of time. Submit them for approval. Second solution: find someone else in your firm who has done this previously. Put your compliance person in touch with theirs.
 Identify and Address the Critical Issue – Members distribute across four tiers: organization member, committee member, board member and executive committee member.
Most organizations share three common activities: membership, event planning and fundraising. One of those activities is usually in crisis. If you can get involved and be part of the solution, you are on your way to becoming indispensable.
Another New York advisor offers this tip: “Get close to the money.” Be identified with investments. You want them to connect the dots: He’s a financial advisor – he also handles money for the church – he must be good – he must be honest. This moves you to the top of their “go to” list. The message to communicate is: “He handles money.”
 Advertise in Publications – Many groups have small business card ads in their bulletin or newsletter. The ads are usually inexpensive. Readers see your ad in the same place every issue. It reinforces your connection as a member of the group. Often people like to do business with others who share the same interests or values.
 Sponsorship – Involved with school sports? Sponsor a trophy. You are visible and photographed at the annual awards ceremony. Two people stand on stage. One took on all the other challengers and emerged victorious. The other sponsored the trophy. Which role sounds easier? Your name gets connected to the award. You get into the local paper.
What if it’s not school sports? How about the awards dinner? What about partial sponsorship of a larger event?
Pitfalls to Avoid
It’s easy to make mistakes. Sometimes it can be impossible to recover. Tread carefully.
 Don’t join and try to run the show – Maybe you could do it better. The current members might not know the best way of doing the job, but they are masters at freezing out someone they don’t like.
 Don’t join with the sole aim of getting business – The members can smell that. You aren’t the first one to try it. It ended badly when they accepted your predecessor. They won’t make the same mistake twice. Earn their acceptance.
 Don’t act like you need the business – Desperate people don’t get dates. Consider successful as the opposite of desperate. Successful people like to do business with other successful people.
 Don’t introduce “What do you do?” into conversations – Let them ask you first. It’s not that hard to prompt them.
 Don’t say: “I’d like to go over your personal finances sometime” – You will discover exactly how fast a negative reputation is established.
 Don’t talk about yourself – People like to talk about themselves. If you take an interest in others, people will like you.
 Don’t only talk about the market or investing – You are reinforcing a negative stereotype.
You are busy. You have no free time. But by implementing a few strategic ideas, you can raise your visibility and increase the probability that business will to come to you.