Do your homework!
Homework doesn’t stop when you graduate from school. Taking the time to do your homework prior to meeting with a prospect or a client can yield dividends, and it can strengthen your relationship with them.
Sam Richter is a master of using social media to help do the “homework” of finding out what makes someone tick. He emphasizes that this is not “stalking” someone — it is, in his words, ethically finding information and then using that information for the benefit of others.
Richter is the creator and founder of the Know More sales and business improvement program. He specializes in using Google combined with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other web-based resources as intelligence-gathering tools.
He is the author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling, a book about finding information online and using it for business and sales success. He is a pioneer in sales intelligence — using technology to collect, analyze and present information to help salespeople find, monitor and understand the data that provides insights into prospects’ and clients’ daily business.
In this interview with Publisher Paul Feldman, Richter discusses some strategies for finding information online, as well as why it’s crucial to attract new blood into the industry.
PAUL FELDMAN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to a financial advisor?
SAM RICHTER: Do a little bit of homework prior to meeting with somebody.
One way — and one that’s less commonly implemented — is to look at somebody’s LinkedIn profile in order to try to find something of interest for you to ask a good question.
People like to talk about themselves. Yet all too often, especially when we’re doing virtual meetings, we launch into talking about ourselves. Your prospects don’t care about you; your prospects are really passionate about themselves.
So say a simple thing like “I was on your LinkedIn profile and see that you play in a garage band on the weekends. Can you tell me a little bit about that?” Or “I see that you have a degree in neuroscience from the University of Georgia. And yet you now own a manufacturing company. That must be an incredible story. Can you tell me a little bit about it?”
Doing a little bit of homework allows you to gain permission to ask more challenging questions. Because there will always be that brick wall between the prospect and the advisor. The prospect is wondering what you are going to sell them. So you can easily blow up that brick wall by asking a question or talking about something you know the other person is passionate about. Let them talk, and then listen. And then ask another question. And another question. Things will move quickly from a prospect/vendor relationship to the kind of relationship we’d like to have — one of value.
FELDMAN: In this business, we often talk about finding money in motion. What is money in motion, and what’s the best way to find it?
RICHTER: First, identify who you want to target — who your best client profiles might be. For example, I know a financial advisor in Minneapolis, and his business was built on working with key executives at General Mills. He had quite a few clients in the executive suite at General Mills, and he probably knows General Mills and its benefits package and stock option program better than the human resources people at General Mills.
He wanted to expand his practice within General Mills, as they have about 30,000 employees. Who do you go to first? He started targeting money in motion. He looks for an executive at General Mills who has been promoted within the past one to three months. Why? Because that person theoretically will have money and can take advantage of the different stock options and benefits available to them.
How do you find someone who has money in motion? In this example, you could go on LinkedIn and search for employees at a major employer in your area such as General Mills. Search for one month and see whether you can find people who have been promoted recently. And then target those people.
Here are other examples. Companies that have recently received funding. Companies that are going through a transition where executives or any employee in that company potentially could be coming into money that wasn’t available before. Look at companies that are relocating. Those folks might not be coming into money, but a bunch of people might be moving to your city and they might want a local advisor.
You can do Google queries on those kinds of activities. For example, if you want to target health care companies in Dallas, how do you build a query to find health care companies in Dallas that are receiving funding?
You might put the words “heath care” or “Dallas” in quotation marks. That limits your search to health care companies and Dallas. And you might want to put in another search term like “funding” or “venture capital.” Then you can find those articles, social media posts, whatever it might be, and you will be able to target the executives at that organization. You also might want to use search words like “CEO” or “announces” or “welcomes” if you want to target companies that have recently hired a new chief executive.
When you are searching, you want to make sure you get the most recent results. It obviously doesn’t do you any good to call on a company that filed for an IPO seven years ago. So you want to click on the Tools button underneath the main Google search form. A drop-down menu will appear, and that allows you to sort your results by date.
FELDMAN: What are some different strategies for getting introductions?
RICHTER: Let’s say you’re my client and you have a meeting with me this afternoon. I can go into whitepages.com and type in your address, and it will pull up a list of your neighbors. Now, instead of my asking you “Do you know anyone who could use my services?” I can say, “I see you’re neighbors with the Hogans.” Then you say, “Yeah, they’re great friends of mine.” And I say, “I like to have really close relationships based on core values and shared commonalities with my clients. Knowing that, do you think the Hogans might be good prospects for me?”
You can go into LinkedIn, go into the profile of a client or prospect and see the names of all their connections. So you can ask for an introduction to that shared connection.
Another way you can prospect on LinkedIn is to search for CEOs or chief executives. You will get a whole bunch of names, and then you can see which of your clients or prospects are connected to them. Let’s say your client’s name is Julie Smith; you’ll be able to see which CEOs are connected with Julie Smith, and then you can ask her for an introduction.
Also, you can use LinkedIn to find out what prospects are serving on what advisory boards or other volunteer organizations. And that can be another way to get introductions to the people you want to meet. Instead of saying to your client, “Do you know anyone who serves on the Minneapolis Art Museum board of directors?,” you can say, “I know that you’re on the board of directors at the Minneapolis Art Museum. I looked at some of the other board members, and there are two I think would be really good fits for my practice — Julie Anderson and Joe Buffett.
How well do you know Julie and Joe? Do you think they would be a good fit for my practice? Can you do me the favor of an introduction? I’ll send you an email with a virtual introduction.”
The key there is asking for the introduction by name and being specific about why you’d like the introduction. A client tends to be more emotionally involved in making that kind of introduction as opposed to someone saying, “Yeah, I’ll give you a name. I’ll give you my cousin’s name.”
FELDMAN: What do you think about checking out your clients’ social media?
RICHTER: You can ask your client if you might follow them on social media. But even if they don’t accept your request, I think you certainly should go to Facebook and search that person prior to every meeting. Just because you have information from their social media doesn’t mean you have to tell them you have that information. You’re using that information so you can ask better questions.
If someone’s Facebook feed has a post that says, “Don’t bother contacting me over Thanksgiving; we’re taking our dream vacation to Greece,” or you see something about them volunteering with their kid’s soccer league, you can use that information the next time you meet with them. You can ask, “Are you going to be in town over Thanksgiving?” It’s a conversation starter.
When you see your clients posting things they are doing, put it in your customer relationship management system. Things like their kid’s birthday, where he goes to school or when he graduates.
FELDMAN: Tell us about what it means to have a relationship mindset with your clients.
RICHTER: You’ll hear sales gurus saying you must have a relationship with your client. I think where people get confused is, if I’m an HVAC repair guy, do my customers really need to know about me? Because you think of a relationship as something that goes both ways.
But here’s an example. I’ve had a financial advisor for a number of years. I know a little bit about them. But frankly, I don’t need to know when his birthday is, when his anniversary is, I don’t need to know about his kids. I don’t need to know any of that stuff. But I expect him to have a relationship mindset with me.
So it’s more of a one-way relationship. Your clients do not need to have a relationship with you as an advisor. They don’t need to treat you like they treat their friends. But you need to have a relationship mindset with them. You need to think about them as friends, but you don’t have to call them friends.
What I mean is that with your friends, you know what’s going on in their lives, what’s important to them, what they care about. You know how you can help them achieve goals as friends — easier, more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably than they might be able to on their own.
For example, I have a dear friend who had COVID-19. My wife and I brought him dinner.
That’s what we do in a relationship. We need to have that mindset with our clients. How can I help my clients achieve their goals more efficiently, more effectively, more profitably? I’m going to do that by understanding what they care about. I don’t need them to know what I care about. But I need to know what they care about.
The key is to make sure you’re tracking all of this stuff and knowing what has meaning to the client. It’s knowing things like their son plays football. So that’s always a topic of conversation. You can ask, “How’s your son doing in football?”
There’s nothing new about any of this. What’s new is how we find the information.
I used to talk about my late father-in-law, Ken Livingston, who worked in corrugated box sales. Twenty years ago, at his funeral, all of these customers of his came up to my wife and said, “Ken was amazing. He knew my kids and what school they went to. He knew when my anniversary was. He knew what my favorite candy was, and he always brought it to me on the holidays.”
Let’s think about that. This was a guy who was gathering all that information before the internet, meaning that he actually had to ask questions. What’s our excuse? If Ken could do it back then, what’s our excuse for not doing it today?
I don’t mean to be morose, but there were hundreds of customers at his funeral. As a financial advisor, how many of your clients are coming to your funeral? Do you have three who will?
FELDMAN: You’ve done a lot of work with Harvey McKay, author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Tell us what you learned from him.
RICHTER: Harv is a dear friend and mentor. We’ve spoken together many times. Back in the 1970s, he developed the McKay 66. These are the 66 items you need to know about other people. It has nothing to do with what product that person buys, but it focuses on the person who does the buying. What are they like? What are their accomplishments? What makes them tick?
And he taught you how to do that by asking questions.
Harvey and I do presentations together now and then. I’ll come up to him and say, “Let me show you how you can get between 50 and 66 items before you even walk in the room.”
It’s not being a stalker. But part of the relationship mindset is, I’m going to use these techniques and tools to ethically find information. And then — here’s the key part — use that information for the benefit of others.
FELDMAN: How do you attract new advisors to your practice?
RICHTER: We always talk about having a pipeline of leads for our practice. But I think we really need to start building that pipeline of people we think might be good advisors and reach out to them.
At the conferences where I speak, there’s always a workshop on succession planning. Because how many people in our business are over the age of 50? So I think we need to start treating recruitment almost as a sales activity.
You can take the same techniques to find prospective clients that I discussed earlier and use them to find prospective advisors. Try to find teachers who retired early or try to find companies that are announcing a layoff. You can go into LinkedIn, type in “retired teacher Atlanta,” for example, and you’ll get a list of retired teachers in Atlanta. You might look at when they graduated from college and find that they may be a retired teacher but they’re only 48 years old.
Or reach out to a company when you see they’re announcing a layoff. There’s a lot of talent out there looking for new careers.
We need to think of that talent search almost as a sales call.
If you’re not doing succession planning, you’re doing a huge disservice to your clients. Succession planning is a fiduciary responsibility to your clients.