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Practice Management > Building Your Business

How to Hook Fish in a Barrel

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Over 20 years ago, Tom Stanley made a great observation: Advisors belong to their own professional association, but they won’t get business from their colleagues. Why not join your client’s professional association? It makes great sense, but how do you do that? How does it work?

(Related: 12 Reasons You Still Do So Need to Prospect)

First, you need the right market niche. If you cultivate physicians and have lots as clients, a medical association might be the right fit. If you have one client who is a doctor, but they are a raving fan, their medical society might work. Even if you don’t have any clients in that field, but you think you understand it, there’s still hope.

Next, you need to find the right professional organization. Here’s the big surprise: Many professional groups have an associate membership category for people who aren’t employed in the field, but sell a product or service used by their members. Insurance and lending are two good examples. This is an easy research project. Start by doing an Internet search for professional associations in the relevant field. Visit each website. Look under categories of membership. Other clues include logos for “partners” with the organization and reviewing the membership directory, assuming it’s accessible to the general public.

If they don’t let in non-professionals, all is not lost. Plan B is to consider the professional association aligned with your previous career. As a graduate of a university turning out those professionals or a past employment background in the field, that’s another way in. You won’t be rubbing shoulders with doctors, though. Former lawyers might be affiliating with a bar association.  Engineers might be hanging out at an engineering society.

Now you’ve got your organization. Apply for membership. This might not be cheap. Great. Consider it a barrier to entry for your competitors. This might count as a business related expense that can be covered by the firm, if you have a discretionary allowance for business purposes.

Now you are in. Dress well. The next step is to attend meetings and do nothing. Well, not actually nothing, but keep a low profile. If you have a client who is involved, they can introduce you around. If not, make the rounds yourself, meeting 6+ new people at each meeting. Say hello to those you met last time. Eventually you will meet the officers. Your goal is to come across as harmless. You don’t want them to feel you want to run the place. Sentences that start with “Have you ever thought about…” or “Why don’t you try…” can get you classified as a meddler.

After you’ve attended several monthly meetings, it’s time to become a worker bee. If the members are all busy professionals, they don’t have the time to organize events and staff registration tables. You want to become a familiar face and add value by doing some of the grunt work. There’s no reason to dislike you so far. You are meeting lots of the members.

Now it’s time to find business opportunities. Start by reviewing the events section of the website. Here are several ideas:

  1. Be a dinner speaker. Do they have them? Past events will be listed in the Events section of the website. Look over topics. Go back a couple of years. What’s a relevant topic you could address? Protecting yourself against cybercrime might be a compliance approved topic you have at the office. Retirement planning for small practices is more sales oriented. You might be expected to pay for everyone’s dinner.
  2. Continuing ed credits. If the profession is licensed, they likely have a CE requirement. Learn what qualified and what you have available. In this example, an insurance professional might have more overlap with the accounting profession vs. physicians. Offering CE credit is an attractive sweetener.
  3. Classroom Series. Sometimes professional organizations have a schedule of standalone classes in remote locations. Interested people register and turn up. That would be on their website too.
  4. Trade Show. Do they have an annual meeting with lots of vendor booths? This might take place on the state level. This is a way to hand out material and gather contact details for drip marketing.
  5. Newsletter or magazine. Many local chapters and organizations have one. They usually have a tough time getting content. Propose a column that has a tie in with the profession. Your firm likely has prewritten articles that have passed Compliance approval. They usually allow you to add your own byline, identifying your professional credentials. It gets your name out there. If it’s allowed, write your own articles.

Where Will Business Come From?

Let’s assume everyone needs what you are selling, but they might be buying it elsewhere. Here are a few sources of business:

  1. People who approach you. They like you. People do business with people they like.
  2. People you approach. People may have a need, but they don’t see you in the context of the problem solver. You have a discrete conversation over coffee.
  3. They may be covered, but… They’ve got a colleague who is new to the area, or their agent has retired. They need someone.
  4. Business within the organization. Although insurance is your primary business, you also can offer professional money management services. They might have an endowment that supports scholarships. They have a finance committee. You find out when they are reviewing their current managers. You ask to present.
  5. Life changing events. People inherit. They have children. They talk with their friends about it. You are their friend.
  6. They may love their work, but they want to enjoy life too. Once they decide to step back, they will need retirement planning help.
  7. Key man insurance. They may be a part owner of the business or practice. What happens if one or the other dies?

You’ve inserted yourself into a group where almost everyone you meet has the potential to be a great client. You are part of their world. Isn’t that like shooting fish in a barrel?

— Read 10 Ways to Tactfully Get Your Point Acrosson ThinkAdvisor.

Bryce Sanders

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. is book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” can be found on Amazon.


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