Connect, Build Rapport, Offer Your Help (Image: Schussel)

“I don’t want to cold call,” Robert, a financial advisor in Michigan who I had been working with, began. “But I don’t know how to fill my time.”

We were discussing Robert’s current career — his second — for which he had proclaimed his passion, but for which he just hadn’t been finding enough clients.

“Let’s start with the people you already know,” I advised.

(Related: Focus on Service, NOT Standings)

“Well, I know a lot of people who could use my help, but I haven’t spoken to some of them in years,” Robert exclaimed. “And a lot of the ones I’m closer to are avoiding me now because I think I came across as too high pressure when I started, and it really turned them off.”

“That’s two different groups,” I told him. “The second one is going to take some time to rework, so let’s look first at the ones—the people you know you haven’t yet spoken with.”

“Well, they taught us to just call them up and offer to sit down with them,” Robert offered. “But I’m not comfortable with that. How would I be able to convince them that I care about them if I called them up out of the blue after five years to ask for an appointment?” he asked.

An easy way to ask someone you haven’t had contact with in a long time if she might be interested in working with you is just to tell her that you wanted to reach out to everyone you knew and that you included her:

Rather than making a dozen calls to total strangers like a lot of advisors do, I decided I’d prefer to call people I actually have some connection with who might be ready — or are already working on — investing for their future, and who might want some professional help. You were one of the people I thought of. Would you be open to discussing your situation with me for a couple of minutes?

But this approach was way too “salesy” for Robert, so we discussed the approach I actually prefer. It’s much slower, but it’s also much more effective.

  1. Connect.

Think about how close your relationship is with someone you know.

Could you call him? Could you email her? Could you ‘friend’ him or her on Facebook or add him or her on LinkedIn?

Then, start to move the relationship forward to the point where you can meet with them—for coffee or to see their businesses, or whatever.

  1. Build rapport.

Once you’ve connected and have started to engage, you will come to know your old contact better, and he or she will come to know you again.

Inevitably, the discussion will turn to what you do for a living.

  1. Offer your help.

Once what you do is out in the open, there are many simple ways to suggest that you’d like to offer your professional help. Here’s one of the simplest:

So that’s the work I’m doing, and I really enjoy it. Have you ever worked with anyone who does what I do? I’d be willing to take a look at your situation to see if I can help…

Don’t try to sell your services to the people you know. Offer to help them. If they accept your help, earn the right to ask for referrals to their friends and family.

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Sandy SchusselSandy Schussel has been a coach and practice development consultant for insurance and financial professionals for the past 20 years. He is an approved MDRT coach and has served as the national sales training director for First Investors and Foresters. He is the author of two books, The High Diving Board, about overcoming fear and Become A Client Magnet, about attracting and keeping clients.