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How to Become a ‘People Collector’

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Are you a collector of people? Do you make friends with people from all walks of life or do you stick close to people in similar economic circumstances? Becoming a “people collector” can deliver a richly rewarding life along with the potential for new business.

Examples of “People Collectors”

About a week ago, I heard an interview on NPR with Tracy Edwards, who captained the first boat with an all-female crew in the Whitbread round the world race in 1989. The documentary Maiden tells the story. She met King Hussein of Jordan when, in Martha’s Vineyard, he boarded a boat where she was working. They connected as friends and mentor. She described him as a people collector, knowing people from all walks of life.

OK, back to earth. A financial advisor in the Boston area organized the local soccer club for children. He got to know the parents. Lots of parents. He learned a person he knew lost their job. He happened to know another person in the same specialized field. He introduced them. The second guy helped the first guy land his next job. The advisor is a center of influence.

When doing interviews for my book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” a bank president related a strategy he started using when he was a loan officer and still uses today. He has lunch at a diner or luncheonette in an area with lots of small businesses. He sits at the counter. He’s a regular, so he gets to know everyone! He explained: “You wouldn’t believe the amount of business I’ve gotten here!” One guy says to another: “See that guy? He’s Tom. He’s the president of the bank!” The second guy is impressed: “Wow! He eats at the same place as me. He’s an OK guy. I’m going to walk over and ask about a loan for my business.” He’s a man of the people.

How Do You Become a People Collector?

The New York Times once ran an article indicating the average American knows about 600 people. Start by putting effort into getting to really know them.

People behind counters. You visit the post office, the office supply superstore, the bank and your favorite lunch or coffee spot. You see the same faces behind counters. Learn their names. Discreetly write them down. Gather a little information at a time.

Why: They will develop a high opinion of you. Who knows when a regular patron will tell their bartender about a life-changing event that sent money their way? If they say they need financial advice, your name is top of mind.

Parties and social events. If you are involved in the community, you see lots of the same faces. If you go to religious services, it’s a familiar crowd. If there’s a coffee hour or parish picnic, you likely talk with people you know. Try assuming the quietest person in the room can be the most interesting if you get them talking about their passion, hobby or other interests.

Why: They may be shy. They don’t approach people. They would never get into your orbit if you didn’t take the first step.

Everyone needs something. When we travel in Asia, we bring small gifts for the hotel staff members we know. Usually it’s half-pound boxes of chocolate truffles from our hometown. Occasionally someone will have a special request. Something they can’t find in their part of the world. Kellogg’s Froot Loops was the most unusual example.

Why: Finding a simple item someone really wants can make their day. It builds an incredibly strong bond.

The gym. If you are a regular, you know the familiar faces. Maybe you take spin class. Get to know everyone by name. Their spouses name too. (I keep a sheet pinned on my office wall with names of gym friends and spouses.) Invite your spin class buddies over for a summer BBQ.

Why: Most people tend to look anonymous at the gym. They may be pharmaceutical execs. My gym opens early because the guy who was the president of the local CBS television affiliate wanted to get in an early workout. It’s easy to gather information if you see the same people three times a week, 50 times a year.

Restaurant staff. They know everyone. You are a regular. On busy nights people can be demanding. Sometimes they treat servers as … servants. It makes insecure people feel important. That’s not you. Treat them as equals.

Why: Lots of reason, but here’s an obvious one: “People go out of their way for people they like.” They will try to do their best to deliver an excellent experience, regardless of how busy they are that evening.

Service providers. People repair your car. They mow your grass and trim your trees. Who are they? We often make assumptions that are way off base. Assume they are nice people and cultivate them.

Why: Here’s an eye opener: People brag about their stock market losses. One day, I was picking up our car from the little cinderblock building that specializes in servicing German cars. The market was down about 3% that day! (It was awhile ago.) He moaned about it, mentioning he was down about $150,000 today. Doing some quick math, I realized he must have about $5 million in the stock market.

When you are a people collector, you suddenly become a “man (or woman) of the people.” You can become a center of influence. You get into more and more social situations. This can lead to business. It’s certainly a lot of fun.

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


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