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Practice Management > Building Your Business

6 Ways the Wealthy Put You to the Test

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So far, so good in your networking with the wealthy. You’ve read all the articles. You dress right. You know what they talk and worry about. You’ve contributed to charities and joined the right groups. Now onto the testing.

Testing? What testing? What right do they have to test me? I passed all my licensing exams. I’m a certified financial planner. What do you mean, test me? They probably accept your credentials as presented. They may have done some online research. Testing is to determine if you are who you say you are and you really fit in. Are you interested in building personal relationships or are you an actor, playing a part to get business?

High-net-worth individuals have lots of choice when buying services. Lots of people want to be their friends, too. Many people with money are quite comfortable in their own skin. They make friends of different ages, backgrounds and income levels. But you need to pass the tests.

There are many tests. Here are a few they might spring on you.

1. Confidentiality

You take client confidentiality very seriously. This is concerns personal information about people in their social circle.

Scenario: One evening over drinks in a 1:1 setting, your new friend might confide a secret. It concerns another person in their circle. Maybe they are having marital problems. An affair, perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s juicy.

How to fail. You are thrilled. You’ve been accepted as an insider. Since only an insider would know this secret, you must prove your newfound status to your friends by telling this secret. Although you bind them to confidentiality, they tell others. Word gets around. It gets back to that social circle and the people involved. But there are problems. The “secret” may or may not be true. More important, it was only shared with one person. You. You failed because you were indiscreet.

How to pass. When told the secret, you might say: “Thanks for letting me know” or “That’s interesting.” You file it away, not mentioning it to anyone, ever.

2. Drinking to Excess

You attend charity events. You are invited to people’s homes. The liquor is top shelf. It’s free.

Scenario: You are in a group, probably all the same sex. They are drinking. You are, too. You are drinking faster. No one makes any negative comments. They might even encourage you: “I see your glass is empty.”

How to fail. You get drunk. You slur your words. You stumble. It’s clear you can’t hold your liquor. You failed for a slightly different reason. By drinking too much, you showed poor judgment. This might also carry over into your professional life.

How to pass. Know your limits. Alternate water and wine. Say: “That’s it for me. I’m switching to coffee. I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.”

3. The Critical Comment

People can be surprisingly catty and insulting about close relations.

Scenario: In another social situation your newfound friend mentions a character flaw about their sister. Perhaps she drinks too much. They tell funny stories.

How to fail. You think this is hilarious. You also feel you’ve been let into the inner sanctum. Family secrets are being shared with you. In a future conversation with them, possibly with others present, you simply repeat the sister is a lush. Silence follows. The friend who told you this is offended. You have disrespected their sister. Family closes ranks. She may be a lush, but she’s our lush.

How to pass. Either say nothing or reply you didn’t know that. Every time you’ve seen the sister, she’s always behaved with decorum.

4. The Freeloader

These people might be rich, but they don’t freely part with money. When out at dinner, they pay their own share.

Scenario: You are out to dinner, 1:1. The bill comes. The other person says: “I’ll get it.” You don’t put up a fuss or say “I’ll get it next time.”

How to fail: Not insisting you pay your own way. Not bringing enough cash to pay for yourself. Saying “It’s my turn next time” and either forgetting or not inviting them out, so there is a next time. It appears you are out for what you can get from them. Not a good look when you want to manager their money for a fee.

How to pass. Insisting on paying. Arriving at dinner with a selection of bills in different sizes, so you can throw your money into the center of the table. Insisting on covering the tip, if you are accepting their generosity.

5. The Unfulfilled Promise

You say you are going to do something, but don’t follow through.

Scenario: Over drinks, the subject turns to wine. You found a great deal. (Rich people love great deals.) You say you will call tomorrow morning and set up a time over the weekend to go wine shopping.

How to fail: You completely forget. You don’t call Saturday. Not on Sunday, either. They call you on Monday or bring it up the next time they see you. They really wanted to go, so they held the time open. You promise to never do that again, but it’s too late. Your follow-up is poor.

How to pass. Write down what you promised to do. Call or text when you said you would. Use another channel like email as a backup in case you don’t reach them.

6. Exaggeration

You want to fit in, so you inflate your accomplishments just a little bit.

Scenario: You are talking about something connected to luxury. It might be hotels, vacations or wine.

How to fail: They bring up a famous hotel on a Caribbean island. You’ve never been there, but say you and your spouse stayed there last Christmas. OK, so it’s a little white lie. They don’t say anything, however they were aware the hotel has been closed ever since the hurricane. You couldn’t have stayed there. They conclude you are willing to lie or stretch the truth. Will you do the same think when talking about portfolio performance?

How to pass: You’ve always wanted to stay at that hotel. You are suitably impressed. You stayed at another hotel, which you describe in terms that show you are familiar with the geography. You get them talking about the hotel and why they like it.

These might seem like trick questions. The purpose is to determine if you are straightforward and believable, someone who can be trusted.

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