When you genuinely listen with empathy to these people, you'll be able to take meaningful next steps, perhaps setting up a telephone conversation or a meeting in your office. You could also send them relevant gifts, such as a book or an article or something else that might help them with their problems.

How do you remember what they said? To do that, you must tease out the most compelling and emotionally charged words that they use and repeat them. You might also try to explain how your process will help them achieve the goals they have (after jotting down a few notes to refresh your memory). If the family's goals are to have more interesting experiences in life-to "see the Grand Canyon" perhaps or "get more involved with programs to help at-risk youth," repeat these phrases back to them while explaining how your process will help them achieve these goals. The next step is likely a telephone appointment or a meeting, preferably with both spouses and all their financial documents.

The secret to making this work is to use these meaningful conversations as a substitute for superficial chitchat about sports, hobbies, the weather, politics and other topics that frequently dominate people's interactions. Where do you have these conversations? The short answer is: everywhere you meet people.

What do you say when they ask what you do? This may not work exactly for you, and you may have to adjust it accordingly, but this is what we teach the advisors we coach: "I help people make smart choices about their money so they achieve their goals and fulfill their values. We do this by helping them get their entire financial house in order and keep it that way forever."

Whatever questions you get asked, answer them succinctly and directly, and then immediately follow that up with your own questions. The objective is to keep them talking.

What are some good questions you might have for them?

What's important about money to you?
What are your aspirations for the future?
Who do you care about?
How does money affect these relationships?
What's changed for you as a result of the recent economic events?
What are you doing to cope with this change?
How would you like your financial advisor to help you?
And if you meet a stranger, try this: "I'm a financial advisor. Is there anything on your mind you'd like to talk to me about?"

Keep this list of questions on 3x5 note cards in your pocket and refer to them often.

These conversations are all part of what I call a "self-referral," my term for the process of referring yourself to people you already know and new people you meet in the course of your everyday life.

Norman Levine, my co-author on the book High-Trust Leadership, was brilliant at this. He called his self-referral process the non-interview. He described it to me this way, "I meet new people, strike up a conversation, and sometimes nothing comes of it. Sometimes I make a new friend. Sometimes I get a new client." Nothing bad ever happened to Norman by striking up conversations with strangers, but lots of good things occurred in his 50-plus years in our business.