Most professionals—wealth managers, attorneys, accountants, bankers, insurance agents—get all excited over “possibilities,” particularly when it comes to prospective clients. Unfortunately, most of this excitement is the product of fantasy. Let’s look at a few typical scenarios:

• A wealth manager has a very good first meeting with an accountant, followed by another good one and a third. He’s feeling pretty excited about the possibility of getting some high-quality introductions. While the wealth manager might end up with a referral or two, the number of high-caliber clients he gets through the contact will fail to meet his expectations.

• An accountant has mapped out her network of “friends” and the very wealthy individuals whom they know. In her mind, all she has to do is approach her friends to get the appropriate introductions. While the connections are solid, she will probably not be able to motivate her friends to connect her with affluent prospects.

• A commercial banker, an attorney and an investment manager have agreed to share their high-net-worth clients with each other. When an affluent client needs the services of one of the other professionals, the understanding is that the other professional and only that other professional will be recommended. Each thinks this is going to solve all his prospecting difficulties. Each is most likely wrong.

There’s a huge difference between possibility—the potential opportunities that exist—and probability—the real opportunities that exist. In each of these scenarios, the professionals expecting new business failed to accurately assess the situation and incentivize their contacts to take action:

• The wealth manager needs to learn about the accountant’s business and identify ways the accountant will benefit from making a referral. Very importantly, doing a good job for the wealthy client is a given, not an incentive.

• The accountant has to know more than who knows whom. She has to have a well-conceived and implementable approach to encouraging her friends to make the introductions to the wealthy individuals she’s interested in.

• The three professionals need to have an orchestrated approach to working together and actively identifying opportunities for each other. Waiting for affluent clients to raise their hands and ask for certain services or products will produce some business, but not very much.

In researching the private wealth industry, it’s clear that possibilities are rampant. But there is a misunderstanding of what it takes to effectively network, resulting in lots of ineffectual contacts. Part of it is psychological: In order to stay motivated, some professionals will grasp at straws. Whatever the reasons, it’s evident that the majority of professionals are immersed in possibilities.

For significant success, professionals need to convert possibilities into probabilities. They have to stop the wishful thinking and approach these types of situations systematically and strategically. Doing so, from the perspective of business development, will turn a maybe into a highly likely.