Even the famous can be unknowns. Years ago, when I was in production, I had a client who grew up with Pavarotti. They remained friends. Being Italian, it was natural a group of them would holiday in Italy. One day, they were passing and signing postcards they had addressed earlier. When they came to mine, Pavarotti looked at my name and said, “Who is this person?” My client remarked: “Not only don’t you know him, but he has no idea who you are either!” I learned this story after the postcard arrived in our mail at home! There are times when you want to get in front of people who don’t know you.

All advisors have learned the lesson, the vaguer the request for a referral, the less likely your client will come up with a name. “Do you know anyone I can help?” is a good example. The more specific the request, the better.

Let us assume you have researched names within the wealthiest 3–5% of people in your target market. You built a list. It has 200 names. If you show it to people, they will likely be overwhelmed, return the list, and say: “I don’t know any of these people.”

Strategy #1: The shorter lists. Take that big list and build a lot of shorter lists. Ideally, they have five or 10 names. Just names, no other information. You built these lists with specific criteria. One list might be people who live in their development. Another is people who work at a specific firm. Another might be people who graduated from a certain school. Show them that short list of their neighbors. Ask who they know. The results should be better.

Strategy #2: Why do you want to know? Your friends know you are on the lookout for new clients. They do not want to risk creating an awkward situation for themselves. They connect you with someone and that person calls them back: “Why did you send that salesman after me?” Ouch! A better response can be, “This is the type of person I would like to get to know” or “The type of person I may be able to help.” Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, but it’s a softer way of making the request.

Strategy #3: Meet together. Suppose they are friends with this other person. They meet for drinks on Friday afternoons. They bring their child to the same school football game every Saturday. Your child goes there too. Ask your friend if they would introduce you, if you appear at the right place and time.

Strategy #4: Find me complainers. The above strategy might make sense, but you don’t see a possible connection. They know the woman, but don’t go out for drinks on Fridays. They have a child on the school football team, you do not have children. The chances of being in the same place at the same time are zero. How about asking your client: “Who do you know that uses managed money and is dissatisfied with the relationship? I would be interested in talking with them.” The strategy could also work if you substituted “financial advisor.” Now you have them on the lookout for complainers. If their friend says: “My advisor never calls” it is easy for them to say, “Why don’t you call my advisor (name at firm). I think he would return your call.” The beauty of this idea is if the friend complains again, your client can ask: “Have you called (name) yet?”

Strategy #5: Who else has this problem? This idea has been around forever. Your client had a problem. Their aunt has suffered the loss of her husband and has been left money. They have no interest in investing. They don’t want to be rolling over CDs either. They simply want a “monthly paycheck” forever. You tell them about annuities. They think their aunt would like the idea! You can ask who else is in the same position?

Strategy #6: Who else would be interested in learning? This is another old idea that has survived the test of time. Your client prefers earning interest versus investing in the stock market. Taxable interest might get them into a higher tax bracket. What can they do? You tell them about municipal bonds. They have learned something new. Who else is in the same position and wants to learn?

You want to get in front of the right people. These are a few ideas that can help you put the request into words.

Bryce 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 is available on Amazon.