Everyone knows your natural market consists of people who already know you. This includes friends. Friendships do not come in only one flavor. We each know people on different levels. Someone you talk with while commuting to work is different from another person with whom you served in the military who is then different from someone who worked alongside you at your former firm. You need different approaches tailored for each situation.

Seven Stages Of Friendship
Let us assume there are seven different levels or tiers of friendship. You need a different approach for each one. Here is a list:

1. Strangers
2. Acquaintances
3. People sharing similar interests
4. The newer friendship
5. Trust
6. The friend with an issue
7. The close friend working with a competitor

Seven Approaches For Seven Stages Of Friendship
We need seven distinct approaches that are each comfortable for both parties:

1. Strangers. You are meeting for the first time. This might have been through an introduction, or you are attending an event and started up a conversation.
Approach: They ask what you do. You mention you are a financial advisor, perhaps adding they probably work with one now. The three possible answers are yes, no or they say nothing. If they say nothing, they may be suspicious and will not engage. Change the subject. If they say no, they don’t have an advisor, there is likely a story there. Draw them out. They might invest on their own. You can ask how they are doing, while being complimentary. If they say yes, they have an advisor, draw them out about the quality of the relationship.
Outcome: They know what you do. You were not pushy.

2. Acquaintances. You are both parents with young children You see each other at school-related events. You share the same concerns as everyone raising a young family.
Approach: Identify a shared common issue. A universal goal of parents worldwide is to give their children the best life possible. Education is an accepted route towards this goal. You mention that is a big concern for you and your spouse. You have wondered how you will pay for college, because children grow up so fast. Fortunately, you learned about college savings plans, liked what you heard and set them up. You ask what they are doing to plan for their child’s education.
Outcome: They have either addressed the situation through a similar solution or this problem is still on the horizon and college savings plans are a new concept for them.

3. People sharing similar interests. You work out at the gym every day at 6 a.m. They do too. You are part of the regular crowd and exchange a few works every time you see each other.
Approach: The gym is filled with people fitting this description. Do they know who you are, what you do and why you are good? Do some tasteful advertising by wearing gym clothing with the firm’s logo discretely displayed. On other days, maybe it’s a logoed gym bag. If you read while doing cardio, bring the paper edition of the WSJ. Circle stories with a red pen. You want to know who they are, where they work and what they do. Pay attention to their gym wear. Ask questions when resting between sets.
Outcome: People pay attention. They realize “You work on Wall Street.” They will have questions. It is comfortable to approach you.

4. The newer friendship. You are beyond the acquaintance stage. Perhaps you go out for drinks or meals together. You have assumptions about what each other does.
Approach: On one of your times together, take steps to increase their understanding. Start by learning more about what they do. Mention your assumptions, but you have often wondered, what do they do at work? Listen attentively. They will likely return the favor. If they don’t, you might remind them how long you have known each other and where you work. “When you tell your friends about me, what do you say that I do?” They won’t admit they have never talked about you in a professional capacity, so they give a one-word answer. You might say: “That’s part of what I do…” You give a brief overview, highlighting benefits to someone like them.
Outcome: They now know what you dop and how you help people like them in practical terms.

5. Trust. You know which of your friends has earned your trust. These are often people you have known for a long time. The risk to friendship however in the background. If you asked for business, you are concerned they might be offended, and things would not be the same after that.
Approach: Utilize a third-party approach. They know where you work and what you do. You never brought up business before because you assume they work with someone already. You may know some people who aren’t as lucky as you (having a good advisor). You thought you would spend a few minutes talking about “what I do.” Then, if you came across someone with a problem, you would know how you may be able to help them.
Outcome: Although the “what I do” explanation is relevant to them, you posited it in a third-party way, helping someone else. That should be a comfortable conversation.

6. The friend with an issue. You know them well enough to recognize something is bothering them. They do not know where to look for a solution. You are not on their radar screen.
Approach: I realize something has been bothering you. (Spell out the need.) I have thought long and hard and think I might have a solution to your problem. Stop talking. They might embrace your concern or let you know this is outside the bounds of friendship. If they are accepting, you can continue. As an outsider, I can view the situation as a third party, looking at several possible solutions. Position the firm’s resources as the solution. I have helped other people in similar circumstances because we have a guy at the firm who is a specialist in this area. I can setup an appointment for you if you like. I am willing to attend that meeting with you if it will make you more comfortable.
Outcome: They have a problem. They had zero solutions. Now they have one. Even if they don’t act immediately, the problem persists until they take action. You represent one solution.

7. The close friend working with a competitor. You brought up business once. They explained they work with another firm. From the terms they use, you realize it’s a managed money program.
Approach: Treat them with the respect and professionalism you would bring to the table if you were prospecting a foundation to provide money management services. Mention you know they work with a competitor. You offer a similar program. You are competitively priced and have good performance figures. Ask two professional questions: When do you review the relationship you have with the money managers at (firm)? Are you open to presentations about outside money managers at that time?
Outcome: You have asked to meet with them before their next portfolio review. You are now on the radar.

Different stages of friendship require different approaches. Build a list of all the people you know. Assign them each to one of seven levels. Systematically approach each one for business. Everyone should have the opportunity to say no. Do not make the decision for them.

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.