I made a mistake earlier in my career that I have tried to never make again since. It’s easy to lump people into a general category when you work with a targeted market. However, that must never cause you to become complacent in learning about and understanding who your prospect really is – on a personal level.
I once received a referral for a prospect in another state. Let’s call him Sam Jones. His firm had been acquired by another, and a few of the executives on the acquiring firm’s board were my clients. They had recommended my services to the board members at the acquired firm. I followed up the referral, and Sam asked to meet in person at his house. This was during the time in my career when I was still specializing in helping executives deal with their restricted stock and options needs, and the merging of the two firms had brought some of these issues to the forefront.
So, I scheduled a meeting, booked a flight, and didn’t think much more about it. After I arrived in town, I rented a car at the airport and pulled out a map to route myself. What I came to realize was a major thoroughfare in this city was named after my prospective client. It turns out he was a well-known businessman, philanthropist, and supporter of the local university, where the business college was named for him. This was no mere corporate executive. This was a very wealthy man who was willing to talk to me about managing some of his assets. I was totally unprepared.
I got myself to the meeting and was met by a surprisingly young man. I decided to just be straight with him, “Sam, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were this much of a big deal.” He laughed at the comment and I got lucky and turned it into an advantage because I was able to ask him about himself. I particularly asked him to tell me about his philanthropic endeavors and what it meant to him to be able to give back. We had a great conversation and then got down to business.
He appreciated my interest in his life and his passions—not just his money—and gave me some of his assets to manage. That account eventually grew over time. After he passed, his son took over, and I still do business with the next generation.
Things could have gone very differently, however. I was unprepared for the prospect I was meeting. In today’s technological age, it is easy to find information on anybody. Before a meeting, do as much research as you can on the people who will be present. The prospect/client will be impressed that you did your homework and will appreciate your thoroughness. Attention to detail in this business will set you apart.
When it comes to winning new business, do your homework – it’s a sign of respect. Put in the effort to understand your prospect the way you would want someone to work and earn your business.