Should I continue with this $1m prospect?

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Sep 3, 2007 4:29 am

I have an ad in a paper advertising asset management service.  Last week I received a phone call from a prospect, who asked me to meet her at a coffee shop near her house.


I met her on Friday 10 am at starbucks.  She's an 60 year old lady.  Once in the coffee shop, naturally I bought coffee for both of us.  This woman ordered the biggest cup of some exotic coffee drink, asked for hot water and other stuff, needing a tray to carry all her stuff.


Once we sat down, she pulled out a Fidelity statement.  On it she had highlighted the balance number, and ask me to read the number to her, which is $1.2 mil.  I guess she was trying to make sure I get it that it is a $1million+ acct.


She started talking about herself, telling me how many investments her family has, and that she had never worked a day in her life, and that she married well and raised 3 good children who are doctors and lawyer, etc.


In between talking about herself we briefly touched about investments but she was very unfocused.


Suddenly she said she forgot some document at her doctors office and asked if I can drive her there.  I did.


Then when we got out of the doctor's office, she said if you still have time now we can talk about investments; let's find a place.  I said OK and she suggested going to Pasta Pamadoro for some "salad".


Once there, she went into a ordering spree again.  She ordered soup, then Salmon salad with an extra piece of salmon, separate plate of spinach, two glasses of red wine.  She barely could eat half the food and asked for boxes to take food home. 


We were not done yet, she needed dissert and coffee.  The bill came out to be $70, with my portion costing just $13.  This is not an outrageous amount when it comes to wining and dining in our industry, but she was so obviously abusing the courtesy and shamelessly doing so too.


Again, in between talking about herself we talked about investments here and there, but she's still very unfocused.


Before we parted she asked me to meet her again on Wednesday, and tell her what I allocation I would suggest for a $1 mil portfolio that will generate 8%-10% annual return.  "Oh, by the way" she said, "I need to go to the bank first on Wednesday".


----------------------


Do you think this is a serious lead?  She is obviously abusing my time and my T&E budget, no question there.  I just can't determine whether she is genuinely considering my service, or has no such intention at all.


I do have some clients who from time to time treat me like their chauffeur and expect me to treat them to lunch, but they feel comfortable about it since they have given me business.


I have never met a PROSPECT who are so bold.  But on the flip side, maybe that boldness indicates she's serious.... I don't know. 


What do you think?


Sep 3, 2007 5:54 am

That statement is probably fake, and she has obvious problems that will preclude a good working relationship.



She is behaving like someone who wants to abuse your T&E budget,
not like somone who needs financial advice. Do you know people with
serious money who act like she does?



Usually doing 1on1 meetings screens out the platelickers, since most
people don't have the balls (ovaries) to invite a personal meeting
unless they are serious. You got a chance to meet one of the few people
who will do it.


I would not have driven her to the doctors office, that's her
problem and its not for you to get involved. Very obvious red flag,
among other signs (including the display of the statement, obviously
intended to push your buttons.) .




Sep 3, 2007 8:36 am

I think you know very well the answer to your own question, you just are hoping it isn't so.  Hope, as we know, is no plan.

Tell her your next meeting is IN YOUR OFFICE, or no where.  Remind her you help people manage their money, and you only have initial 'get to know you' meetings (like your first one) outside your office.  And you certainly do not provide free portfolio recommendations to anyone who asks for them.

In other words, lay down the law of how you work and how things will be if she wants to work with you.  Then follow through, either way.  Either you will have a decent client who knows and is willing to respect your professionalism, or you will avoid wasting more time and money on someone who would not be a worthwhile client ANYWAY - even IF she has a million plus in her portfolio.  Not every prospect with a million dollars is a client you want - or should want.

And finally, once the issue with this particular prospect is resolved, resolve in your own mind what your process is and who you are willing to work with.

You're NOT a prostitute who will do anything for money, and you do not give away your expertise, so be clear up front with prospects and clients alike EXACTLY what you willing to do.  Then stick to that, no matter how attractive a prospect.

That will both preserve your sanity AND improve your business.  People want to do business with successful, confident advisers who are not desperate.  Then watch how this change in your attitutude improves how prospects respond to you.


Sep 3, 2007 9:31 am

I agree with the above responses. However, I wouldn't count her out

yet...if you can make the subtle change to tell her you need to get down

to business, you may be able to make it work. Just give her an allocation

(if she meets w/you in your office or some place where you stay in one

place) with no specifics...ex: 10% small growth (but not the fund/ETF

you'll use). If this craziness of driving her around and buying multiple

meals occurred once a year or less, it may be worth the annoyance. For

the FA that already has a $100mil book, maybe not, but for those of us

still working towards that....just have to decide at some point if it is worth

the time and trouble.



But it is very true that you will be treated how you act and allow people to

treat you. Make sure any future meetings have an agenda that you both

understand will be followed. After a second meeting, I DO think you'll be

able to tell her "this is how I do things, and I'd love to work with you if

______, _____, and ______."



By the way, I don't think it is that bad that she didn't talk about

investments, only herself...that means she wants YOU or someone else to

manage the $, and hopefully she'll think you gave a damn about her.

Sep 3, 2007 10:30 am

the other problem, if this account is not an ira is capital gains. if you start selling off funds she may have owned for 20 years, that would not be good. maybe she could do a wrap account???

Sep 3, 2007 10:35 am

I also thought about the possibility that she has fake statement.  But is it possible someone would do that just to scam meals??!!  I can't imagine someone has the balls to do that....


But I do have a hunch she set the 2nd meeting to coincide with her need to go to the bank.  In San Francisco some people don't have a car and parking is a bitch.  We'll see.


I'm inclined to give it one more chance, but with a plan to cut things off.  Here is my plan:


9:30 am on Wednesday am I meet her.  She asks me to drive her to the bank.  Fine, my morning is shot anyway.


10:30 am she's done with the bank, we find a starbucks to sit down; she wants the biggest latte and whatever.  Fine, How much can she spend in Starbucks, right? 


Then I present the allocation she's asking for and see how she responds.  If she continues to dance around, drag things out, and suggests we go to lunch, that will be when I cut things off.


Does that sound like an adequate plan?


-----------------------


A separate question I have been thinking about...... If I am to cut things off at that point, what attitude should I do it with?


Should I still be as polite as possible and do it with respect? "Ms. xyz, I have to get back to office by.... and cannot do lunch.  If you want to continue this discussion you'll have to go to my office."


Should I be stern and just leave the door slightly ajar? "Ms. xyz, I'm getting the feeling that I won't be the right financial advisor for you.  I'm a professional money manager, I can't drive people around all day long.  If that's really what you are looking for, come down to my office where we can focus on money management."


Or should I tell her I know what she's up to and I don't want her as a client?


Sep 3, 2007 11:31 am

bluestar,
 Are you a very new broker who is taking any client he can get? This is the question. Even if the answer is in the affirmative, remember that YOU choose with whom you do business. My experience tells me that poorly behaved clients only get more so. This woman's priority with you is NOT to tend to her investments.  Even if you succeed in moving all $1.2mm into new investments and score a windfall ticket(s) is it going to be worth this woman insisting on meeting you for breakfast, lunch and dinner to answer every question she has (and imagine her demands once you've gotten paid by her??) That being said, how desperate are you for new clients?????? The ball's in your court. No one here can call this one for you.

Sep 3, 2007 12:00 pm

There's an old joke that details a man asking a young, single woman if she'd sleep with him if he paid her $100.  Appalled, she said NO!  He persisted: how about for $10MM dollars?  She struggled with the idea but finally figured, what the heck - for that much money she'd be nuts to turn down this crazy offer - so she said yes.

The guy then asked, "OK, would you sleep with me for $1,000?" to which she replied, "hell no, what do you think I am?"

His response: "Since you were willing to sleep with me for money we know WHAT you are, the only thing we don't know is what your PRICE is."

Really, bluestar, chauffeur people around and buy them coffee and lunch while giving away asset allocation advice all you want and  tell yourself whatever you want about being an adviser.  But your actions will speak louder than words.  In the end she'll know exactly what you are and all that will be left to be determined is what your price is.

Re-read what I said earlier.  I did NOT say don't give her another chance.  I said give her a chance to be a real client and come into the office.  If she won't do that, you're losing NOTHING but your delusions instead of your time, energy, pride and money. 

It's up to you.  Either she'll be trying to determine what you are, or she'll be trying to determine what your price is.

So - what's your price?

Sep 3, 2007 12:08 pm

Since she found you through an advertisement, and not by referral from an existing client, there is an extra chance you are being scammed, even if it is just an innocent personality flaw.


Offer one more professional meeting at the office, only, for one hour, with a follow up meeting, if she wants. Call and reschedule to this arrangement, if needed, saving face by citing pressing work load concerns. If you can shape her behaviour and expectations a little, she might be a worthy client.

Sep 3, 2007 12:20 pm

Deadwood and the others have given you good advice.  This woman is abusing your time and you look cheap and as if you have nothing better to do.  If she was a real prospect the fact that you are willing to be her chauffeur and grovel in front of her doesn't look good.


Stress to her that you are busy and have other client appointments and would be willing to set aside an hour of your time for a review IN YOUR OFFICE.  If she isn't willing to do this, then advise her that this is not how you do business and she should look for another advisor.


Sep 3, 2007 1:38 pm

Would your doctor, lawyer, CPA, etc.. drive you around for your daily errands? Would you feel confident that they were qualified professionals if they did? Come on bluestar, have a little respect for yourself and our profession.


Offer her your time at your office. If she doesn't want to come and visit with you there, she isn't serious. Forget about her and move on. One million dollar accounts are nice; but are really just a small part of whats necessary to get a business up and running. The bay area has plenty of money, you'll find other million dollar accounts that actually want financial advise.

Sep 3, 2007 2:48 pm

I still can't decide whether to believe you ran this woman all over town.  Either your pipeline is not full and you feel the need to woo this prospect OR you are ignorant because you truly feel this is an actual prospect.  Either way, not a good situation for you.  If she won't meet at your office, cross her off your list and move on.

Sep 3, 2007 3:03 pm

Good points. And PWM, the difference is that because this is about money, clients do want a more personal relationship than with some other professionals. So the advisor need not feel unprofessional about having invested some personal time, now it's time to reel in the line and see if the hook will hold and if the fish is a keeper.


Bluestar, in my not so humble opinion, only invest personal time with good clients, through appreciation events and so on, and they will send you a lot of referrals. You have been around, what say you? The one million is probably wacky money, but be nice and see if it jumps into the boat, if you indeed want to let it jump in with you.


Sep 3, 2007 3:48 pm
Quincy Teacher:

Million dollar accounts are not easy to find, in spite of what the collective wisdom of more than 39 months in the business have been saying.


The largest account I had used to routinely call and ask me to do something for him--just to see if I would do it.  He did not think less of me for having been cooperative with him, and I didn't think less of him for pushing buttons.


The question I have is why this woman doesn't have her own car?  If there is a logical reason for not having one then asking somebody who she will be hiring to shuttle her around a bit isn't that big a deal.


This is a sales business and in sales there is a saying worth remembering.  "The customer is always right."


If the customer wants you to stand on your head and whistle Dixie out of your butt you thank them for the opportunity to do something for them and comply.


I'm not saying you should do that for a $10,000 IRA rollover--but this woman is $1,200,000 at Fidelity plus who knows what else.



I can't remember the last time I read such a load of B.S.  With insight like that, I cannot even believe that you are in the business, Quincy Teacher.

All that information, and the question you have is why doesn't she have her own car?!?!  Your brilliance is blinding!

If my clients (I have no customers as you do) were always right, they would not be paying me to advise them, and if I let them do whatever they wanted I would be either a useless whore or a Quincy Teacher.

Go pick up the dry cleaning and get a pack of cigarettes for you 'customer' who routinely has you run errands for him, and leave the serious business to those of us actually IN the business.

Enjoy the errand business.  You've finally found your niche in life.

Sep 3, 2007 4:19 pm

If the customer wants you to stand on your head and whistle Dixie out of your butt you thank them for the opportunity to do something for them and comply.


Who knows if she is whacky or could be a decent client. I have learned to invest a little time and try to learn from situations as well as gather assets. If you do a really good job with everything you touch, enough will stick over the years such that you will be doing only service and collecting the trails and referrals. There will come a day when there will be no chasing. Until then, go with your instincts, think for yourself.

Sep 3, 2007 4:19 pm

The largest account I had used to routinely call and ask me to do something for him--just to see if I would do it.  He did not think less of me for having been cooperative with him, and I didn't think less of him for pushing buttons


Yes, he did think less of you and you should have thought less of him.  This is the worst advice I have ever heard.  I have good clients that I will go the extra mile for.....but I draw the line at being their go-fer and errand boy.  I'm a professional financial advisor not some flunky door man or whipping post.


The other main difference is that this is NOT a client yet or ever.

Sep 3, 2007 4:46 pm

First, thank you for all your input.  Let me answer a few questions here:


1. Yes I did drive her to dr's office (shame on me).  But it was just 20 blocks away and in total a 30 min senic tour.  This request did not bother me because I do have a couple other clients of about same size acct that did this to me.  What's surprising to me is, those are CLIENTS and this woman is a PROSPECT who I met for the first time.


2. Living in SF without a car is not unique, especially for older people, since everything is rather close and parking is such a hassle.


3. I'm not new to business but I can always use an additional $1 m acct any time.  If driving her around once a month can get me this acct, I'd do it myself or send a car service.


I'm not concerned about the monetary and time investment I have to make to acquire this or any other account; I'm more concerned about the sick feeling I'd have if it turns out she is scamming me from the very beginning.


4. I agree even if she becomes a client this has potential to be a continuous headache down the road, but I figure it's too soon to make that assumption.


--------------------------------


One little detail I forgot to mention but that can be important.  At the end of our meeting she asked me to drive her home; I'm also to pick her up at her home for next meeting, so she was not afraid to let me know where she lives.  Does this detail mean anything?

Sep 3, 2007 5:02 pm

Every situation is unique.


Go with your instincts and learn. Be persistant in this career, always do the right thing for the client. Respect yourself.


Let us know what happens, maybe we'll all learn something.

Sep 3, 2007 5:44 pm

Ditto above...great case study in trying to read people.

Sep 3, 2007 6:30 pm

I have several 1m+ accounts where the client is a little quirky. In fact, a high % of quirky clients have 1m+. Not that you want to fill your book with them, it is always about the marketing mix.


In this business, you get a shot at certain opportunites. Not all of them pan out for gold. If you don't recognize each unique opportunity, you may not accrete enough residue to pay the fixed costs and break through to profitability.


Over time, all of this needs to come in through recurring revenues, which is why you need an intelligent marketing mix - small accounts and large, conventional and quirky. At least, this is one forumula for success. There are many paths.