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The Inner Game: Overcoming Arichnophobia

How to talk to prospective high-net-worth clients.

A recent conference call with a successful wealth management team wound its way to a familiar question: “How do I get face-to-face with high-net-worth prospects?”

Jack, the senior partner on the call, said, “In the old days, I had no trouble cold-calling. I was fearless — dialing for dollars hour upon hour, day after day.” But he quickly added, “I know that won't work with these people, and I'm not sure what will.”

Jack was hinting at an issue that an increasing number of financial professionals are finally admitting stumps them — whether they are new or very experienced doesn't seem to matter. I refer to this condition as HNW face-to-face-reluctance.

As Jack noted, cold calling was relatively easy to master; just familiarize yourself with a handful of important products and start dialing. Face-to-face HNW prospecting is the opposite, requiring a broad knowledge base and the ability to easily demonstrate value extemporaneously. In short, you need to exude confidence, and your sales instincts need to be closely tied to that confidence.

Although Jack was a successful stockbroker who had recast his business as a “wealth management team,” he suffered from what Dudley and Goodson, authors of The Psychology of Call Reluctance, describe as “social self-consciousness.” The product of a blue-collar background, he was self-conscious around people with power, education and wealth. This left him totally unprepared to target HNW investors. If you have resisted becoming active in HNW prospecting on a regular basis, there is a high probability you are wrestling with your own version of face-to-face reluctance.

Here are three practical steps that have yielded tremendous results in conquering fears of the rich and powerful:


Develop your list of ideal HNW prospects. Begin with people linked to your 25 top clients, then peruse the local media for money in motion: news of promotions, etc.

Also, determine your “value hook.” The secret is to link a specific area of expertise to an area where you can add value for the potential client, whether that is saving him taxes, rebalancing his portfolio or reviewing mutual fund and annuity statements.

Mental Rehearsal

Before each face-to-face meeting, visualize your desired results. Whether you meet the prospect in a prearranged meeting or bump into him “coincidentally” at Starbucks, rehearsing the meeting and visualizing a positive outcome will lend you confidence.


Regardless of your preparation, your apprehension is unlikely to disappear completely, but such feelings shouldn't impede you. There are three techniques that can relax you and give you a better chance at performing well. The first of these I call Mental Signal. If you feel fear or anxiety, visualize a candle flame, take a deep breath, exhale slowly. It sounds silly, but many people feel the anxiety dissipate with the exhaled air. The second technique is the Rubber Band Snap. Place a rubber band around your wrist and when negative feelings invade your mind, snap the rubber band on the back of your hand. With luck, the smarting will bring you back to the right frame of mind. The last technique is Positive Affirmation. This is a simple swap meet: if you catch yourself having a negative thought, replace it with a positive one.

Simple as they sound, these have produced remarkable results in those who are committed to improving their confidence. If you need evidence, look no further than our friend Jack. He might not be ready to admit to HNW face-to-face reluctance, or even to make HNW prospecting a daily activity. But he has begun to use these steps, and has landed two new HNW clients.

Writer's BIO:
Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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