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The Inner Game: Overcoming the Fear Factor

How to break through the jitters that hamper up-market prospecting efforts.

Of all the questions relating to high-net-worth (HNW) prospecting that I typically ask during my workshops, one in particular gets to the heart of the matter:

If you focused all your prospecting efforts toward attracting new HNW clients, and you did something toward that end every working day, would you be able to develop 15 new HNW clients over the next twelve months?

When I look around the room after posing this question, I usually see many nodding heads. But then comes the reality check: How many of those positive thinkers are actually bringing in new HNW clients at anything approaching that rate? Very few, unfortunately.

At the risk of stating the obvious, when people want something and know how to achieve it, but then decline to do it, something is dreadfully wrong. Most financial advisors want to take their prospecting efforts up-market, but they are constrained by something. That “something” in too many cases is social self-consciousness.

George Dudley and Shannon Goodson, authors of The Psychology of Call Reluctance: Earning What You're Worth (Behavioral Science Research, $18.95), define professional social self-consciousness as “salespeople who shun prospects of wealth, prestige, power, education or social standing.” Often, the problem does not surface until a salesperson shifts his emphasis to up-market clients. For whatever reason, when the stakes rise, many otherwise excellent salespeople shrink from the challenge.

The good news, according to Dudley and Goodson, is that when this form of call reluctance is detected early, and the proper remedy provided, it is relatively easy to correct.

Here are some clues that suggest social self-consciousness:

  • You set HNW prospecting goals, but fail to follow through.

  • You exaggerate the prestige and fame of HNW individuals, both in your thoughts and verbally to others.

  • You tell others, “I'm not really interested in that segment of the market.”

  • You become tongue-tied in the presence of HNW people.

  • You sometimes try to intimidate people at lower levels in your organization as a way of compensating for your own insecure feelings when around people of wealth.

To overcome these emotional boundaries, start by admitting that social self-consciousness might be holding you back. Then, work through the following steps:


Develop your list of ideal HNW prospects. Begin with people linked to your 25 top clients, then go to your centers-of-influence and, finally, scour the local media for things like promotions and money in motion.

Determine your value “hook”

Play up your strong suit — if you believe you can save clients money on taxes (or whatever), sound that theme in your presentations.

Mental Rehearsal

Before each face-to-face encounter, visualize the results you want. Whether you will be on the golf course, at a committee meeting or bumping into a HNW prospect (through a carefully orchestrated “coincidental” meeting at your local Starbucks), play out the meeting in your mind. That can have a beneficial impact on the course of the meeting.


Despite your preparation and visualization, your apprehension won't totally disappear. The idea is to control it, to keep you from melting down in front of your prospect. To block out negative thoughts, take a deep breath, exhale slowly and let the anxiety flush out of your system with your breath. Then repeat a positive affirmation such as, “I'm relaxed and confident with HNW prospects.”

This simple technique works because it realigns our thoughts. Remember: Most of our negative feelings and anxieties are caused by how we view situations and are not necessarily warranted by the situations themselves.

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

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