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Free Lunch Prospecting West Coast Style

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Sep 18, 2006 2:38 am

There's a Japanese/sushi place I frequent from time to time which is several blocks from a major hospital and numerous physicians offices (my internal med doc and dentist have offices maybe 3 and 6 blocks away respectively). There's also a large office complex which houses the marketing unit of a NasDaq 100 firm and quite a few law firms.

I and my weekend boyfriend friend happened to go there today for lunch and noticed a fishbowl near the register with a sign on it:

"Drop your business card in here, win a free lunch" or something like that. Taped to the fishbowl were 2 business cards of local Ameriprise brokers.

I happen to know the owner of this place (3rd generation Japanese American) and asked her what the deal is. She said one of the brokers is a friend of her husband's (he's an attorney) and they get leads from those business cards. Apparently they go thru them once a week and cold call the ones they think will make good prospects then invite them and sometimes their colleagues to lunch and pitch them.

I have read a few comments over here about brokers whose production is a little stalled and who are bored. This approach of generating lead leads/clients seems pretty realistic. I seriously doubt anyone is going to put his or her card in the bowl and not expect a sales pitch along with the free sushi.

Anyone ever try this approach?

FD: I am not a broker.

Sep 18, 2006 2:58 pm

Yes, those fishbowls are a nationwide thing.

The brokers that I’ve recruited out of Ameriprise tell me that they rarely get enough business out of those lunches to pay for the lunch.

People who want a free lunch go to free lunch seminars.  People who want a broker go to a regular seminar.

I’ve actually gotten a couple of candidates by dropping my own card in those bowls.  But it seems that most of the better Ameriprise recruits only do that because their BOM forces them to.

Sep 18, 2006 3:33 pm

Jeff, it's the first time I ever saw a broker doing that. I have seen fishbowls in restaurants and other public places saying, "win free siding, or carpet cleaning, gutter cleaning...." and then someone cold calls pitching their services.

I didn't realize it was an Ameriprise nationwide prospecting gimmick.

I did not place my biz card in the bowl as I didn't wish to waste those brokers' time or my own.

My friend, the gal who owns the sushi place says she doesn't mind the extra biz (especially during the week).

Sep 18, 2006 8:02 pm

I see those ‘fishbowls’ everywhere as well.  I still find it hard to believe in a growth model that’s based on luck, or hope.  I tend to put myself in the shoes of my potential client (maybe my downfall) and figure out if I would bite at that bait (fishbowl reference) - and I wouldn’t.  Ameriprise is on the hunt for growth, they’re recruiting anyone and everyone from producer to home office overhead.  However, they are stuck in the 70’s with their mindset of hit and run production.  For laughs - go to

Sep 18, 2006 9:20 pm

I've known of brokers who put fishbowls in places where people are passing by that offer to give away a prize--say a $100 television or something like that.

People are suckers for free things.

They get lots of business cards, never give the item away, and cold call the cards.

I know, I know--it's not honest to say you'll give away a TV and not give it away.

Your challenge is to prove it.

Sep 18, 2006 9:29 pm

I think these 2 Ameriprise guys actually do take their prospects to lunch (per the owner of the sushi place). Next time I go I will ask her how often. I may cold call those brokers to see if it's been worth their while just for the hell of it.

Sep 19, 2006 8:33 pm

Oh Gosh, brings back memories.

A so called "buddy" of mine would put my biz card in those jars and the calls would flow in ....

Oct 18, 2008 8:38 pm

These fishbowl things don’t work for a couple of reasons:

  1- the kind of restaurant that yu'd expect to see affluent people dining in won't allow it -- it's really very tacky --  even though it could generate future lunch trade for them.   2- most of the respondents are real estate brokers (no money, too much time), or lawn care professionals ("hey Jose -- look a free lunch!").   3- The way they're suppoosed to work is the target brings 8 - 12 fellow employees withthem. You get their names, contact info, try to sell em VA's ("you don't want to pay taxes in retirement do you?"). Nobody ever has any money outside their grossly underfunded 401k's either.