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10 Steps to Turn Your Neighbors into Potential Clients

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Jul 30th 2015
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If everyone pays taxes, it stands to reason every individual is a potential client. If you live in a wealthy neighborhood, the people up and down the street are probably prosperous. Why aren't they clients? Why haven't they asked for your help?

The following are 10 steps on how you can turn your neighbors into potential clients.

1. Draw a map of your street and the adjacent intersections. Write down who lives in each house. Don't be surprised if half the spaces are blank. If your children attend the same school or you share the same commuter train, you probably know a lot about them. But if your circles don't intersect, they might as well live in another city.

Action step: Property tax records should identify the owners of each home. Add this to your chart.

2. Learn about them. Your major interests are: who they are, where they work, and what they do. If you know them, it's likely you also know their children. It might be a three-generation household.

Action step: LinkedIn is an ideal tool for doing this kind of research. As a bonus, you also learn who knows whom within your network – another data-gathering opportunity.

3.Meet them. Catch your spouse on a good day and suggest a barbecue to meet the neighbors. Explain your plan to raise your professional visibility. Mention that you've lived here for years and never met the folks in the white colonial. What about those new neighbors across the street? Offer to do the shopping and the cooking.

Action step: Invite the neighbors – and give them two-plus-weeks' notice – for a Sunday or holiday cookout. Wear something tasteful with a company logo, like a ball cap or polo shirt – but not both. Walk around and meet everyone.

4. Connect names and faces. You've learned a little about what they do, which you wrote down after the guests left when it was fresh in your mind. Now, focus on cultivating people individually.

Action step: Over the next several months, you will come across your neighbors on the commuter train, the supermarket, or at school events parents attend. Start off with a nodding relationship and chat briefly about safe topics.

5. Keep the conversation positive. Wait until the opportunity presents itself, like walking into the clubhouse after playing golf or standing on the platform after you've both missed the train. Ask about what they do. Prime the conversation with assumptions you've made or news you've heard. Keep it positive. (Avoid: “I've heard you were just indicted. Is that true?”) They will get comfortable with you.

Action step: LinkedIn has given you certain facts already. Draw them out without volunteering information. Listen and take a sincere interest.

6. Introduce what you do without sounding like a salesman. Assume they have a certain amount of information. “Since we all know each other, I assume you already know I'm a CPA. I work at (X firm). Some of my clients are expats, but most are local executives who are too busy to do their own taxes.” Be brief and change the subject afterward, so you aren't dwelling on business.

Action step: Have this simple conversation over and over with different people. Make notes as soon as possible afterward.

7. Continue to socialize with your neighbors – but not all at once. During dinner parties or at chance encounters, they will ask: “How's business treating you?”

Action step: Be positive, and be truthful. Mention that you've added new clients so they know you are still growing your practice. Mention continuing education classes you've attended because of changes in tax law. Share the occasional anonymous success story of how you saved a client from making a big mistake.

8. They now know what you do. They know you make people's lives better by removing burdens from their shoulders and reducing their stress. They are in a position to suggest your name if someone needs an accountant.

Action step: Drip market over time. They know enough salespeople and fundraisers asking them for charitable contributions. That's not you.

9. State the obvious. You know they must work with someone already. Are they satisfied?

Action step: Say: “Successful people in your position usually have someone who handles their taxes. What do you like best about your person? Would you recommend them?” If no, ask: “Why do you stay with them?” If yes, ask: “Are there any areas where you feel there's room for improvement?”

10. Establish yourself as the alternative. They've known what you do for months now and have already decided if they would do business with you.

Action plan: Say: “I can see you are in good hands. If anything ever changes, give me a call. You know where to find me.”

Many people prefer doing business with people they know. It's been said that people like to buy, but can't stand being sold. You have utilized the soft sell to get on their radar screen.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on Amazon.com.

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