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How Accountants Can Use Golf as the Gateway to Making HNW Connections

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Apr 7th 2015
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Serious business gets done on the golf course. Unfortunately, like natural phenomena, it’s often something we haven’t experienced personally, yet we often know someone who knows another person who has experienced it firsthand. Can golf work for you?

The reality is simple. People prefer to do business with people they like. People prefer to get comfortable with you before approaching you for business. High-net-worth (HNW) people belong to golf clubs. They have needs. As Gary Sinise of CSI: NY fame was fond of saying: “Everything’s connected.”

How to Do It
People are attracted to country clubs because it’s an oasis of calm. You don’t want to be pushy. The trick is to get people talking about themselves, or even better, the quality of their current advisory relationships. To succeed in this arena, lets look to some successful approaches from other fields.

Approach No. 1. One financial advisor uses a technique that easily adapts to the accounting profession. He has a luggage tag with his firm’s name attached to his golf bag. (If you are an independent accountant, your office-supply superstore can easily produce some for you.)

There’s lots of downtime in golf, especially when you are playing in a foursome. At some point, another golfer notices the tag and says: “Oh, you’re with ABC firm. I work with XYZ.” The advisor asks how long they’ve worked together and gets an answer. A little while later, he asks: “What do you like best about your advisor? Would you recommend him?”

Now this casual conversation might go down one of two tracks. The person says:  “No, I wouldn’t recommend them.” The advisor politely looks at him and says: “Why do you stay with them?”

It’s more likely the person will name a couple of positive attributes and confirm: “Yes, I would recommend them.” Now the advisor takes a different approach. “In your opinion, in which areas do you think there is room for improvement?” He listens carefully to his answer because when a person mentions what they are not getting in a relationship, it’s another way of saying “this is what I want … .” He has gained valuable information in a low-key, nonthreatening way and has started the process of discrete cultivation. Substitute “accountant” for “advisor.” Can you see this approach working for you?

Approach No. 2. A Texas professional who was a golf pro in his earlier life has an objective of meeting and getting to know wealthy, successful business owners and their peers. He starts the process by inviting a client to play golf. He asks him to invite a couple of his friends, fellow business owners, or professionals. They form a foursome and play a round.

Next, he suggests they pair off to make it interesting. He and the client will play the two guests. He and the client beat them. (How? Because he is a former golf pro!) A few days later, he calls each of those two guests and suggests the same outing. He and the earlier guest will team up and play their two new guests. This strategy provides a steady supply of connections to new people. He also observes: “You can learn a lot about a person’s honesty and ethics during a round of golf.” He can determine if he would want to work with that person as a client.

Approach No. 3. A bank president relayed a story about an independent insurance agency his bank recently acquired. The founder of the agency was given advice about moving to a new market. “Buy a new Cadillac and join the most exclusive country club.” The fellow balked: “I can’t afford it.” This was countered by: “Find a way. You work in a business of perception. People assume if you drive up to the most exclusive club in a new Cadillac, you must be a successful business insurance broker.”

In good weather he would play golf several times a week, inviting three people to join him, often small- to medium-sized business owners from the Chamber. Here’s his rationale: These folks belong to a club, but not the best one. They only play the best course when someone else takes them.

After the morning’s game, he buys them lunch in the clubhouse. Over lunch he asks: “Can I call next week and set up an appointment? I have some ideas I would like to share. I think I may be able to save you money.” This is often successful because by taking them to an exclusive course and buying them lunch, he has placed them under such an obligation that it’s difficult for them to say no. He now has the opportunity to tell his story.

Three examples. Two are incredibly low-key. The last actually asks for an appointment. If you want to raise your visibility in the HNW community, golf is a good place to start.

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.

Related articles:

8 Ways CPAs Can Raise Their Visibility in a Country Club Environment
Whether It’s Golf or Business, You Need a Coach

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