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The 4 Rules for Being Successful with Social Prospecting

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Jan 5th 2015
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You’ve bought into social networking and made a New Year’s resolution to get involved in the community and raise your visibility. The logic is simple: If you hang out with wealthy and successful people, it’s likely they will take a liking to you and business will follow. You are putting yourself in the right place at the right time. But it can be so easy to get social prospecting wrong. Many professionals take a shot at getting involved in the community and quit shortly afterwards. Others step in and try to run the organization. You have to go into it with a plan.

Choosing and Working with the Right Organizations
You have plenty of choices if you want to give back to the community. If you want to mingle with people who might do business or send business, the list gets a lot smaller. Keep the following rules in mind as you wade in.

1. The group should attract high-net-worth individuals. Many groups capture a cross-section of the population. If your ideal client fits into the top 5 percent, 19 out of 20 people you meet at events don’t make the cut. They will be great friends, but you aren’t uncovering business opportunities. Worse, if they like you and ask to do business, you might need to send them away. Solution: Many cultural institutions produce annual reports or records of philanthropy containing tiered lists of donors. These can often be accessed online through their website. The ideal organization has hundreds of people giving at levels of $1,000 or more. People who give substantial amounts to one organization often share their wealth with others.

2. There should beopportunities to meet the right people. If the organization you choose has one big annual event, your opportunities to mingle are severely restricted. Your cultivation process would be measured in years. Attending the hospital’s black tie gala is not social prospecting; it’s supporting the hospital. Your $250 ticket has gotten you a seat at a table for eight. There’s drinking, dinner, and dancing. It’s loud. Your opportunities to chat are limited to the people seated to your right and left—and one of them is probably your spouse. Solution: You want a room filled with people you can walk around, where you can say hello to people you know and start new conversations. Museum receptions, symphony concerts, and trade association groups are ideal. They often have something going on every month and put a couple of hundred people in a room.

3. Go forhigh visibility. People make assumptions about others based on their affiliations. You may believe passionately in a cause, but you don’t want to spend time explaining what they do to people who have never heard of it. Solution: The ideal organization has name recognition. Think of your city and the exclusive club downtown or the oldest private golf club. Museums, hospitals, and cultural institutions have the same impact.

4.Positive impression. You are passionate about certain causes. That’s great. You have reasons to support them. You are seeking to do good and also cultivate business opportunities—but you want to avoid controversy. If your community is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, for example, you can have half the town disliking you immediately if you are a high-profile leader on the other side. Solution: Choose organizations that obviously are doing good. Medical charities and hospitals, zoos, libraries, and cultural groups enrich the lifestyle of people living in the area. You are doing your part to make that happen.

So What Do You Do?
Your strategy is simple. Choose four organizations, each in a different category. Devote one evening per month to each group and attend an event. At each event make an effort to meet six new people. Take time to say hello to people you have met at previous events. Take a sincere interest in what they do. Smile. How hard is that?

Now lets do the math. If you attend four events a month and meet six new people at each event, you will meet 24 new people a month or 288 during the year. Surely you can find a few clients among 288 wealthy folks!

Of course, you want to whittle that list down: Drop off a third. They are charming but don’t own a business or appear to need tax help. They have a simple situation that’s being adequately addressed. They will make great friends, but not clients. Drop another third. You see potential but your personalities don’t click. They can’t stand you and the feeling is mutual. This leaves the final third, about 100 people who have resources, might own their own business, or are involved on the boards of local nonprofits. You like them and the feeling is mutual. As they get to know you better they start to think of you as a resource. Everyone knows somebody who needs a little help.

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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By Virginia Nicols
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Right income level, right "cause," but do they have the "right problem" that you know you can solve? The more homework you can do about the people in the group, the more likely you'll be able to find the perfect match. In networking, Woody Allen's famous statement isn't quite enough!

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By Bryce Sanders
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Dear Virginia:

Thanks for commenting on my article. You bring up an excellent point. If a certain problem needs a specialist, your background might not be a good fit. However, you will gain credibility when you admit that point and suggest someone you know with subject specific knowledge.

Back to Woody Allen's point, "80% of success is showing up." Simply put, you gain new clients in two ways. You find them or they find you. Being involved in the right circles and tactfully raising your visibility makes people aware of what you do. They will find you. The drawback is the long timeframe because you cannot push without seeming desperate.

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