How I Got My Really Finicky Daughter to Eat Purple Potatoes

Written by: Ken Haman

My daughter Sarah used to be an incredibly finicky eater. At times, I needed to be creative to encourage her to try new foods. Once I bought purple Peruvian potatoes. When Sarah saw what was on the table, she shrieked, “I’m not eating any of that!” Fortunately, I was prepared with a strategy.

I said, “You’re absolutely correct. These are very expensive Peruvian potatoes! I’ve been looking for them for months. They’re for grown-ups only. You wouldn’t like them, and I don’t want to waste them!”

After a few minutes, Sarah got curious and insisted on trying them. After “persuading” me, I allowed her a taste. She loved them, of course.

What Does This Have to Do with Being a Financial Advisor?

Conventional wisdom says that every salesperson needs a well-practiced elevator pitch. The premise is that you have only a moment to make a first impression, so you must make the most of it. Your one- or two-line pitch summarizes your full range of services and is designed to appeal to a wide range of prospective clients. The experts say if you pitch too narrowly you might miss an opportunity. But after 30 years of experience, I don’t know any advisor who landed a high-net-worth client from an elevator pitch.

This makes sense because uniquely successful people are thoughtful, deliberate and accustomed to receiving sales pitches every day. They’ve learned how to make wise decisions. Importantly, they value advice and expertise and already have carefully selected advisors. This makes it unlikely that they would hire an overeager financial advisor with a slick elevator pitch.

So be different. Use the purple potato strategy. Throw away your broad-based pitch and replace it with a narrowly defined unique value proposition (UVP) that appeals only to uniquely successful investors. Then artfully frame how you deliver that UVP. (For more information on creating your UVP, see the AllianceBernstein white paper How to Explain What You Do: A Holistic Wealth Advisor.)

Framing Your Unique Value Position

Think of your UVP as a painting that’s set in a frame that enhances it. You frame your UVP with what you do and say before you deliver it. Don’t wait to bump into someone at a party or in an elevator; arrange to be introduced by a mutual acquaintance, or attend events where high-net-worth investors mingle. You need more than a glancing blow to impress a uniquely successful investor; you need a conversation.

In the right setting, you should always initiate the conversation by introducing yourself and then asking, “What do you do?” Most people like to talk about themselves and what’s important to them, so authentic curiosity and thoughtful questions usually evoke a positive, connecting energy. After a few minutes, the other person typically becomes aware that the conversation is unbalanced and shifts the discussion by asking the same question you did: “What do you do?” This restores the symmetry.

Remember: the Potatoes Were for Grown-ups Only!

You need more than 15 seconds to make a meaningful first impression, so don’t immediately blurt out your UVP. Instead, create a little mystery and activate the other person’s curiosity: “Well, it’s a bit complicated. It takes me a few minutes to explain. Is that okay with you?” Most people like a good mystery, so the listener should be eager to hear your story.

Start by framing your UVP: “You know what a financial advisor is, right? You probably have one.” Pause so that the question can register, then say, “Well, I work in financial services, but what I do is really different from the typical financial advisor.” Having framed your role as a distinctive kind of advisor, you can deliver your prepared UVP.

When I told Sarah that she couldn’t have the potatoes because they were for grown-ups, I activated her instinct to want something that was special or unavailable. Remember the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” People want what others have because what we don’t own seems better or different. So with a prospect, frame yourself as special, and then deliver a UVP that differentiates you from the typical financial advisor. In this way, natural curiosity will drive prospective clients to want what you offer.

Related: Advisors: Don’t Give This Away