How to Get Someone Talking About Their Advisor

“I already have an advisor.”  You have heard this plenty of times.  In social situations, the standard icebreaker questions are “Where do you live” and “What do you do?”  When you answer the second, you barely finish speaking when the other person says: “I already have an advisor.”  How can you get them to open up about the quality of the relationship?

Getting to the Big Question

Although you often want to take charge of conversations, sometimes it’s better to let the other person bring up the subjects of firms and advisors.  In my travels I met an advisor who played lots of golf.  One of his prospecting strategies was to get included in a foursome needing an extra player.  He would attach a luggage tag with his firm’s logo onto his golf bag. (These were very common when firms held large conferences for advisors.)  Gold involves lots of standing around.  One of the other players in the foursome would notice the logoed luggage tag and remark: “You are with (firm).  I have my account with (other firm).”  Hold that thought.

Let us look at a more common situation, answering the “What do you do” question.  A good strategy is to reply: “I’m a financial advisor with (firm).  You probably work with a financial advisor already.”  Stop talking.  You gave their reply before they could get the words out!”  Instead of a defensive “I already have an advisor” which could be interpreted as “Go away” their response is probably: “Yes, I do.”

Answering the Big Question

We all have an elevator speech.  People can get uncomfortable when they feel they are being “pitched.”  They can tell when a response is rehearsed.  Try to involve the other person instead.

Lets get back to the advisor with the logoed luggage tag.  The other person just said: “I do business with (other firm).”  What next?

The advisor remarks:  “They are a fine firm.  How long have you been with them?”  They give an answer.  You have learned something.

The advisor’s next question is; “What do you like best about your advisor?”  They might add: “Would you recommend them?”  They stop talking.  Notice the advisor isn’t talking about themselves or their firm.  They are drawing the other person out about the quality of their relationship.

It is possible the other person cannot think up a single redeeming quality about their current advisor.  They might say: “They are OK, but I wouldn’t recommend them.”  Still being polite, the advisor asks: “Why do you stay with them?”  The advisor does not put them on the spot, because there is an audience.  Perhaps they move onto another topic.

Now suppose the person says wonderful things about their advisor.  Yes, they would recommend them. They are very happy.  The polite thing to do is to congratulate them on having a great relationship with their advisor. That other advisor has earned that client.

Maybe there is a reason why you want to try a little harder to get on their radar for future business.  The person you are talking with might have a personal foundation and you know there are multiple advisory relationships.  In this situation you might ask: “In your opinion, are there any areas where there is room for improvement?”  Stop talking.

Your approach is a polite way of asking “What are you not getting in your current relationship?”  When someone tells you what is missing, they are really saying “This is what I want.”  For example, they might answer: “My advisor is great with stocks, but has little interest in fixed income.  I usually have to do that research on my own and tell them what I want to buy.”  There’s your opening.

The advisor then sums up by saying: “So, in the ideal relationship you would want an advisor who had expertise on the fixed income side.”  They would likely say: “Yes.  That would be a good fit.”  Enough talking now.  It’s back to golf.

Can I Do Anything Else, Like Planting Seeds?

There is a good case for leaving people with satisfactory advisor relationships alone.  Now imagine a different situation.  Time passes.  Things change.  You run across the same person you met at a party, but it’s years later.  You ask how they are doing in the stock market.  They explain their advisor retired and they switched to another firm.  “I would have called you, but I didn’t know how to find you.”  Is there a solution?

Years ago, I came across a restaurant owner with a relative who supplied provisions.  When he met other restaurant owners in social situations, he would inquire about their supplier relationships.  They were often established, similar to the person with an advisor at another firm.

The provisions supplier would say: “I am sure you are happy with your current suppliers.  Here is my card.  Please give me a call if anything changes.”  The manager in my first office explained: “They keep the card.”  This at least helps keep you on the radar without more effort on your part.

You must respect the relationships other advisors have established with their good clients.  It’s OK to draw those clients out, learn about the relationships and stay on the radar.

Related: How The Skill of Listening Brings You Business