The Surprising Answer to “Do Your Friends Trust You”

Trust is an intangible.  A retired advertising executive explained it’s earned bit by bit over time yet can vanish in an instant.  Trust might be accumulated like airline miles, but you don’t get a notification when you’ve crossed an important threshold.  What do we need to know about trust?

If you have developed a circle of HNW friends and acquaintances, you probably want them to become clients.  You feel awkward about asking for business because you need to transition from the comfortable social relationship into the uncharted territory of a business conversation.  It can be easier than you think because of the trust factor.

Your friendships have deepened over time.  Perhaps you’ve borrowed tools from a neighbor and returned them promptly.  On a higher level, that nice couple next door asked themselves: “If we had to go out of town because of an emergency, would we be comfortable with you looking after their children?”  In many cases, the answer is yes.

Here’s where business fits into the scenario.  They know what you do for a living!  They aren’t just asking themselves “Are you a trustworthy babysitter?”  They are asking themselves: “Would we be comfortable with him handling our money?”  Often, the answer they came up with is: “Yes.”

Here’s the problem:  Unlike the airline mile example, they aren’t saying: “Congratulations!  You’ve passed our test!  Here are our statements!  You are our advisor now!”  They are waiting to be asked.

Consider the following: “Everyone should have the opportunity to say no.”  We often take people out of the likely prospect pool because we assume they work with someone already.  Doesn’t everyone?  Everyone should be asked.  Don’t make the decision for them.  You’ve heard Wayne Gretsky’s famous quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  

How to Ask a Friend for Business

This approach is based on the risk to the friendship.  It consists of three segments:

Segment #1:  You know where I work and what I do.  I’ve never brought up business because you are my friend and I value our friendship very highly.  I would never want to put our friendship at risk.”

They will likely agree, saying they also value the friendship highly.  They let you continue.

Segment #2:  Besides, I’ve always assumed you work with someone else already.  They take great care of you and give you excellent service.  Most successful people have that kind of relationship with their advisor.”

They might say: Actually I don’t.  What can you do for me?”  We are rarely that lucky.  You should be able to continue.

Segment #3:  “It’s a confusing time in the stock market.  You might know someone who isn’t as fortunate as you. (Having a great advisor relationship.)  I thought we might spend a few minutes talking about ‘What I do.’  afterwards, if you come across someone in that situation, you’ll know how I might be able to help them.”

You’ve put the conversation into the third-party content.  Your explanation might encompass how you help people similar to them, since your assumption is they know people in similar circumstances.

Your friend now understands how you could help them or someone like them.  It’s easy for them to suggest taking the next step.  You haven’t given them the hard sell.

Related: 8 Red Flags That Come Up During Portfolio Reviews