Transitioning from Acquaintance to Friend with HNW Individuals

People do business with people they like.  You’ve joined the right organizations.  Met the right people.  They know who you are.  How do you move from “know you” to “like you”?

This is important when cultivating business.  That’s obvious.  Your lives intersect with theirs at other points.  You might be asking them to donate to a charity where you serve on the board.  There are lots of reasons you want to get into their inner circle.

A property developer told me: “Everyone needs something.”  You might think people with money have it all, but their need might be as simple as a fellow enthusiast to share their hobby.  Here are some examples of how you get close, upgrading from acquaintance to friend.

  1.  The curious case of the two dozen oysters.  We have friends we see for dinner often.  Very generous to charities.  Always asked for money.  We noticed a common factor when dining out together.  If oysters were on the menu, they always had them.  The local seafood market does “buck a shuck” oysters on Friday afternoon.  On this recent hot Friday, we bought two dozen on ice, drove them to the couple’s house and surprised them with a new meaning for “curbside delivery.”   We departed, leaving the oysters.  Later we learned they had unexpected dinner guests (family).  The oysters came in handy.
  2. Buying their spouse’s painting.  In our area, successful business people are often philanthropists.  They get involved in the arts.  Because of their lavish generosity (and potential) they are accorded great respect.  One day, their spouse decides they are an artist!  They donate a painting to the local high profile charity auction.  You can see the potential for a train wreck.  One of our friends (who asks for money) watched the painting struggle for a bid:  He raised his hand and said “One thousand dollars!”  He hung the painting in his office.  He invited the bigwig and their artist spouse to see the painting hung in a place of honor.  His staff gave compliments.  The bigwig realized he was saved from embarrassment.  A large charitable gift followed.
  3. Champagne on their cruise.  It was time to solicit fellow museum board members for the capital campaign.  I didn’t have a connection with this person.  They were sailing transatlantic with Cunard.  Jane and I called the line and bought a bottle of (French) Champagne to be served tableside on the first formal night.  The note said: “Hope you enjoy your crossing as much as we enjoyed ours.”  It wasn’t necessary to ask for a contribution.  The check arrived after they got back home.
  4. Cocktails in abstentia.  We have friends in England.  One friend lives in London.  Tiny apartment, great location.  She’s been housebound for several months because of the pandemic lockdown.  Great restaurant on the corner overlooking the river.  We called the restaurant, charged a certain amount to our credit card and booked a table for her and a friend for cocktails the next week.  We let her know we were taking her out for cocktails, except we can’t be there because of the pandemic!  She and her friend got dressed up.  Cocktails became dinner.
  5. Knowing how to get a bargain.  This one takes finessing.  Wealthy people are often shrewd about how they spend their money, yet don’t want to come across as cheap.  You are a wine fan.  They are too.  You know how to find deals.  After you find one, you discretely share it with them.  This relationship has enormous value.
  6. The sports car club.  A New England advisor got involved with his local sports car club.  From his background, he understands racing.  He would connect with fellow members and teach them how to drive their exotic cars on a performance track.  He would take their picture, with the person dressed in their racing clothes.  This gave him a reason to deliver the framed picture to them personally at their home.
  7. The high quality photos.  We were visiting with a couple at their Florida winter home.  In the husband’s study, I noticed a grouping of excellent framed photos.  Birds or flowers.  I forget.  I inquired about them.  “They were a gift from our financial advisor.”  Pride of place, look at often.
  8. The formal photo.  You attend charity functions.  Everyone gets dressed up.  Giving an acquaintance a framed photo of them in black tie is an impressive gift.  It gets put somewhere special in the house.  You want a turnkey operation, so it must be framed and ready to display.

These thoughtful actions, some requiring very little financial outlay, show you understand and care about people.