Are You for Real or Full of It? How HNW People Can Tell

You have worked hard to get yourself into HNW circles.  Maybe you were accepted into the country club or asked to join the board of the hospital.  Now you are finding yourself in social situations where everyone is a heavy hitter and you don’t know anyone.  YOYO or “You are on your own” is the rule of the day.  How do these people determine if you are for real? (or not?)

Be aware they are experts.  They are “hit on” for jobs, investment capital or charitable contributions, they know when they are being softened up. Often speed is the giveaway.  If the “friendly” part of the relationship abruptly moves to the “lets talk business” part, that’s a big giveaway.  It’s also a rookie mistake.  You are not making that one.  You are in deeper waters now.

Five Ways People Can Tell If You Are For Real

No one is putting anyone to the test. (Yet.)  Here are some simple ways your new HNW friends size you up.

1. Eye contact

This one has been around forever.  You need to balance looking them in the eyes enough without getting into the locked stare, first one to blink loses encounter.  You don’t want to come across as a lunatic.  Here is another version of the problem:  Not looking in their eyes but looking over their shoulder.  This implies to are scanning the room to see if someone more important has arrived.  That is very annoying. 

Strategy:  If you find looking directly at their eyes too intense, look at their nose instead.

2. Are your accomplishments and claims credible? 

We want to impress HNW individuals.  We also want to feel accepted, to come across as already belonging to their world.  You might be tempted to exaggerate your accomplishments or travel experiences.  They have radar designed specifically for that purpose.  They can tell when a description is “off” or the details don’t line up.

Strategy:  Instead of highlighting your accomplishments, downplay them.  Yes, you traveled to London recently.  You do not need to list all the things you did.  You can go into detail if they are interested enough to ask for more information.

3. Establish a relationship based on shared interests

The easiest way to get closer to a person is to have a favorite subject to talk about.  I am a wine fan.  I find it very easy to talk with other wine fans.  I am happy to let them do the talking.  The key to having a shared interest is knowing the terminology that hobby or sport uses.

Strategy:  The shared interest changes the dynamic from “fellow board members” to “fellow wine fans.”  Board members might feel the only acceptable topic uis “board stuff.”  Wine fans have added an entire new topic.

4. Cares about my needs 

Getting to know them as a person and what is important to them provides a big boost to your credibility.  It’s easy to have a conversation about vacation plans before or after a board meeting.  When they mention their spouse is going into the hospital for tests, they are pulling the curtain back on their private life.  When you see them again (or before) you want to ask how the medical tests went.  You are showing concern without prying.  If they have given up alcohol you want to avoid drinking liquor in their presence.  It’s a sign of respect.

Strategy:   Put yourself in their shoes.  What is the biggest issue on their mind you know about?  That’s what’s most important to them.  Acknowledge that in your next conversation. 

5. Follow-up on promises made.  

This is a big one because you are doing something after the fact.  It’s not simply about how well you perform in the room, it’s what you do afterwards.  You might say: “We issued a report on that company.  I’ll send you a copy.”  You must deliver on your commitment.  They may or may not be that interested, but they will remember if you followed through.  I have has more “Didn’t you say you would…” reminders from friends than I want to admit.  Here’s the rationale:  If there is even the thought of doing business in the future, they have many people competing for that business.  It will be tough enough to choose, so a sensible strategy is to knock names off the list.  Your follow up in your personal life is a reflection of your follow up in your business life.  Drop the ball once and they assume you drop it often.

Strategy:  The moment you say you will do something, stop what you are doing.  Write a note or compose an e-mail to yourself.

These are five of the ways HNW individuals can determine if you are for real or playing a role.

Related: Why Do Some Investors Avoid Advisors?