Do Your Friends Really Know What You Do?

Your friends probably think they’ve got you down cold. You are an open book. They think they know exactly what you do. They are wrong. Like an iceberg, most of your story is below the surface, out of sight. Don’t feel smug. You probably don’t have a clue what they really do either. What can you do about it?

This Can’t be True (or can it?)

Here’s where we all make mistakes. Consider three problems:

Problem One: We generalize. We’re busy people. When we get a little information about people, we assign them to compartments. “She’s a lawyer.” OK, she goes in the lawyer box. What does she do? It’s obvious. She’s either an ambulance chaser or a trial attorney. If you do some research, you will discover there are at least 100 subcategory and specialist areas in the legal profession. Does she work in maritime law or patent law? Many attorneys never need see the inside of a courtroom.

Problem Two: Our information is dated. Your friend is a mechanical engineer. Got it. Years pass. They might run the department now. Unless they change firms and tell you about it, you know little about their career progress. That’s why your firm wants you to update client information periodically. This would be a big issue if they became a control person.

Problem Three: They only see the tip of the iceberg. You are a financial advisor. It’s a hybrid between stockbroker, banker and insurance agent. They need a mortgage. They get one elsewhere. They had a terrible experience, which they tell you about afterwards. You say: “I can do mortgages! I could have helped you!” They say: “I didn’t know that.”

Easy Strategy to Get Your Story Out

The simplest way to sit a client down and tell your story is to get them to tell their story. When you see each other casually and you’ve both got plenty of time, say: “We’ve known each other seven years. I know you work at (firm). Your job has something to do with (research). I’ve always been curious: What do you actually do?” Stop talking. They tell their story.

So far, so good. You might think it’s time to say: “Ok, I’ve listened patiently. Now it’s my turn!” That would make them uneasy.

This isn’t my strategy. It’s been around for years. You might be using it already. Try saying: “We’ve known each other for seven years. You know I work at (firm). When you tell your friends about me, what do you say that I do?” Stop talking.

The truth is probably: “I’ve never told my friends about you, so I’ve never needed to know what you do.” They would never say that because it’s too rude! They will probably say: “You are a stockbroker. You sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds and stuff like that. Am I right?” They have identified box you fit into.

This might be your moment to tell what you do and position your value statement. There’s an easier way. Take the words they just used as a starting point. You might say: “Stockbroker. That’s what I used to do before I joined (firm)…” You might say “Stocks and mutual funds. That’s part of what I do…” Briefly explain what you do, positioning client benefits.

Related: 5 Less Than Obvious Ways to Ask for Referrals

The Call to Action

They might be thinking: “Uh oh. Here comes the close. He’s going to ask me to buy something.”

Here’s another approach: “Now that you know what I do, if you know someone who uses professional money management and is dissatisfied with the relationship, I would be interested in talking with them.” They will either know what that is or they will ask. This helps prequalify. They might say: “I’m dissatisfied. What can you do for me?”

Here’s another approach: Same start to the sentence, but insert “someone who is investing in the stock market and dissatisfied with their results.” You would be interested in talking with them too.

What Have You Accomplished?

You’ve done a lot. You’ve learned about them. They’ve learned about you. Instead of putting them on the spot, you’ve asked for a referral in a non-threatening, third party way . However, the profile is specific enough, they might conclude it fits their situation too.