Is Pandemic Prospecting Ethical?

Does the Do Not Call list really exist?  Your phone still rings with robocalls.  If you are approaching 65, everyone calls to talk about supplemental health insurance.  If you say you are the DNC list, they say: “You are wrong!”  Should you be joining in and prospecting during the pandemic?

The obvious answer is no.  After about eight weeks, Covid-19 is starting to take casualties close to home.  You hear about friends with symptoms.  Clients on ventilators.  Imagine if you were a family member, heard the phone ring, assumed it was the doctor or hospital and discovered it was an advisor cold calling?  Short answer, people’s minds are elsewhere now.

But let’s not take prospecting off the table entirely.  There are softer approaches you can use.  Let’s assume everyone you know invests.  Let’s also assume most friends know you are in the investment business.  They might invest on their own or work with someone else, but everyone has suffered market declines.

  1. They will ask your opinion.   “Where do you think the stock market will do?”  It’s a question with limited upside and unlimited downside.  If you were right, they’ll think it was obvious.  If you were wrong, they’ll remember forever.  You talk about long term fundamentals and clients having long term investment goals.  You are painting an optimistic picture.  Others might be focused on short term doom and gloom.
  2. They are doom and gloomers.  They explain “We are all going back to spears and clubs.”  It’s the end of civilization as we know it.  This time it’s different.  You might play the “America” card.  Are we the largest economy in the world?  Is the dollar the world’s reserve currency?  Have many listed companies been around for decades?  Close to 100 years?  This should awaken some pride.  Our country has triumphed over adversity before.
  3. They haven’t heard from their advisor.  They tell you.  They are at a loss.  They might be upset, yet aren’t ready to change horses in midstream, especially if some products/programs require selling.  This is an opportunity to act as their surrogate advisor in the meantime.  Learn about their situation.  They consider it unique.  Give the advice you would provide for a family member.  Continue into the future.  When things calm down, they might “consider” you as their advisor and be ready to move. 
  4. Share ideas.  Giving free advice can be tricky.  You don’t know the details of their situation.  They need two data points:  When to buy and when to sell.  They might buy on your suggestion, then not sell (because they never told you they bought).  They feel justified in blaming you because it didn’t work out.  A better strategy might be sharing a short client profile: “For long term investors...” then giving an example of what you are buying.  It might be a stock, mutual fund or sending money to a manager.  They will remember during an uncertain time; you were advising taking action.  They want that kind of advisor.

These are soft, tactful prospecting techniques.  You are establishing yourself as the alternative.