How to Gain the Interest and Respect of a Big Fish

Arms folded across his chest, leaning back in his chair, one eyebrow cocked. His expression flickers between condescension, arrogance and impatience. 

His whole presence communicates ‘what could you possibly teach me?

You managed to get five minutes with this prospective client and this is what you’re faced with. How do you gain his interest, his trust and his business? 

In fifteen years of working with financial professionals, I’ve coached many tenured, successful and sometimes arrogant advisors.  For several of those years, I was a coach at a training firm. Participants were often mandated to attend a certain course. 

For example, one of the big banks would partner with our firm to train every branch manager or every financial advisor across the country. Some would be eager for the training, some feared or resisted it and some actively resented it. 

Before I could help them I needed to gain their buy-in.

These days, as a business owner myself, I have no patience or interest in working with someone who doesn’t passionately want to learn and grow. But the years of having to quickly break down walls of resistance was invaluable experience that I leverage to this day.

This is an interesting topic and I may write a series on dealing with various types of resistance to learning, but for today, let’s just address the Big Fish you managed to get five minutes with. 

We’ll call him Mr. Successful.

Here’s what I know to be true:  the arrogance disappears once you gain their buy-in.

Here are six tips on How to Gain the Interest and Respect of a Big Fish:

Bring your A Game

Seriously. Do not even for a moment imagine you can ‘wing’ a meeting like this. Depending on the size of the potential business here, plan on investing anywhere from four hours to four days in preparation. 

Knowing your own offering inside and out is merely the beginning. Research Mr. Successful’s business, his industry, his resume, his interests and any common ground you share. You should also be able to answer the following questions:

What problems does he need solving?

What does he care about?

What (or who) does he respect?

Find someone to roleplay the conversation with. Choose a colleague, mentor or coach to put you through your paces, asking tough questions and trying to catch you off guard. Once you can respond with confidence to anything thrown your way, you’re in good shape for the meeting.

Boil down your pitch

Before you get in front of Mr. Successful, you should have a crystal clear, short and compelling positioning statement (or ‘pitch’) and be able to deliver it well.

Consider starting with a question

A well-tailored question can grab Mr. Successful’s attention and curiosity. If you’re trying to interest a large manufacturer in your group insurance policy, you might ask: 

‘Mr. Successful, would you say your employee health insurance costs are line 3 or 4 on your expenses each month?’

This question hits him right where it hurts. If you know you have a strong solution to address this problem you will have his full attention.

Narrow your focus

A HNW prospect already has money. They’ve likely already worked with skilled advisors. Fees in this industry are fairly competitive and no advisor can control or predict the market. So why would they jump ship to work with you? In fact, Mr. Successful will likely ask you that very question.

One approach to keeping his interest is to describe an area of deep expertise that you have that separates you from other advisors. (Examples might be in any of the emerging technologies such as AI or biotech.) Show him clearly how he can leverage this and he may give you a portion of his wealth to manage.

Invite challenge

Instead of ‘dancing’, desperately trying to impress - which only achieves the opposite – anchor your confidence in what you know, and instead welcome challenge. You might say:

Mr. Successful, you’ve achieved a great degree of success and you have a wealth of experience. You may be wondering what I can possibly offer, and I respect that. I have a couple of important ideas to share that are relevant to your business.  I fully expect you to put me through my paces. Ask the tough questions. I respect your time and I’m fully prepared.

So long as your performance lives up to that promise, you will earn his respect.

Listen with every scrap of focus you can muster

This is challenging to do when the stakes and emotions are high and you’re trying to remember a lot of information. Hence the thorough preparation!

Throughout your meeting, Mr. Successful is conveying information with what he says and what he leaves out. He’s communicating with his tone of voice and his body language. If you listen deeply, there is a steady stream of cues and clues that will tell you what is important to him. This will help you respond effectively.

It is possible to win a Big Fish’s business and respect. If you decide the prize is worth it and you’re fully committed to doing what it takes, you’ll be able to take advantage of that precious five minutes of face time.

Did you enjoy this article? Kira writes weekly articles packed with actionable tips for sales professionals in the financial services industry. Sign up here to receive Kira’s article delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday.

Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.

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