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Earn The Right To Do Business With People

February 12 2020

Earn The Right To Do Business With People

One successful young man I interviewed at a financial planners' meeting told me, "I used to be in another industry. I went into financial planning when I was thirty-three years old, joining my father's small firm. He'd been in the business for years, but I had to go out and get my own customers."

He drew up a list of twenty movers-and-shakers in his community, twenty affluent people with large spheres of influence who were eagerly pursued by everyone in the investment community. This young man had very little experience. He hadn't yet "earned their business."

He called on each of these people and said, "I am new to this business. I know you know about my father, but you don't know me. I am not trying to sell you. I know I haven't earned the right yet. However, could I please have a ten-minute interview? Would you, as a leader in the community, tell me what I should do to earn the right to do business with people like you?"

See what he did? He made it safe. He told them upfront that he wasn't going to try to sell them anything. He only wanted ten minutes.

Frankly, I think you have to be very lucky to get ten minutes of an important person's time. But he presented it in such an appealing way that no one turned him down. And he kept his side of the bargain. After ten minutes, he left unless they invited him to stay longer.

At the end of his first year, three of those people actually gave him a small portion of their portfolio to manage to see how he would do. At the end of three years, seven out of the original twenty people had placed a portion of their investments with his firm. He'd earned the right.

I used to say that there are two kinds of people to market to: those who know and love us and those who never heard of us. You can advertise traditionally and on the Internet, network and join organizations, send out direct mail, and do a combination of activities to get new business. But please don't think these methods substitute for keeping in touch with the people who now know you and love you. These are people who've inquired, whom you've met at a meeting, who've done some business with you in the past. Keep in touch with these valuable resources!

When Homer Dunn was an up-and-coming salesperson at IBM, he told me there are actually three kinds of people that he calls on. "First, there are the people I've already made a sale to." (This was in the mainframe days, so it was a big sale.) "I keep calling on these customers, making sure they are satisfied with the product and the service." That's maintaining a sale.

"Then there are the people I'm calling on, those that are in the sales cycle which can be a long-term process." (And, with really high-ticket items, this can be a really long-term process!)

"Finally, there are the people I want to do business with. I have not earned the right yet to do business with these people, but I am maintaining a relationship, letting them know of my progress and success. So when I have finally earned the right to the sale, they are all mine."


  1. What are you doing this week to earn the right to people's business? Write it down.
  2. What more could or should you do? Devise a strategy and timetable.
  3. Who have you targeted in your community? Who else should you cultivate? Make a list.

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