A prominent pension fund executive was once asked: “With all of the people that want to meet with you, how do you decide which ones to see?” She responded: “I take meetings with my friends.” The obvious issue, then, is how do you become a friend when so many of your competitors are trying to do the same thing?
How to build strong business friendships with clients, consultants and prospects
Most fund sponsors will agree to an initial meeting if there is a good reason. They may feel your firm is prominent enough that they need to know you. Or if your product offerings match up with their current interests, they will likely grant you an appointment. Or you might have interesting insights on a topic of current concern such as new ways to manage risk.
Here are a few tips to help you become that “friend” who is able to have repeated meetings and gain an inside advantage:
1. Understand their business responsibilities, objectives, and challenges. For example, are they looking into product areas and/or investment strategies that are new to them? What concerns them?
2. Be a valued source of business information. Always be on the lookout for things that tie to what you know about their business needs. It may be an article you read, a white paper your firm published, or an upcoming webcast. Be proactive.
3. Let them know in what areas they should feel free to rely on you as a source of knowledge. For example, your firm may have a particular expertise in currency management and you know that a prospect's fund has a great deal of foreign currency exposure. You can offer to put your currency experts in touch with their investment staff.
4. Know their personal interests. Ask them about their background, their family and personal interests. Make notes and build on your knowledge each time you meet. Again, be a source of information. This time you might be able to provide information on an upcoming vacation destination or an article about a school one of their children attends.
5. Get them to visit your offices and meet with as many of your staff as possible. Fund sponsors and consultants usually feel better tied to a firm and their contact if they have been in the firm's offices. And, a 15- to 30-minute visit with someone in senior management can go a long way toward building the bond between you and your visitor.
6. Look for things to do outside of the office. Involve a spouse if possible. While people are very busy and many fund sponsors and consultants shy away from being entertained, it is not the absolute rule. Lunches, dinners and golf can still pay dividends in the right circumstances.
All of these tips can help you build business friendships and give you an edge in gaining new investment management clients and enhance client relationships.