Diving into the deep end of social prospecting

A specialist in high-net-worth client acquisition on how to look for business when you’re 'not allowed'

Diving into the deep end of social prospecting
Bryce Sanders

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc and provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. In this article for WP, he provides tips on networking the movers and shakers in the community - even when it's against the rules. Sanders' book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” can be found on Amazon.

Many advisors, private bankers and wealth managers give back to the community. You are in good company. Lawyers, accountants and physicians do too. Ditto business owners and wealthy families.

Is this an arena where a wealth professional can also pick up business? Yes. But as they say in the movies, you are playing “the long game”. Here’s what you need to know.

Let’s dive in at the deep end. You are invited to serve on the board of a local nonprofit. Your training likely includes, “You can’t be soliciting business here; it’s all about serving the organization”. OK, those are the rules, I’ll follow them.

Next, you make two startling observations: everyone seems to do business with everyone else. They buy cars from the same guy. They go to the same law firm. They also each seem to have another favourite charity. They cross contribute on a person level.

The next observation leaves you smirking: they don’t want you pitching fellow board members for business, but they want you fundraising for the cause by putting the arm on wealthy folks in your social circle. Am I reading those rules wrong?

The movers and shakers in most local communities are a tight knit group.  They know each other professionally. It might be fair to say they run, or at least influence everything. By joining the board, you now have a seat at the table.

Here are two good ways to look for business without violating the “Thou Shalt Not Prospect” rule.

Have lunch or coffee with every board member
“I’m new to the board and want to get up to speed. Can we have lunch?” Even if they are a bank president or prominent plastic surgeon, they should agree. Over a relaxing lunch, work though a well thought out mental agenda. Ask how they got involved with the group. What are the major issues facing the organization? Volunteer details about your professional background. Based on the skills you have outlined, where do they see you making the most positive impact? Listen carefully. Ask about their background, since you volunteered yours. Pick up the check. 

Meet with your patron
Someone nominated you for this board position. Get together with them. Thank them for the opportunity. Mention the rule about not looking for business, a rule you will respect. This leads into your observation that lots of your fellow board members seem to do business with each other. Does your patron fit into this category? Explain you would like to raise your visibility within the organization.

They will understand you are referring to your professional visibility. How do you do that? They might respond in several ways: there’s an event or exhibition coming up. Sponsorship is needed. It’s high visibility, major supporters are prominently listed. They might suggest you serve on a certain committee that includes higher-profile people. Doing a good job provides the opportunity for them to get to know you better and develop a positive opinion. However, they might bring up another board member mentioned their financial advisor retired. They are looking around for a replacement. Your mentor, acting as intermediary, will drop your name.


You’ve encountered the organization’s paradox where no one is allowed to look for business, while everyone seems to be getting business. You have a roadmap for raising your visibility and getting your point across, without crossing any lines in the sand.