Holiday Party Small Talk: Don’t Say You’re a Financial Advisor

Dec 20, 2011

The other night, I was dragged to another holiday party. As usual, I was surrounded by many people whom I didn’t know and each one was trying to yell over the music being blasted by the host’s new “whole house” sound system. I thought it was funny that while we all appreciated his great set up, we all headed immediately to the kitchen where the hostess had turned it down to a level that we could talk without shouting.

Since the kitchen was small (and packed with people) I was able to overhear quite a few people as they were introducing themselves to each other. It was fascinating to hear some very professional people stumble over what they do for a living. We live in a world of sound bites and quick interaction. We talk about value propositions and 10-second elevator speeches. We know the importance of good introductions, yet most of the people in the room couldn’t articulate who they are, what they do and who they do it for.

You are not a Financial Planner/Advisor
As I watched and listened to some of the conversations, I started to really listen to the introductions, searching for someone who would set him/herself apart. One guy blew me away with a simple, concise statement that explained what he did, not what his profession was. Rather than just saying “I am a financial planner,” which would have immediately pigeon-holed him in the minds of the people he was meeting, Frank (not his real name) chose to position himself as a person who added value to people’s lives.

I watched Frank make his way around the room. Each time he listened to the other person, asked questions, and when the conversation turned to what he did the same words came out, sometimes with a slight variation based on the type of person to whom he was taking.

Social Prospecting
I caught up with Frank near the end of the evening and we discussed “social prospecting” and how he developed his value proposition. He said he often finds prospects in the most unusual places, many times at parties like these. He used to go home wishing he had a reason to call someone or that he had positioned himself better with a great prospect, but he wasn’t able to get his message across. Frank decided that he would practice, practice, practice his message until it came across in a natural, “non-salesy” way. Obviously, it worked.

This time of year, you are probably going to be out a lot, meeting with friends and socializing at parties. When you meet someone, what are you going to say? Here are a couple of tips:

• It is a 10-second elevator speech, not 30 or 45 seconds. Don’t go on and on.
• Make it sound natural. Don’t use colorful words when simple words would work better. (In other words, don’t sound like a press release.)
• Don’t use words like wealthy or affluent. Even if they are, most people don’t think of themselves as wealthy.
• Say what you do and who you work with, not your job title.
• When someone is interested, don’t pounce on them. Invite them for coffee or lunch at a neutral place; don’t try to sell them on the spot.
• Practice in your car. Practice in the mirror. Practice on your spouse. It has to come out right every time.

I know you’re waiting to hear exactly what Frank said. But you’re out of luck – I am purposely not repeating it in this blog post. You need to have one that comes from you (that’s the “natural” part). Just remember: I coordinate…, I plan…, or I manage… are great starters.

So what are you going to say the next time you meet someone?

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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