Dealing With a Really Difficult Prospect

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Dealing With a Really Difficult Prospect

October 14, 2014

by Dan Solin

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We have all had experience trying to convert difficult (sometimes really difficult) prospects into clients.

In a recent article, I discussed some of the issues I have confronted when dealing with narcissistic advisors. But clients, or prospective clients, can display narcissistic behavior too.

My anecdotal experience with these advisors has been that I am unable to assist them in gathering assets under management, because my approach requires an intense focus on the needs of the prospect. Narcissistic advisors, however, tend to require that all attention be centered on them. Other characteristics of narcissism include feelings of self-importance, a need for admiration and an inability to empathize with others.

To be clear, such traits are at the extreme end of the spectrum for difficult personalities. It’s not likely you will frequently encounter them, on either the advisor or the prospect side of the conference-room table.

Here are some tips you may find helpful if you do.

Determine if you want to convert this prospect

It’s not difficult to identify a prospect with a challenging personality. They often want to dominate the conversation. They don’t listen very well. Because they believe they are special and unique, they demand an exceptionally high level of service. They also are very difficult to please, frequently change their demands and are more likely than other clients to disagree over fees.

Nevertheless, there are circumstances which it still makes business sense to convert such a prospect into a client. Assuming they meet your firm’s asset requirements and you believe that working with them could be mutually beneficial, you may decide to pursue the relationship.

Let them do the talking

Many years ago, I had dinner with a prospect who is a retired executive at a large industrial corporation. He had a very dominating personality. As soon as we sat down, and before we ordered anything, I asked him this question: “Tell me about your career at….” He was still going strong when we completed dinner. I can’t really recall saying anything else to him.

The next day, I received an email from this prospect telling me how much he had enjoyed the dinner and how he found me to be one of the most interesting people he had ever met. I sometimes wonder how he arrived at that impression, because he never asked me any questions and had little information about me other than the fact that I wrote investment books.

If you want to make someone with a challenging personality happy, and have him or her ascribe positive traits to you, let that person steer the conversation. Fortunately, this is not difficult.

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