1: Chad Willardson smiled as he read the email. There was a big fish on the line. Actually, not a fish. A whale.
Chad was the founder and CEO of Pacific Capital, a premier, values-driven wealth management firm in Southern California. One of his clients was reaching out with a huge referral.
The prospective client had just sold his business, netting him over $100 million. “For most financial advisors, any time they can add a few million dollars per year to their investment base in new clients is great,” write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork.
“Adding a single $100 million client is massive.”
Chad went to work researching the prospect, his business, and his background. As it happened, he and the prospect were at an event together later that week.
“To Chad’s surprise,” write Dan and Ben, “this man approached Chad and said, ‘Hey, you’re the guy I’ve been looking for. We’ve got some big things to talk about.'”
The man told Chad he had met with private wealth groups at the big Wall Street firms. Still, he had decided he wanted to work with “a boutique and private advisory team, where he could get more personalized advice and individual attention,” the authors recount.
They set up a call for the following week. Chad and his team were elated. And prepared. They were going to land their whale.
2: Five minutes into the call, Chad knew something was wrong. The prospective client presented “a list of demands that would be required if they were to work together,” write Dan and Ben. He explained how Chad and Pacific Capital would have to “do things differently for him.” The man indicated he would be “in contact three to five times a week to let them know what to do.”
Next, the prospect told them “about all the firms he had already talked to, and all the perks and discounts they had already promised him,” the authors write. He was “abrasive, condescending, and extremely high maintenance.”
After the call, the man emailed Chad with additional demands and expectations. That night Chad received multiple texts from the prospect outlining his expectations for each person on the team.
The following morning during their team meeting, several people shared they’d felt disrespected on the phone call. That said, “given the size of his portfolio, how much this big client would mean for the firm,” they told Chad they would “figure out how to deal with his demands.”
Chad sat back and thought: “Are we going to have to bend our core principles too much to accommodate him?” Was there a way to “make it work” to minimize the problems? Perhaps, the prospect was being demanding now but would get better over time.
Was the whale worth it?
Chad picked up the phone. “I really appreciate even being considered to work with you and your family,” he began. “However, after talking with my team, we feel you would be better served working with someone else.”
“What are you talking about?” the man replied, surprised. Next, his shock turned to anger. He wasn’t used to being rejected. “He was much more used to everyone catering to his demands and wants,” write Dan and Ben.
“We appreciate this opportunity, we really do,” Chad said. “But we don’t feel it’s a great fit.” The phone call ended awkwardly.
3: Who Not How co-author Dan Sullivan has a saying that he shares as part of his Strategic Coach program: “Always be the buyer.” In every situation, we want to be the one who is buying, not selling. “The buyer can reject the seller, not the other way around,” Dan and Ben write.
In the story above, Chad was the buyer. Just because someone wants to work with him doesn’t mean they can. That’s a critical element of what Dan calls “Freedom of Relationship.”
“To have Freedom of Relationship, we can no longer engage with people that don’t align with our vision,” the authors write. Our confidence increases as we say “no” to people and opportunities that don’t align with who we are and where we are going. Our team becomes more confident in our leadership. And, as we make “courageous decisions based on the future we want to create, we make bolder leaps into our freedom and success,” the authors write.
“Then and only then, will we be able to expand our confidence and purpose.”
Reflection: Have I ever “fired” a prospect or client? Have there been situations where I wish I would have? What would have been the outcome? Are there any current clients that don’t align with the values and vision of my organization?
Action: Journal about my answers to the questions above.