Most financial advisors want to acquire more affluent clients, but are struggling. This has bewildered training departments and created angst among advisors. Excuses surface—“It’s a tough environment to get people to move.” “I don’t travel in affluent circles.” “I don’t want to be perceived as a salesperson.”

Hello, social self-consciousness! We call this affluent sales reluctance. Amid all the changes brought upon us by this financial crisis, my fear is that affluent sales reluctance left unchecked can become an epidemic.

George Dudley and Shannon Goodson, authors of The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, define social self-consciousness in salespeople as shunning “prospects of wealth, prestige, power, education or social standing.” They go on to describe the negative impact it can have on an otherwise healthy sales career when a salesperson shifts his emphasis to up-market clients.

Dudley and Goodson’s research suggests social self-consciousness is contagious. With only 2.4 percent of advisors bringing in 10 or more new clients with $1 million or greater investable assets (down from 7 percent in 2007), it seems to have infected many advisors.

Recognition is the first step in recovery, so use the following clues to determine if affluent sales reluctance is holding you back:

• Setting affluent client acquisition goals but failing to follow through.

• Feeling uneasy in the presence of people you view as having power, prestige, and fame.

• Letting opportunities pass within affluent circles.

• Not following up with an affluent prospect.

The good news, according to Dudley and Goodson, is that because this is a self-inflicted emotional issue, it can be overcome—with effort. The following steps are interrelated, and we’ve found them to be quite helpful with our coaching clients.

1. Preparation:

• Develop a list of ideal affluent prospects by sourcing names within your affluent client’s spheres of influence. Work to source three names a week.

• Determine your “value proposition”—something that screams clarity and simplicity and can be articulated naturally in front of your clients. This can’t come across as canned or disingenuous.

• Determine the clients you’re going to call and ask for an introduction to the person you sourced.

2. Mental rehearsal:

• Visualize calling each client and asking something like, “You know Bob, your golfing buddy—I’d like to meet him. What would be the best way to introduce me?”

3. Action:

• Call your client and ask to be introduced. Note of caution: Your apprehension will not totally disappear. The secret is not allowing those feelings to keep you from acting. Feel the anxiety and act anyway.

These steps apply to every aspect of the affluent sales cycle. For example, a question we frequently get is, “What do I say when I’m introduced?”

Again, you must be prepared. We refer to this as approaching every potential affluent opportunity with strategic intent—a game plan. In the case of being introduced by a client, your objective is twofold: Develop rapport, and look for a creative point of follow-up contact.  It’s always helpful to mentally rehearse this encounter exactly as you want it to play out, just as an elite athlete would prepare. And obviously, you must act—regardless of the level of anxiety that still exists.

Overcoming affluent sales reluctance is rather simple, but is never easy. Why? It requires being held accountable for consistently going outside of your comfort zone (applying the preceding three steps), acting in the midst of that little devilish voice inside your head telling you some nonsense like, “They know you’re just trying to sell,” and acting consistently.

A few helpful facts:

• The two most significant factors affecting how an affluent prospect selects a financial advisor: strong recommendation from someone they trust, and the advisor’s reputation.

• With a healthy business and social client relationship, 86.3 percent will introduce you into their spheres of influence, provided you source the names and ask. With only a healthy business relationship, 73 percent will introduce you.

So remember, whenever an affluent client introduces you to someone, consider yourself certified as a credible professional with a good reputation.

Now let’s get active!