Soliciting business at your kid’s school. And other horror stories.


Finance and real estate salespeople are constantly told: “target your sphere of influence.”

It’s a fancy way of encouraging you to solicit business from family, friends, and those who are part of your normal life activities. The worst of this “targeting” I’ve ever seen was six years ago.

My wife and I went to visit some friends in the hospital the day they had their first baby. We got there as another couple was leaving. The wife of other couple pulls out a box. She gives awkward hug to new dad and hands new mom the box. New mom is still recovering, beyond exhausted, holding her baby, and can barely reach for the box which ends up on hospital bed beside her. Silence while box-giver stares at box. Dad steps forward to take baby, and mom flips unwrapped box open. Inside is a Merrill Lynch piggy bank.

“Well … as you know … never too soon to start planning,” stumbles the financial advisor, who might as well have been sounding out a sales script in her hand.

In our social circle, the Merrill woman didn’t give this new mom the time of day in the years leading up to that hospital day. But when the new mom’s company was bought by Google three months prior to that day, suddenly Merrill woman realized this is a “good friend” to have, so she raids her firm’s swag closet and heads over to the hospital for a pitch.

Like I said: the worst sphere of influence selling I’ve ever seen. That phrase and that piggy bank sitting on the hospital bed are forever tattooed on my brain.

I’m bringing this up now because my kid just started his second year of preschool, and “your kid’s school” is usually the first concentric circle on a “sphere of influence” diagram.

Obviously, I’m the guy who shies away from such tactics. Yes, I do business with those who are part of my normal life activities. But any such clients have come organically. I don’t actively “target” them. My non-work activities are just that. And if people approach me for help, I’ll help them.

Guys like me are the bane of any sales trainer, but I’m simply not willing to be perma-pitch man who can’t turn it off. I’m in the camp that says if you’re good at what you do, there are appropriate ways, times and places to let it be known.

That said, I’m probably that way to a fault. I’ve known for almost two weeks that a new client has a son in my son’s class. I’d just reviewed their tax returns and put it together when I saw their son’s name on the class roster. Despite it being a pretty cool coincidence, I haven’t told the client yet. I’m sure I will, but only when it’s appropriate.

Again, maybe my fixation on appropriateness is a fault and prevents me from developing more relationships faster.

But it’s either that or putting my business cards in the kids’ cubbies when I drop my son off each morning. And while it’s true that I carry around a very special set of business cards he made for me (see picture), I think I’ll hang onto them and let the school circle evolve as it may.




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