Persistence Pays When it Comes to New Clients
This time we hear from Rishi Sholanki, a Toronto, Ont.-based financial planner at Elite Private Wealth with clients in Canada and advice-only clients in the U.S. He recalls a time when his determination helped him land a new client, and how that experience shaped his practice going forward.
Advisors can get new clients in many ways, including recommendations, meeting people, and advertising and social media, among many other strategies. But an experience a while back taught me that new clients can sometimes come from an unlikely source — people who initially expressed no interest in your services.
That may sound odd. When people say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” that usually means it's time to move on. And sometimes that’s true. But other times you may have a great conversation with someone and really see eye-to-eye on financial strategy and similar issues, but then they inform you they are happy with their current advisor. I used to think that was the end of the conversation, but not any more.
A number of years ago there was a huge layoff at a major firm in the Toronto area. I had a client at this firm who lost his job. We got together to figure out how he could build a financial bridge from the time of his layoff to his eventual re-employment somewhere else. He was pleased with the work and comforted to have a plan, so he referred me to a colleague at the plant who had also been laid off.
This colleague agreed to meet with me, perhaps out of duty to his friend. Regardless, we had a good conversation about his situation and how he could move forward after his job loss. However, he did have another financial advisor. At the end of our conversation he told me that he planned to keep that existing relationship. I told him that I respected his decision but I asked if it would be all right to keep in touch. I assured him that I wouldn’t pressure him, but that I’d just send a note every few months or so. He was under no obligation to read anything, to reply, or to respond in any way.
That made sense to him. After all, he really had nothing to lose and — or so he figured — he might even learn something on the side.
After that meeting I began to send him updates on a regular basis. These notes were nothing out of the ordinary. They were my take on what was happening in the economy and the markets, as well as periodic check-ins about how he was doing. I also phoned him a few times. I believe it’s important to connect at a deeper level than an email or text whenever possible. I never hesitate to use the phone when contacting potential clients because people can choose to take the call or respond to a voice mail — or not. It turns out this guy was someone who actually returned my calls.
After a year or so of this low-key, regular contact, he realized that he had heard from me many more times than he had heard from his own advisor. Indeed, he had only heard from his advisor once that entire year. He told me later that this made him reconsider what he was getting out of his existing relationship. Eventually he gave me a call and we sat down and talked again. At that point I realized he had never read or even looked at the statements he received from his other advisor. He had simply trusted that his advisor was making the best decisions along the way. I advised him to pay attention to his statements and ask questions — no matter who his advisor was, me or anyone else.
After a couple more meetings he said it was time to make the switch. In the end it took about a year-and-a-half of regular contact with this “warm” client before we finally started doing business together.
That experience taught me how important it is to stick with a prospect for as long as it takes. One year? Two years? It really doesn’t matter, as long as the prospect would be a good fit for your firm and you think you still have a chance.