When you’re looking to grow your book ...
When you’re trying to win new business – or simply get to know that interesting prospect – here are our top tips for 2017, written by your peers.
Persistence pays …
... when it comes to new clients, says Rishi Sholanki of Elite Private Wealth. While advisors can get new clients in many ways – recommendations, meeting people, advertising and social media – one experience taught Sholanki that new clients can sometimes come from an unlikely source — people who initially expressed no interest in your services.
After having a good conversation with one prospect, Sholanki was told the prospect already had an advisor he was happy with. Sholanki told him he respected that but asked if it would be all right to keep in touch – no pressure sales tactics, just a note every few months or so.
“After that meeting I began to send him updates on a regular basis,” Sholanki says. The notes were simply Sholanki’s take on the economy and markets, as well as periodic check-ins and phone calls to see how the prospect was doing.
“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.”
After a year or so of this low-key, regular contact, the prospect realized he’d heard from Sholanki more than his own advisor. In the end it took about a year-and-a-half of regular contact with this “warm” client before they finally started doing business together.
That experience taught Sholanki 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.
But if you’re chasing customers …
... then something is wrong, says Jon Baker of Atlanta, who as a young advisor would go anywhere and do anything to chase down a potential client. He met one potential client who was so busy the prospect said he could only meet at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. At his home.
Christmas Eve rolled around and Baker left his family meal, put on his suit and headed across town to the meeting.
“When I knocked on the door, nobody answered … I had just been stood up.”
That event stuck with Baker, who wondered was he was doing to make these prospects feel it was okay to cancel meetings without telling him.
“My approach was backwards,” recalls Baker. “Customers should be chasing me, not the other way around. To do that, I had to change what I was selling. So I made the decision to move to a fee-based business.”
Baker’s business doubled in each of the first three years following his decision.
His clients like the clarity fee pricing provides and the clear action steps he delivers.
“They no longer worry that a meeting will be a sales pitch, so they don’t cancel meetings.”
When Baker looks back at it, it sometimes seems funny that such a small thing — dropped meetings — had such a big impact on his business.
“But it makes sense. People want a good product, and they are willing to pay for it and to come to your office. I haven’t had a meeting at anyone’s house in decades.”
Reconsider your picture of a “typical” client …
... it might open up a whole new business area for you, says Katharine Perry at Pittsburgh-based Fort Pitt Capital Group.
One day early in her career, Perry found herself sitting in on a meeting with her boss and a couple of clients. As her boss and the husband were animated in their conversation about the firm’s regular fly-fishing outings, Perry noticed the wife was quiet and utterly bored.
As a young female financial planner, Perry was aware of the tendency of FAs to focus on a relatively older and often male clientele. This meant marketing efforts were often focused around ideas that traditionally appealed to a male audience.
The lesson helped Perry to focus on expanding marketing efforts to women – especially young professionals. She knew some firms’ efforts to “make financial planning fun” often read as condescending, and the women Perry hoped to target were already interested in their finances.
Perry planned a wine-tasting event, asking clients to sign up in advance. The event was fully booked within 24 hours with a waiting list of 30.
“Afterward, I was surprised (and gratified) when several of the women in attendance approached me and asked for women-only events. That’s when I knew we were on to something.”
Since then, Perry and her firm have expanded their marketing to women and found a fresh new way to help a clientele they might otherwise have completely missed.
Just make sure your client events are about the prospective clients, not about you …
Client events generally followed a standard format: a private lunch for 20 people featuring a speech by the CIO.
“He’d pitch a new fund we were recommending or explain some of the details of our investment philosophy,” says Lee. “But whatever the topic was, the general focus was on our firm, our investment philosophy, our amazing staff.”
But when Lee helped put together an event focused on bringing interesting people together, it made him reconsider his whole approach to client events.
Instead of talking about himself or his firm, Lee invited twelve entrepreneurs and business owners to a restaurant opening where he knew the chef.
“The energy in the room that night was so different from any other client event I’d attended that it was striking. There was no official discussion of investments or finances at all. Instead, my co-host gave them a behind-the-scenes look at how the restaurant had taken shape: the vision they had started with, how they curated the menu, all those fascinating nitty-gritty details that go into creating a fine-dining establishment.”
The guests easily talked among themselves about their own businesses and the challenges they were facing. Afterward, someone started a group email to continue conversations, and some interesting connections were fostered that night.
Some advisors feel they need to use events to tell people why their firm is the best. But advisors can benefit from taking a step back and asking themselves if this is really the best way.
Now, as founder of his own firm, Lee focuses his client events on what will benefit them. He makes sure to invite people from different industries and walks of life who wouldn’t necessarily cross paths in their day-to-day lives.
When you structure your client events around your clients, you make them into something they want to do. They’re not just doing you a favor by showing up. There are a ton of firms out there that want to manage people’s money. By centering these events on your clients you reinforce the message that your work is all about them, instead of all about you.