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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rethink Your Prospecting

Many financial advisors would like more and better clients. But their client prospecting is often wasted and misplaced. Here are three concepts that can help you attract more and better clients:

Make yourself scarce

We live in a culture where people want what they cannot have. In order for people to want you, you must make yourself scarce. That means you only deal with people who fit your profile (yes, turn away business). In all financial marketing you do, communicate that you only deal with a certain segment of people.

Here’s an example. Bob, a 10-year financial advisor, only deals with people age 60 and over. His firm is called Senior Alliance. His business card says “Retiree Investment Management.” He does not deal with people under 60. If his client says, “Can you help my son—he’s 48 and he has some money,” he declines and refers the son to a colleague. By being so picky, his clients refer him to others as “He’s a specialist in dealing with people like us.” No client wants to go to a generalist. They want a specialist. What do you specialize in? If you come up short with an answer, then you cannot attract clients as a generalist and need to select a focus.

Another example is the financial advisor who specializes in an industry, For example, an advisor who only prospects chemical engineers. He becomes known in that circle, writes a columns for the engineers’ magazine and becomes an invited speaker at conventions. I know a guy who sold hundreds of life insurance polices to United Airlines pilots by visiting their layover facility at major airports. He gave talks to a group of pilots as they were waiting for their next flight.
Be different. Every time you open an account, it’s because you offer something different than the client’s current advisor. Yet most financial advisors look alike—many do the same activities, offer the same products and services and are indistinguishable from the next financial advisor. Why should the prospect deal with you?

You distinguish yourself from others by crafting your business differently. One way is to focus on a certain niche as described above and making yourself scarce. Another way is to run your business differently. For example, if most financial advisors recommend mutual funds, then you recommend stocks (and have a well researched argument with evidence as to why stocks would be better). If other financial advisors offer bond funds for fixed income, you offer individual bonds (and have a good presentation as to why individual bonds would be better). If other financial advisors have no system for selecting stocks, then you specialize in quantitative systems like the Dow Dividend Strategy, Value Line or CANSLIM (as documented by William O’Neill in How to Make Money in Stocks). Show people why “guessing” about stocks is no way to invest and why a structured system brings all-important discipline to the process. If other financial advisors raise money for third party money managers, you be the money manager (if you use a structured system, the time it takes to manage portfolios is negligible as the system does the work).

If every one in your office sells growth stocks, then specialize in precious metals or whatever interests you. Team up with the other financial advisors in your office and split commissions. They are not talking to their clients about metals and this business will be lost. It would be smart for both of you to split commissions and have him introduce you to his clients (other brokers will bring you business if they you are not competing with them, that you specialize in an area they don’t know about—metals, options, 401k, etc).

In our culture, people who write are considered experts. If your name is in the newspaper or on the spine of a book, you will stand out from other advisors. You do not need to write a word. Many firms and others have an article service and ghost writing service to make you an author overnight (be sure and comply with the FINRA disclosures on ghost writing).

Think of the difference when you can give a prospect a copy of your book. Do you think he is more inclined to open an account with you? What about sending information to a referral and you include in the envelope two articles from the daily newspaper in which you are interviewed and one article you authored. Have you increased the probability of that prospect becoming a client?

As you implement your marketing, ask yourself each week how you are being different and distinguishing yourself from every other broker in town. Why will prospects leave their current advisor to join you?