Whether you call it “client acquisition”, “business development”, or “prospecting”, one thing is true. Successful financial advisors are becoming more creative and unique with regard to finding new clients these days.One other observation is correspondingly true. With respect to finding new clients, there is no Holy Grail, i.e. no single, universal approach that works equally well for all advisors. Quite the opposite, in fact. Every successful advisor arrives at their own client acquisition process through a combination of: trial-and-error, passions, competencies, diligence, and chutzpah. Whatever their method, they're very good at it because they enjoy finding new clients in the manner they've chosen.
One advisor we know organizes the complicated financial affairs of CEO’s by making site visits to the home of the harried executive…and organizes everything financially related, A-to-Z, top-to-bottom. Another advisor is an activist and specialist with regard to families dealing with dementia. Another networks with C-level executives and directors by attending annual shareholder meetings and trade conferences within a specific industry. Still another works within a 100% referral-based model of executives and managers of one specific company only. One advisor works with the roughnecks in the burgeoning oil fields of western North Dakota. A still different approach is the advisor who works with single mothers who are parents of special-needs children. The list is endless.
[Check out this SmartMoney article for additional acquisition approaches…some of which seem mildly off-putting to us.]
For all of these successful acquisition approaches, there are common characteristics of success. Here’s what we see:
The best financial advisors love what they do. This “love” manifests itself on multiple levels. They love serving their clients, and love the clients they serve. They love the wealth management process that they've created that offers special value to clients they serve. Critical to the client acquisition activity, they love how they meet new, prospective clients. They enjoy acquiring clients because they are good at it, and successful…which, by itself, becomes a self-fulfilling virtuous circle.
They know who their clients AREN’T. The best financial advisors know exactly who their clients are…and aren’t. This sounds obvious, but isn’t easy. Oftentimes, we see advisors make exceptions to their Ideal Client Type. This can end badly. The most successful advisors have the courage to avoid (and cull) potential clients who do not fit…and remain laser-focused on finding clients who do.
Goals, Strategy, Process, and Pipeline. Elite advisors are not willy-nilly and haphazard. They diligently set client acquisition goals periodically and consistently, and are constantly referring to them. They have a well-defined acquisition strategy and process. They use a pipeline and database of leads and opportunities and maintain this pipeline rigorously.
They use a coach. OK, this sounds self-serving…since we happen to be executive coaches who serve financial advisors exclusively. However, from our perspective there is much truth in this observation. Advisors who excel at acquiring clients are seekers of continual improvement in their learning, self-awareness, individual performance, and productivity. Advisors who excel at acquiring clients are also not beholden to cookie-cutter, me-too, paint-by-the-numbers and “you-must-do-it-this-way” instruction. The most successful financial advisors want to find their OWN way, without preconceptions or judgments. This is where coaching, true coaching, is critical.