June 24, 2013

Prospecting for New Clients: Set the Right Tone, and Expectations

In a blog post late last month, I mentioned that I had recently lost a client. In fact, it was the first client I had lost since 2008. I tend to take client departures personally, and now that I've had a few weeks to reflect on it, I'd like to share a valuable lesson I've learned. 

All of us have a protocol we use when meeting a prospective client for the first time. Perhaps it's a series of well-thought-out questions. Perhaps we just go with the flow and let our conscience be our guide. Whatever the case, I have a greater appreciation of the importance of setting the right tone and expectations during the initial interview. With this as a backdrop, I will share a few thoughts on the subject. 

This Is a Long-Term Proposition

Sometimes a client will have just enough trust to hire you, but not quite enough to stick it out over the long haul. Therefore, it's important to ask about their past advisory relationships. How many advisors have they had and how long did the relationships last? Moreover, why did they change advisors? Understanding this can be invaluable as it provides insight into their thought process. A client that has frequently changed advisors may be seeking something that's unobtainable. They may also be impatient or uninformed about the process of investment management and the patience it requires. Therefore, it's crucial to get to the core of who they are and to understand how they make decisions. 

Level of Involvement

Some clients are 'big picture' people and only want the bottom line. Others need details. Some wish to learn about the investment process and others couldn't care less, as long as you meet their expectations. I manage all client accounts on a discretionary basis. That is, I make decisions on the portfolio without prior consent. Of course, the client receives prompt notification of every trade and I extend an offer to review their account each quarter. In short, I am fully transparent, but I manage the portfolio. That's why they hire me. If the prospective client feels the need to be involved in each decision, and if this runs contrary to your business MO, they may be better suited to a different advisor. Ask how much involvement they wish to have. 

Flexibility

Flexibility implies that the client is willing to listen and take advice. A client who routinely ignores the advice you render is probably not a suitable client. It may simply be a personality issue, in that the client feels the need to be in control. If this is the case, and you are equipped to handle it, you may be able to sustain the relationship. If not, then it's probably best not to get started. 

To sum up, finding clients and finding the right clients may take time. Also, the best lessons in life are learned through adversity. Hence, those who learn from their experiences and continue to get back on the horse should do well. If you’ve been facing headwinds in your business, I'd like to say, "Don't give up! Don't stop learning!" And most of all, "Remember to learn from those who have traveled the road before you. For it is the road less traveled on which the high achievers are found." 

So keep persevering and until next time, thanks for reading and have a great week!

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