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Life Health > Running Your Business > Prospecting

According to Me

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It’s always embarrassing to forget a birthday or anniversary — especially when it’s your own.

I wrote my first article in Research magazine in May 1990. I had convinced myself it was 1991, but when I checked, I realized May 2010 had come and gone and I’d missed my 20th anniversary writing for Research.

I fired off an e-mail to Gil Weinreich, editor of Research. He wrote back: “Congratulations on your 20th anniversary with the magazine. What’s most impressive is not the length of years you’ve contributed, but the strength of engagement of our audience, as evidenced by your Web readership, not to mention your loyal print readers. I would definitely encourage you to commemorate your 20th in the next article (which is for July).”

So here we are. Some thanks are in order. Let me say publicly what I told Gil by e-mail, “I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I have enjoyed writing for Research. I think it’s a great publication. You have given me extraordinary freedom. I thank you, Ken Silber and Janet Levaux and the rest. I am honored to be part of your team.”

Of course I wouldn’t have written 240 articles if no one read or liked them. As I write this, two of my articles are on the “Most Read” page of this magazine’s online edition. Is that because of me? Research? You? Yes, yes and yes. Ultimately, I write for you. I do it because you read, think, evaluate, sometimes disagree, but mostly take action. Thank you very much. It’s been a great ride — and it ain’t over yet!

Below I take a look at some of the best of the best along with added commentary. The bad news is there are a lot more goodies than I can discuss here. The good news: I’ve compiled four booklets for your download and reading pleasure. You might benefit from:

  • “The Disciplined Prospector: Do Something Today”
  • “Planning for Success”
  • “Referrals Happen”
  • “Surefire Team Development”

You will find them, free for the taking, at

I Love to Prospect

Back in 1990, I began a 4-part series, “I Love to Prospect.” I chose this title because I know well your visceral reaction when seeing it. Your stomach twists and a momentary flash of anger zaps out. Of course you read the article to find out what kind of deranged escapee from an asylum could possibly be writing for a reputable magazine. My argument was and is: If you hate prospecting, you are doing it wrong. Do it The Good Way and, worst case, you may never come to love it, but you can do it. You might even come to love it — as I do.

In that series, I reproduced a letter from an RR, as they were then called, asking if I could or had done a survey to see what works for opening accounts. Excerpt: “I have several friends at the major firms in Salt Lake City, and no one seems to be opening more than five or eight accounts per month. I used to open 20 to 30 a month with a 1-2-3 call approach back in 1985-86. It just does not work as well today.”

Can you imagine anyone today complaining about only opening 5-8 accounts a month? If you are at a national firm and are now opening 5-8 new households, you will be draped with purple robes and flown around the country in the corporate jet.

So what’s the problem? Low expectations. Plus, little or no prospecting is occurring.

In that series, I offered: “I don’t care where you are in your career development, if you don’t prospect you will have to leave the industry. Maybe this year, maybe next; but you’re on your way out.”

What about those low expectations? Quite frankly, I am shocked at the rewards offered by some of the major firms for new business development. Three net new households per year? Expect little. Get little. Expect a lot. Get more.

The 727 Principle

Let’s pop ahead a decade. In Feb 2000, I published “The 747 Principle: Launching Your Prospecting Campaign.” In it I talked about how we all know someone who seems to open new accounts effortlessly. Then I made a comparison between a prospecting program and a big airplane such as a 747. Both prospecting campaigns and airplanes need a lot of energy to launch successfully. Once that’s accomplished, momentum makes it easier to continue.

This is why some advisors almost effortlessly make money, open accounts and enjoy life. Their business is off the ground. When I tell you: on some days, do a lot, do a lot. If you don’t, you will just taxi around on the runway for a while and then the tower will radio: “Get that thing off the runway. I have a heavy taking off.”

Building a Team

In all modesty, I was the first to identify the need for a team, back in 1985. A very important addition to team building came in 1991. At that point I explained to readers that I once had “believed everything I had been told about partnerships: They’re less stable than marriages; 90 percent of them break up; and since 1 + 1 = 2, why bother?”

I then discussed how our computer-based marketing system got some complaints from partners because a single-user version did not address their specific needs. So we went to work to design a partnership version and, in the process, worked quite closely with partnerships. Lo and behold, we discovered that partnerships can be an Immensely Viable Organizational Structure.

As I put it in 1991: “Granted, we certainly have witnessed some spectacular and bitter breakups. But overall, a well-structured partnership has at least the survival potential of a marriage — and is possibly more likely to make it.”

Of course, now partnerships are quite the thing. As the vast number of baby boomer FAs lumber toward a transition out of the industry, what I characterized in 1991 as the “senior-junior partnership” is the preferred way to make that transition.

2010 and Beyond

Sometimes you get it right only to be undone by technology, changing market conditions, or changing FA needs and wants. Or all of the above.

In “I Love to Prospect” I wrote that information overload was driving a trend to separate money-managing and money-raising. That was true then. It is not true now. I no longer believe you cannot do both. Instead, I believe you must take back responsibility for client assets, manage them and continue raising money.

So what changed? Technology.

In 1990, if you wanted to actively manage client funds, you needed hours and hours to prepare your point-and-figure charts. Today, with tools such as the Dorsey Wright database, thousands of charts are ready with your morning cup of coffee. I discussed this in my June 2010 column “Get New Clothes.”

Here’s my call: In the coming years, survivors will take back management of their assets. They will abandon Modern Portfolio Theory and “buy and hold.” Those who make it to the end of the rainbow will have investment strategies in place to take protective action to preserve client assets in the face of adverse “weather reports.”

Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much, and his seminar program, “No More Pies!” helps advisors manage ETF portfolios by using technical analysis.


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