As I was visiting with an agent this week, an interesting thought struck me. He shared with me how over the past few years, he has become increasingly frustrated with the amount of time and money he has had to spend prospecting for new clients. His story sounded a lot like the same story I hear from advisors week in and week out, and it went something like this…
“Seminar response is down, direct mail is getting more and more expensive, there are dozens of hot new ‘marketing ideas’ being thrown at me every week, so how do I get a handle on all of this? No matter what I do, I still struggle to find enough new clients each month.”
I feel for this guy. I really do. I remember being there myself, wondering where my next client was going to come from. I remember the days when this business was easy. Prior to 2008, I always ran my business on cash, and I had never charged anything. My other entrepreneur friends couldn’t believe that I could build a profitable business without credit. But then came 2008, when the direct mail response in my zip codes plummeted. All of a sudden, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into debt, mailing more and more invitations for my seminars in the hopes that I could “market” my way out of the hole I was digging for myself. While it certainly wasn’t an easy climb out, I learned something in the process worth sharing with this advisor on our call that really seemed to resonate with him.
I said, “Look, here are your options. You can either spend the rest of your career chasing prospects, or you can spend the next three to six months chasing strategic alliances. Either way, you’re going to have to prospect. The difference is, if you spend some time ‘chasing’ the right Centers of Influence, your chasing days could literally be numbered.”
The phone went quiet for a minute as the possibility sank in. I went on to explain that most advisors seem content chasing prospects their entire career, and yet all the while complaining that prospecting is the aspect of the business that most of them like the least. Some of you reading this may even hate this aspect of the business, seeing it more as the necessary evil in financial services. This is how I used to view prospecting as well. Then one day I thought to myself, “Why not find a smarter way to do this business?”
I realized that I had to find a way to prospect my way out of a prospecting hamster wheel. I simply couldn’t afford to continue doing business the way so many do. If you think about it, neither can you. You simply can’t afford to spend the amount of time you do currently in “prospecting mode.” As advisors, we all wear two hats or fill two roles as a prospector and an advisor. The problem is, we really only get paid for the work we do in the advisory role, which is why it’s critical to develop systems that generate a consistent stream of new prospects on an ongoing basis. This is the only way to really grow your annuity sales business to the level you’re striving for.
So what does this look like practically?