<p>Image courtesy of winnond / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

To niche or not to niche? This has been a key sales question for financial advisors for years.

It used to be that you were on your game if you targeted the Holy Grail of specific markets: the ultra-affluent and baby boomers (these were hot for awhile). Then everyone targeted these markets, and suddenly they weren’t special anymore. The niche got too crowded, but where to go?

We don’t really want to get out of our familiar customer pool. After all, we love the comfort, depth, and familiarity. But each time we dive in, we need to dive deeper. We know these markets, we love these markets — they spend money, are loyal, and ask good questions. But here’s the problem: everyone else is in (and loves) the same pool.

I’m not suggesting that we leave our current clients. We must give them attention, stay in touch, send useful information, and — of course — ask them for referrals to prospective clients who are just like them. But for now (simultaneously), we need to move on and expand into new areas.

The game has changed, have you?

Want to sell more? Change your game. Ditch the niche. It’s no longer about what you target, but how you target.

Ask yourself: What’s missing? What are customers asking for? What are your fellow salespeople saying? How can you differentiate yourself?

Most financial planners, investment advisors and life insurance salespeople sound alike. They focus on the affluent, baby boomers, professional services providers or small-business owners. They say they help their clients plan for retirement so that they can “really retire.” They say, “Your kids can attend college, and you can buy a vacation home and travel.” Heard that before?

Stand up, stand out

Among all of these “sameness” statements, I heard one that stood out: a financial planner helps young people save beyond their 401k plans. This grabbed my attention. What a great area of focus! Help young people now, and you become their trusted advisor for a lifetime.

Some of these advisor’s colleagues told her she wouldn’t make money with this approach, and she should continue to focus on the affluent, because that’s where the money is. There are always naysayers. Trust your instinct; trust your expertise and experience.

Ask yourself: do you want to be the same as everyone else, or do you want to address a need that no one else recognizes? The answer is simple. 

Am I worth anything?

This same financial planner also works with small businesses — but with a different twist. She told me about a client who thought he knew the worth of his business and anticipated a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

This planner knew that if she had worked with her client years before, the business owner wouldn’t face his current financial predicament. How many small-business owners do you know who are misinformed about the value of their hard-won business? Small-business owners are real people whose financial portfolios directly impact their lifestyle, ability to plan for both short- and long-term life events (including retirement). Their stories are real-world, heartfelt examples of financial planning brought to life.

What a great void you can fill. But don’t talk about how easy it will be for them to retire, or that they can sleep well at night. Tell a story about other business owners you’ve worked with and how many can be lured into thinking their business is worth much more than it is. That’s your premise. Help them now, have them forever.

What’s missing for your clients? If you don’t know, ask. The landscape you currently focus on may no longer exist. What can you deliver that no one else does? Consider thinking beyond this moment and identify areas of need that will surface in the next six to 12 months. You’re not a futurist, you’re a realist — and you’ll be way out in front of everyone else. You’ll be the game changer that wins.

For more from Joanne Black, see:

No time to prospect?

Want a referral? Ask for it.

Your no. 1 selling priority