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6 Steps for Advisors to Get More Clients

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Ten years after it introduced its Advisor Services platform and one year after it completed distribution of a revamped version, Scottrade is holding a series of workshops around the country to help advisors adopt strategies and tactics to grow their businesses.

“We want to get the word out to our clients that we’re not just a brokerage but a custodian that wants to help financial advisors grow their business,” Brian Stimpfl, senior vice president, Scottrade Advisor Services, told ThinkAdvisor following the firm’s New York City workshop. Scottrade Advisor Services provides a clearing, custody and portfolio management platform for about 1,000 independent RIAs —“the fastest growing segment in the financial industry,” said Stimpfl.

The workshop focused on how advisors can deepen relationships with existing clients and cultivate new clients by knowing “the process behind growth,” said Stimpfl. “We want advisors to look at every step in their service model, from developing their pipeline to onboarding [new clients].”

Brian Kostick, who led the workshop and heads practice management at consulting firm ActiFi, said advisors know what they need to do to grow their business but they “have trouble carving out the time. Most of their days are filled with servicing [existing] clients.”

Here are some key exercises and pointers from Scottrade’s New York City workshop, the second in a series of four:

Articulate what you do for your clients

1. Articulate what you do for your clients.

“It’s more than what you think you do,” says Kostick. It includes even the “little things” like reading the financial news to keep up with the markets. When clients know exactly what you do to service their accounts, they’re more likely to stick with you and even refer you to other potential clients.

Create a pipeline report

2. Create a pipeline report.

Kostick calls it a “roll call of opportunity.” The workshop asked advisors to define on paper what information they need to be included in the report so that the tech folks developing the report actually design a useful tool. “Get it on paper,” said Kostick.

Differentiate between marketing and sales

3. Differentiate between marketing and sales.

Marketing is about getting people to know you exist; sales is about courting them to become a client, says Kostick. “Focus on the execution,” he said.

Get referrals

4. Get referrals.

Referrals are one of the best ways to attract new clients, but asking for referrals from current clients can feel awkward, said Steve Tuttle, chief investment officer at Krasney Financial in Mendham, New Jersey, who attended the workshop. Tuttle, whose firm has $600 million-$700 million in assets, said he will now “make sure employees know that referrals are an important goal” so they can incorporate that in dealings with clients. He noted there are also ways to ask for referrals without being too blunt about it such as offering help to a friend or relation of an existing client if the situation presents itself. Kostick recommended that advisors should use such “warm referrals” from strategic partners or current clients as well as social media apps like LinkedIn.

Valerie Haggerty from Laflam and Haggerty Investment Advisers in Southampton, Massachusetts, which has $23 million in assets, said she finds potential new clients from knowing the latest financial circumstances of her existing clients. She’s also their accountant and knows, for example, when a client’s child is graduating from college so she can offer a guide that explains to the new graduate the difference between starting to save for retirement at age 20 or age 30. “Then the client asks, “ ‘Can I send my kid in to talk to you?’ ”

Making the connection: be prepared and follow up

5. Making the connection: be prepared and follow up.

“This is a relationship business,” said Kostick. “Advisors need to cultivate relationships.” To that end, he said advisors need to research potential clients, including checking social media, preparing well for meetings and setting an agenda for meetings. “It’s amazing how many people wing it,” said Kostick. At meetings advisors need to ask good questions, the idea being to learn about the potential client rather than to sell their services. And afterward they need to follow up with a summary letter with a call to action—something they can follow up with a few weeks later, said Kostick.

Analyze successes and failures to connect

6. Analyze successes and failures to connect.

“The secret to be really good at business development is to do more of what really works,” said Kostick, who recommends that advisors look back at what worked to get a new client and what didn’t work. The best idea he heard at the conference was from an advisor who categorized those failures as nonqualifiers — those who should not have been included in the pipeline in the first place; and disqualifiers — those who chose to work with another advisor. The firm looked back on intros that led to both.

“There’s always a way to do it better, to provide better service,” said Haggerty.

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