I receive a lot of emails from firms and producers with less than $1.2M in revenue, so I am going to use this blog to speak to all of you.

It’s very common among independent advisory firms nearing that revenue level to see their growth slow dramatically.

This usually happens for three reasons: their onboarding of new clients has slowed, their client retention rates are falling and then to “solve” this problem they’ve added a number of costly new services, such as tax preparation, insurance, trusts, etc. Unfortunately, those serices attract enough clients quickly enough to cover their overhead, and consequently drive down profits even further. 

The problem in these situations is that firm owners don’t recognize what their real problem is, and consequently try to implement inappropriate solutions.

The real problem is that as advisory businesses grow beyond $500,000 in annual revenues—and approach that $1.2 million barrier—they start to reach a kind of market saturation, maxing out the relatively small number of “target” clients in their local market. And combined with generally low close ratios using their standard “pitch,” together with a declining number of referrals, their growth slows to a crawl.

Or to put it in more simple terms: most independent advisors don’t know how to sell.

So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that if they can’t sell their current services, they aren’t able to sell their new services, either. What’s more, multiple services, usually with multiple pricing structures, confuses clients, which doesn’t help the sales process either. 

To solve this problem—and get firms growing again—we have our advisor clients pick one service (financial planning, wealth management, investment management, etc.) and focus solely on selling it: one service, one pricing structure. Their other services go on the back burner until later. 

Then they can focus on just one thing: learning how to sell that one service. In our experience, what’s missing from most advisory “sales pitches” is a short, clear, repeatable message (see my July 12 blog for ThinkAdvisor, 6 Keys to Effective Selling for Independent Advisors). 

To create that pitch, we recommend that owner-advisors write an effective 20-minute pitch; use it every time they talk about their firm with everyone they know (including clients, prospects, employee’s friends, strategic partners, vendors, etc.); and then train everyone in the firm to use it with everyone they know, too.  

To fit into 20 minutes, that pitch should include six clear, simple, brief elements.:

  1. Your mission: helping clients navigate the often complex financial services industry to use their current and future resources to achieve their goals. 
  2. Your core values: independence, professional ethics, your legal duties (fiduciary, e.g.), etc. 
  3. Your service. Briefly describe the one service currently being offered. 
  4. Your team: the key people in your firm, their professional credentials, experience, and areas of expertise.  
  5. Your new client process. This is really what you are selling: briefly describe the steps of your service for each new client. 
  6. How to get started. This where most advisors drop the ball. You have to have a path to becoming a client with your firm.

Then work on your pitch until it’s as concise and clear as you can make it; and practice it out loud until you can repeat it in your sleep. What happens when you say the same thing in the same way is that other people start to repeat it—and all those people will be “selling” your firm, too.

We find that when advisors and their firms start using an effective sales pitch their referral rates go up, their close ratios go up and their client retention goes up. Oh, and their employee turnover goes down. Their firms start to grow again—dramatically.

As the firm grows, adding additional resources, and starts to approach the $3.4 million revenue barrier, then it’s time to pull those other services out of mothballs—and create pitches for them, too. But this time, the firm will be large enough to create new divisions for each service: each with its own sales pitch. But every division only sells its one service: using its one pitch. And now that the firm “knows” how to sell, the success rates of those services will increase dramatically, as well.