In competitive spaces like ours, the temptation to achieve growth at any cost is powerful.
That doesn’t have to mean doing something nefarious or unethical. Little compromises, like taking on a client who isn’t a good fit for your practice, can add up to big challenges for your business.
(Related: Embrace Confrontation)
While you may generate revenue from a problem life insurance or annuity client in the short term, the long-term outlook is not so positive.
If you have not given much thought to the importance of client-advisor fit, here’s why it matters:
Problem clients will sap your energy and your resources as they often take more energy and hours to serve than clients whose personalities and work dynamics fit with yours.
Problem clients are also a strain on your people, which means that you could fit the strengths and dynamics of your team at risk if you continually exposing them to abrasive or frustrating behaviors.
Clients who are too small will not generate enough revenue for the energy you put in while clients who are too big will strain your business since you may not be equipped to adequately serve them.
Clients who are outside of your specialty are unlikely to refer you to clients who are within your speciality, and the more clients you accept beyond your specialty the less specialized your focus becomes.
All of these factors can lead to lost revenue. That initial revenue boost you get from a less than ideal client will eventually get washed away by the stress, frustration, and additional resources you pour into serving a client who doesn’t align with your business’s strengths and values. We have all been in the office when “that client” calls. You see your team cringe at the name on the caller ID, and you get a pit in your stomach as you brace for the conversation you’re about to have.
That’s a drain on your energy and can poison team culture and morale.
And to be clear, this isn’t just about avoiding “ugly” clients (as one of our colleagues calls them). This is also about saying no to perfectly friendly prospects if their business is simply not a match for yours.
The resolve it takes to keep your focus on your target prospects is important, but we typically see advisors struggle to effectively evaluate prospect fit well-before resolve is an issue. Consider the following suggestions:
1. Look at how your relationship started.
The dynamic of the sales process is a good indicator as to how the rest of the relationship will play out. If a prospect is combative and difficult to communicate with during the sale, he or she will likely continue that theme through the rest of your relationship.
2. Ask your team for feedback.
As a sale progresses, a prospect will likely interact with other members of your staff. Beyond observing how these interactions go, ask your team to weigh-in on how well a prospect fits with the business. You might discover that a staff member learned something about the prospect that never came up in your conversations.
3. Explore using a rating system.
We have seen clients use a strict and structured evaluation process to quantify the prospect’s fit with their firm, looking at everything from business size to revenue potential to company structure. A version of that approach might work for you.
4. Respect your intuition.
Hard data points and formal processes are great, but your gut—driven largely by your wealth of experience—is worth listening to.
5. Take the time to reflect on your sales process and your client experiences.
The mindset of driving ahead is important, but you should also pause to learn from the actions you have taken. Discuss client interactions with your team and use hindsight to better refine your idea of an ideal client.
Though total perfection may only be aspirational, pursuing the best client fits possible is good business.
In many cases, this can be as simple as understanding who you are and who you work best with. This may mean that you work with people similar to you, but that can be the right move for the business. When you force yourself to make major compromises on value or on process, you derail the trajectory of your practice and take yourself farther from the revenue potential you identified as worth chasing in the first place.
—Read The Secret to Your True Potential Is Fried Chicken on ThinkAdvisor.