The first couple of years of an advisor’s career is like running a gantlet. You have numbers to hit. It’s like swimming underwater in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Your lungs are bursting, but you keep going. Two or three years later, you are successful! You have an established base of clients. Many of the advisors around you are gone. You are now an established producer.  This is where mistakes like these start to happen:

1. Announcing what you won’t do. You hear a presentation on client acquisition. After pondering the strategy you announce. “I’m not doing that. Too much work.” You hear about an advisor who built their clientele talking with people on commuter trains. You determine “I would never do that.” It’s very hard to grow a business if you focus on what you will NOT do.

Instead:  What will you do instead? Find a prospecting strategy that fits inside your comfort zone.

(Related: Using Wine to Get Your Point Across to Wealthy Prospects)

2. Assuming no news is good news. When markets are volatile, it’s tempting not to call clients.  Fee-based accounts and managed money means revenue is coming in regardless. You assume clients either don’t open their statements or they are rolling with the punches. You forget they are being prospected by other advisors who ask: “When was the last time you heard from your advisor?”

Instead:  Call each client (or get in touch) on a regular schedule. Suggest and deliver a portfolio review. It shows how you add value.

3. Thinking “I have all their money.” You don’t pay that much attention or call with suggestions because buying something new would mean selling something they own. In a fee-based account, no new revenue is generated. You assume they’ve handed over all their investable assets. “I’ll just focus on other clients…” My first manager explained, “There’s always more money.”  It might be some they didn’t tell you about. It might be their parent’s money, because they advise on its investment.

Instead: Suggest an idea. Tell them you like everything they already own. This will require new money. See what happens.

4. Leaving money on the table. You were raised not to be greedy. The financial plan listed several client needs. You handled the easy ones and skipped the complicated ones explaining: “You need to find a specialist for that part. It’s not my area.” They either do nothing or find an expert. Once again, they have the same licenses as you. They wonder why you couldn’t help them.  They start sending money to that nice man across the street.

Instead: You don’t try to solve every issue at one meeting. (They would be overwhelmed.)  Schedule another meeting and bring in the firm’s specialist for the complicated issues.

5. Stopping learning. Your comfort zone includes a range of products. You rationalize “That’s enough for me.” Robo-advisors? I don’t do that. ETFs? I stick with mutual funds. A small minority of financial advisors still resists asset-based pricing and sticks with transactional business.  Meanwhile, your client hears about these new products from friends and your competitors.  They sound good to them. They wonder why you never told them.

Instead:  Privately, get one of your newer advisor friends to explain the new products and services simply.

6. Not following up on leads. As the years pass, many of us get sloppy. At the start of your career, you called a lead immediately. Now, if your manager distributes a few leads that came through the firm’s website or online marketing strategy, you might say: “I’ll get around to this later.” If clients suggest a friend’s name, they will be embarrassed if the friend says no one ever called. They will stop giving referrals.

Instead: Jump on every lead as soon as you get it. You will impress people. Reassigned accounts might even follow!

(Related: The Ten Commandments of Prospecting)

7. Convincing yourself the business has changed. The strategies you used to build your business now seem outdated. “Cold calling no longer works.” “No one wants to come to seminars anymore.” You sincerely believe you would not survive if you had to start all over again. You think you know what doesn’t work, but don’t know what’s taken its place. Your clients sense you aren’t in it for the long term.

Instead:  Look for commonalities. How hasn’t it changed? Is big money still handed over face to face? How does the new technology help make that happen?

8. Not having a system to ask for referrals. You can’t say: “Why haven’t you sent me any referrals lately?” You are so thrilled to get an order you don’t press your luck by asking “Who else do you know might be interested in the same idea?” You assume if clients find someone you can help, they will send them your way.

Instead:  Attend some classes. Learn a few comfortable expressions. When things are going well or a client really likes an idea, slip them into the conversation. Be as specific as possible about the type of person you want.

We all get comfortable. Unfortunately, this can lead to complacency and plateauing. Recognize the problems and take action.


Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.