What to Do When You Run Out of Prospects

You probably know more people than you think you do. Let's do a little exercise.

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When I was an advisor, I had those “I have no business” moments. We all do. You feel like a fighter pilot with flame out, hitting the ignition button repeatedly while hoping the jet engine restarts before the plane hits the ground. Where will prospects come from/?

OK, so this isn’t a “business by the end of the week” strategy. It’s longer term, but when you have lots of data points, they often arrange themselves in a bell shaped curve. Some prospects become clients almost immediately, others never do.

You’ve heard about the New York Times article making the case the average American know about 600 people. How many people do you know? Have you ever counted them up? Let’s try.

Who Are My 600 People?

As an advisor, you know far more than 600 people. You have a book of clients. Let’s not count them. Let’s assume you are that average American.

1. Your family. You have a spouse. Children. Parents. In-laws. Grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Nieces and nephews.

Tally: Think about the number of people who show up at Thanksgiving or family reunions. Let’s assume they add up to 20 people. Running total: 20

2. You live on a cul-de-sac or in an apartment complex. You probably know at least 10 other sets of residents.

Tally: Ten neighbor couples adds twenty people. Running total: 40

3. People from the old neighborhood. You haven’t lived here forever. Although you haven’t stayed in touch, you know at least 10 people from each place you used to live.

Tally: Let’s assume over 10 years you lived in two other places. Add another 20. Running total: 60

4. Christmas card list. People buy about 1.6 billion holiday cards each year. Regardless if you send them or not, you probably have a list somewhere. Yes, there will be overlap with other lists, but if you send out 100 cards, there are likely plenty of names that are off your radar.

Tally: Let’s assume your 100-name list has 40 names that haven’t showed up on a list yet.  Running total: 100

5. Stores and restaurants. You and your spouse buy stuff. Even if you do online banking and never walk into a post office, you get your hair cut, laundry and dry cleaning done. You buy wine and groceries. You buy more wine at a different store. You go to big-box stores often, seeing the same staff. Maybe you go to the office supply store.

Tally: You listed 20 stores and restaurants that get your business. You know at least two people at each one. That’s 40 people. Running total: 140

6. Service providers. You buy car insurance. Someone delivers the mail. Who does your lawn service? Repairs your car? Sells you gasoline? You have a family doctor, a dentist, an accountant and maybe even a lawyer.

Tally: There’s probably another 15 businesses that provide a service and want payment. You are their customer. Assuming you know two people at each, add another 30 names. Running total: 170.

7. Gym buddies. You work out. So do lots of Americans. You have a routine, visiting three or four times a week. You see the same faces. You also know people who don’t come anymore.

Tally: unless you wear your earbuds and don’t interact, you should know about 20 present or past members. The gym has an owner or manager too. Running total: 190.

8. Community involvement. You belong to or support something. It might be the local museum, historical society, symphony, library, fire company or ambulance squad. They have meetings and events. You recognize faces and say hello.

Tally: You support one or two causes. OK, you don’t go often. You still recognize at least 10 faces. Running total: 200.

9. Gala guests. You attend stuff. Either the firm buys a table or you buy tickets on your own. Often these events draw the same crowds. They all seem to know each other. They own businesses or do something for a living. You see them a couple of times a year.

Tally: Attend two or three events a year and you probably see 20 people you know. They have spouses or partners. Running total: 240.

10. People at church. It’s likely you attend religious services. You probably go at the same time and sit in the same place. You know the religious leader. You recognize staff members. You know a few of the lay ministers. You might be one yourself. You sit among a sea of faces and you recognize everyone in the pew ahead and behind, left and right.

Tally: You might not socialize, but you know at least 30 people. Running total: 270.

11. You take the train or bus into work, same time every workday. You stand on the platform and see the same people. You walk together after parking your cars. You make small talk. You know where a few of them work.

Tally: There are 20 familiar faces. Running total: 290.

12. Office coffee shop. You stop for coffee before work every day. You stand in line with the same people every morning.

Tally: It’s not a big coffee shop. There are at least 15 faces you recognize. Running total: 305.

13. Drinking buddies. Married or single, you get together with friends from time to time. It’s guys’ or girls’ night out. You might meet at a bar. You might go to the movies. Your group gets together once or twice a month. Your paths overlap, so you know some of the spouses too.

Tally: There are 15 people in your posse. You’ve met their better halves. Running total: 335.

14. School parents. Will the school sports season never end? There’s soccer, basketball. Football. Baseball and track! You are there every Saturday morning. You attend parent association meetings at school. You have met every one of your children’s teachers.

Tally: This category is huge. There are at least 25 sets of parents. There are at least 15 teachers. This adds 65 people to the list. Running total: 400.

15. Your children are scouts. As a supportive parent you attend meetings and go on camping weekends. Lots of other parents are involved. There’s at least 10 you can name.

Tally: Those 10 parents have spouses or partners. You met them at the awards dinners. Running total: 420.

16. Co-workers. OK, so your co-workers are obviously not client material. You still know them. There are at least 30 of them. They have spouses.

Tally: These 30 and their partners adds another 60 to the list. Running total: 480.

17. People from your previous job. You did something else before you got into this business. You made some good friends there. You still keep in touch.

Tally: Assume you had only one job and made 10 friends there. Running total: 490.

18. People who used to work in your office. It’s amazing the number of people who come and go. It’s like a revolving door. Some new people decide it’s not right for them. Probably at least 20. You know some great folks who retired. Add 10 more. You know their spouses too. Over the years, maybe 10 jumped ship. You’ve had at least five branch or sales managers over the years.

Tally: Lots of folks! That’s probably 55 people. Running total: 545.

19. College alumni. You kept in touch with classmates from school. Let’s assume that’s 10 people. You attended a few alumni club meetings in your town. You saw 20 people there. You met five folks from other graduating classes the time you went back for alumni weekend. You belonged to a fraternity or sorority and keep in touch with 10 people.

Tally: It was from another time in your life, but you have a connection with 45 people. Running total: 590.

20. People you met on vacation. They were so cool! We exchanged contact information. I’ve been meaning to get in touch.

Tally: There are five people you can think of. Running total: 595.

21. Spectator sports. You tailgate. You have a favorite team. You visit a sports bar. This adds lots of people, especially those you know when grilling in the parking lot before the game.

Tally: Between the sports bar (15 people) and tailgating (20 people + spouses) that’s 55 more people. Running total: 650.

22. Participant sports. You play golf. You belong to a club. You play alongside the same people often. You play in tournaments. You eat in the dining room. You know the staff.

Tally: You could easily know 30 members plus 10 staff. Running total: 690.

23. Former clients. Everyone loses clients. They move away. They go over to a competitor. They decide to invest on their own. Assuming you parted on good terms, they know you and have a favorable impression. You’ve lost at least 20 clients over the years. You know their spouses.

Tally: Twenty ex-clients and spouses adds another 40 people. Running total: 730.

This doesn’t include former partners, arresting officers, neighbors with barking dogs or estranged family members. You may know more in some categories, fewer in others. Do all these people know: who you are, what you do and why you are good? Do you know who they are (yes), what they do, (maybe) and where they work (maybe not)?


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.

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