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Prospecting: Taking The Long View

Financial advisors are planners in more than one way. We help our clients plan for the future, and also plan for our own business growth. To keep a business profitable year to year requires a pipeline of prospects who are ready to become clients. However, a long-term prospecting approach is key to maintaining a viable business through your retirement and beyond.  

Prospecting Essentials

Before you solidify a long-term approach, you must be highly skilled in the basics of prospecting. One of the main strategies I use is to prospect in places where my ideal clients already are instead of casting a wide net.

For example, if I am looking to attract clients in the private equity industry, I look to my private equity networks. One of the easiest mistakes to make in this stage is to waste your prospecting efforts by limiting the size of clients you will take on. You must be comfortable with evaluating any opportunities that come your way from that pool, even if they seem small in the grand scheme of financial planning. Although not every prospect will be ready to implement a full financial plan and explore all the presented solutions, you can establish relationships with your target market that will sustain your practice and potentially lead to more opportunities built on trust.

Allocate Your Efforts

Although you want your business to be successful in 2020, you also want to sustain and grow your practice for five, 10, 15 years or more. I recommend distributing your time spent prospecting across short-range, mid-range and long-range prospects.

Short-range prospects have an immediate need that you can fulfill. Mid-range prospects may take one to three years to take action. On the other hand, you may stay in touch with long-term prospects for 10 years before they decide to work with you. Although these clients may not be ready to address their financial challenges in the near future, a long-term approach demonstrates your ability to prioritize clients’ best interests and wait until the time is right for them. Relationships you establish now may become your best opportunity in 10 years’ time.

Create Advocates

We recently paid a death claim for a policy that was written by my firm in 1934. This is a tremendous example of how every touch point you make can lead to long-term relationships and new clients. We made a promise 85 years ago that resulted in us working with one family for five generations. My predecessors set me up for success, and through a long-term approach I can do the same for my successors. I know that a promise I make now will be fulfilled even beyond my retirement.

What you communicate while prospecting has the potential to reach an even larger network beyond family relations. Every prospect you speak to can be a referral source, no matter how much time has lapsed. For instance, a prospect may hear of a colleague with a financial planning challenge five years after they speak with you – even if the solution you presented had not been a fit for them. Or, I may mention to all prospects the work my firm does with nonprofits in case they sit on a nonprofit board or know someone who does. You never know who your message will reach and what it may lead to.  

Build Your Knowledge

From the onset of my career until now, I have found it valuable to learn from industry greats to build on my success. Before going into a prospecting meeting, I may watch a video on the MDRT Resource Zone from Ben Feldman’s 1981 annual meeting presentation on prospecting from the client’s point of view. I’m always looking to learn from the best, emulate their strategies and allow them to influence my own.

Idea sharing can be life-changing, which is why I find it so essential to share my own experiences with others. Feldman or anyone else in our industry can help another producer help another family achieve financial stability through shared learning, and I hope my approach on long-term prospecting will do the same. By using a long-term outlook, we keep clients’ priorities top of mind and sustain our firms for years to come.

Howard Sharfman, senior managing director of NFP Insurance Solutions, has been recognized as an innovative leader in the insurance business for over two decades. He is a 25-year MDRT member. Howard may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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