Prospecting for New Clients? Think Small.

May 19, 2011

It’s conference season again. Seems like every May and October, I spend a majority of my time strolling the halls of some large hotel’s conference center, killing time before I present to a group of advisors. I have been in 48 states so far – and for most of them, I can only tell you what the insides of their hotels look like.

Last week, as I was waiting, I looked at all the booths from mutual funds, VAs and various custodians. After this long in the business, even my kids are sick of the squeeze balls, stuffed monkeys and dogs, and pens they give out. (Although I have to tell you – I still love the high-quality travel mugs). What caught my attention wasn’t the marketing trinkets or the great, five-star performance that everyone seemed to have. It was overhearing firms talk to the advisors about how they could help the advisor grow his/her business.

Most of the wholesalers, when pressed, would fall back on “We’ll support you in a seminar about my company’s products,” or “Let’s do a workshop together” as their standard reply. Sorry to tell you, that simply doesn’t work anymore. I figure I am like a lot of your prospects – no matter how good the wholesaler is, no one goes out to hear a product pitch. And forget about me asking my wife to go along. But…

A recent survey of affluent investors completed by the Oechsli Institute suggested that the Number One activity that they would attend was a “social event – small scale,” far surpassing product events or large-scale social events. Just as important was those small scale events were also the number one activity that they would bring a guest!

Affluent Perceptions of Client Events

It’s pretty simple. Prospects:

• Want to get to know you, not your products

• Want to meet you in a non-threatening location (your office = sales pitch)

• Don’t want to be “sold” something

Social sells without selling

I recently worked with an advisor who has structured his marketing around intimate client dinner events. These events are small in scale with one set of clients and two prospect couples. He holds them at a local restaurant’s chef’s table. The dinner is fun and memorable for all the attendees. No business is conducted, but the advisor has a few prepared topics in case of a lull in the conversation. He has never used those notes. Dinner, all in, costs about $850 for the night and his most recent dinner landed him a $1MM client. Think about his ROI on that dinner. That $850 investment in his business is covered this year and every year going forward.

As you are walking down the halls in your next conference, ask which firm can deliver that type of return. I think the only answer is your firm.

What are you doing to grow your business?

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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