The very first thing Alexandra Valdal’s friends did when she began her career in life insurance a decade ago was to warn her not to contact them about life insurance. And that was before she even had the chance to offer them a free financial check-up, which was how she would get potential clients in her office then.
But Ms. Valdal, founder, certified financial planner (CFP) and money coach at Apple a Day Financial in Victoria, played it cool. “I was like, ‘Friend, no worries. You’re a 27-year-old graduate student in debt, with no income to protect or family for which to provide. Get in touch when you need me.’”
Taking that long-term approach to prospecting potential clients paid off in spades when, years later, those same friends ended up contacting Ms. Valdal for financial advice after all.
With cold calling and door-to-door knocking becoming a thing of the past, advisors are finding that a little patience – and creativity – are of the essence when building their client lists. These days, successful advisors are employing more subtle approaches that can also boost their professional reputation, such as harnessing the power of social media, mastering the art of networking and finding ways to give back in the hopes that these efforts will pay off in the long run.
Ms. Valdal promotes financial literacy through regular workshops and aims to post about whatever she’s teaching on social media, when appropriate.
An active social media presence is today’s new business card, especially for clients of the millennial generation – and Shannon Lee Simmons keeps her accounts up-to-date regularly.
“We showcase the behind-the-scenes at our office, and it’s been really well received because people feel like they know us, who we serve and what we’re all about,” says Ms. Simmons, founder and CFP at the New School of Finance, a fee-for-service financial planning firm, in Toronto.
Making yourself available online to accommodate busy schedules also is key to building client relationships, says Ms. Simmons.
“If you can communicate via email or online, when it works for them, you’re more likely to move the process forward rather than having to wait for an initial meeting to happen at a specific date and time in your office,” she says.
The same holds true for online networking, says Daniel Martens, a financial advisor with Martens Financial and an investment representative with Hub Capital Inc. in Stratford, PEI. He says he hosts group seminars on Facebook Live regularly that are tailored to his specific audience.
“It’s a great way to meet potential clients without having to be face-to-face,” he says. “Although it can be hard to get people to [attend an event] in the evenings, when they are home from work, they can hop on their phones or computers, no problem.”
Before you decide on the approach that you’ll want to take to attract clients, understanding your own business and the types of clients to whom you can provide the greatest value is vital. Donald Chu, co-founder and chief compliance officer at Finaeo Inc., an online sales platform for advisors, suggests taking a Myers-Briggs test to determine the best client fit for your unique personality.
“You will likely attract the same type of personalities as your own. I’m a ‘Let’s get it done, no fluff’ type of advisor and tend to have like-minded clients,” says Mr. Chu.
As for connecting with those like-minded clients, he suggests advisors look for ways to add value by joining non-profit boards and participating in meaningful discussions rather than trying to sell products.
“Give, give, give – people will take notice and those referrals will flood in,” Mr. Chu says.
Although it takes longer to build genuine relationships, they’re worth it, both personally and professionally, says Julia Chung, partner, chief executive and senior financial planner at Spring Financial Planning in Surrey, B.C.
“‘You get a lot further when you treat people like people rather than opportunities. Focus on those you connect with, who need help in the areas that interest you the most’,” says Ms. Chung.
“Show up where they hang out – both physically and virtually – and build relationships with the other professionals they work with, including other advisors,” she adds.
The issue most people have with networking is the perceived insincerity of it – so be authentic, Ms. Chung says. “It’s that feeling of, ‘You’re not interested in me, you’re only interested in what I can do for you.’ Figure out how you prefer to connect with other people who are great at what they do, especially if they happen to work with clients you love to work with, and build on that authentically. People can smell insincerity – and they don’t like it.”
When networking, Ms. Valdal says she approaches all interactions from a position of abundance, not scarcity. She resists the urge of pushing her business card at people in social situations.
“I feel that’s not a genuine way to make an authentic connection. I don’t think anyone wants to be prospected or sold to. And I would hate for my kids to not get a birthday party invite because their mom won’t stop asking the other moms if they have life insurance on their spouses,” she says. “Most Canadians need what financial advisors can offer. If we respect people’s time and offer solid guidance, and only products that are a good and sustainable fit, we can raise our industry.”