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An Open Letter to Advisors from the Prospect’s Perspective

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The purpose of this open letter is to give advisors a typical prospect’s honest opinion about how advisors present themselves and their advisory firms, and how they treat their prospects.  This is a behavioral advisory business view – think behavioral finance, but for growing advisory businesses – that should help advisors with their messaging and process with prospect meetings. Be warned that prospects aren’t very diplomatic in what they think, versus what they say to us.

This review is based on both academic studies and my extensive experience helping both advisors and prospects determine mutually beneficial matchups.  One advisor adopting this behavioral approach doubled his 12 years of AUM within 12 months. Another newly behavioral-based advisor brought in over $80 mil. in AUM in two years. In short, this behavioral advisory business approach works.

Six prospect perspectives advisors should ignore at their own risk:

#1. “You lost me before hello” – We hear that people form an opinion of someone else within 7 seconds, or some equally horrifyingly short period of time.  That person will look for supporting information that validates that opinion, while ignoring what runs counter to that purely emotions-based first impression (aka, confirmation bias). But, what if your meeting with a prospect is the validation stage, instead of the first impression stage?  Think of all the first impression-forming factors before the prospect even meets with you: the referral; the content in your LinkedIn profile; expectations for the first meeting; the quality of your building, elevator, lobby, receptionist, etc.; the visuals regarding your attire, grooming, energy level, body language; and many other factors.

#2. “I lie, and I’m good at it” – Prospects will come up with often crazy excuses (read: lies) when asked why they need to look at other advisors, or why they don’t want to hire an advisor.  They don’t want to tell you, “you didn’t make a good first impression” because it is too harsh and turns into a debate. Or they might not even be aware of why they are saying “no” (see #6). So, prospects say they need to: think about it; have you analyze their holdings; continue to fumble around on their own; and many other excuses.  Instead of asking why prospects aren’t throwing their money at them, advisors are better off letting those prospects off the hook, and just assume that their first impression wasn’t great, or that they didn’t give enough supporting information if the impression was good.

#3. “What’s in it for me?” – Prospects quickly need to feel (not necessarily conscious feelings) that you can help them feel less stressed about both their investment program and their personal life.  In fact, you should set this as the main objective of the prospect meeting before the meeting (remember You lost me before hello, above).  It isn’t easy being a successful prospect: work and family stress; concern over the ability to meet financial, personal, and family goals; and the universal desire to be happy!  Therefore, prospects respond more favorably to a meaningful conversation about them, with very quick info on how you can help me in a personalized way, versus a pitch by you about how great you are as a financial advisor (oh, don’t tell them you became a financial advisor because you love numbers or investments, even if true).

#4. “Blah, blah, blah” – Actions speak louder that words, and speak louder than an analysis of a prospect’s current holdings.   Don’t tell them you care about your clients, show them! Don’t tell them how well you get to know your clients, spend your prospect meeting getting to know them. Bonus points for your prospect meeting resulting in them realizing important things about themselves.  Prospects have been burned too many times by people telling them what they want to hear, that now they think less of people who use words like, “I’m trustworthy”. A key rule of thumb for having your words viewed as just “blah, blah, blah” is to make sure your prospect is doing at least 75% of the talking.

#5. “Flattery will go a long way” – Many times a prospect’s accomplishments aren’t acknowledged by advisors.  They didn’t earn their money without a lot of smarts, setbacks, stress, sacrifice, and hard work – they want recognition.   With the universal striving for happiness, self-worth is a key factor. An advisor who strengthens a prospect’s self-worth will be liked by that person, and likely hired by them.  But such congratulations need to be sincere, without the advisor looking like a sycophant. Bonus points if you can show prospects how your custom help is determined by what wealth means to them (through action, not “blah, blah, blah”).

#6. “I’ll only remember how you made me feel” – As the late Maya Angelou said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  If a prospect enjoys your meeting, and they came away happier and more hopeful about both their financial and non-financial life, they will want to sign up with you immediately.  Just don’t ask them to cite chapter and verse what was said and shown to them during the prospect meeting – just ask them how they feel!

What advisors can do – Hopefully this prospects’ perspective has you thinking about what you can do with such insight.  You could take each of these key points and see how your value messaging and prospect meeting structure (including the pre-meeting messaging) are both right or wrong after considering your new insight to your prospects’ feelings.  Feel free to contact me for free guidance with this personal review.

Michael Sakraida is a financial sales consultant, and the founder of the Financial Advisor Network (FAN) group, with over 17,000 advisor members. He has helped advisors, BD’s, and RIA firms have happier clients and more successful businesses by appealing to, and working with, their clients’ emotions.  The first online installment – free – of Mike’s book, Happy Client, Happy Advisor is available at

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