An advisor had an elderly client with a small portfolio that required little management. But the client would call the advisor incessantly, asking questions that had nothing to do with her investments, and sometimes just to chat.
“She was making him crazy,” says Stephen Wershing, president of The Client Driven Practice in Rochester, NY.
A few months later, when a colleague asked the advisor whether the client was still bothering him, he said, “No. I found a way around it. Every time she called, I’d ask for a referral.”
Wershing uses the example, provided by Bill Good Marketing, to teach advisors about prospecting—unless you want to lose clients, don’t pester them for leads.
Jason Stalker has never had to ask for a referral in the 14 years since launching Stalker Financial Group in Winnipeg. He serves about 1,200 households, and clients range from those with $50 million in assets to some who contribute $25 per month to RRSPs.
“I got my first million-dollar clients within a year of setting up my company,” he says.
It started at a golf tournament, where he met Kathryn, who was handing out gift certificates for free registered massage therapy.
“People were being crass; taking the gift certificates and throwing them out in front of her,” he recalls. “I’d set up my own company and knew what it was like to be in a start-up, so I felt I should support her.”
He became her client, and at the first appointment she asked what Stalker did for a living. That led to her setting up a $25-per-month RRSP.
During subsequent meetings, Kathryn, a new mother, asked about RESPs and non-registered versus registered funds. Finally, she discussed Stalker’s suggestions with her father, George, who is well-versed in investments and tax.
“I thought I should meet this fellow who was trying to get my little girl’s money,” says George. And meet they did. Stalker recalls George staring at him sternly during the first meeting. “I was actually starting to sweat because I was thinking, ‘This guy hates me.’ ”
Meanwhile, George says he just did what any concerned parent would’ve: “I asked a few questions, and stuck in my two cents occasionally.”
Stalker persevered. He stressed to George that the meeting was an open format, so he could ask anything.
“When we finally left the office,” says Kathryn, “Dad told me he felt Jason was a smart and honest guy—willing to do the work of finding options that suited me, not just sell anything, and I should go ahead and set up the funds.”
George also called the next day, telling Stalker he had $160,000 to invest but that he also wanted him to look at his pension plan. At the time, he was considering retirement and had a potential $850,000 to commute.
Stalker contacted a few accountants and lawyers to get their input. Then he called George and told him, “In order for me to take your pension plan, I need to earn you at least 5% for the first few years. I can’t guarantee that, so I suggest you stick with your plan.”
But George, who’d also sought advice from three banks and a credit union, appreciated Stalker’s honesty.
“Jason had the most down-to-earth and common-sense approach, and he was willing to listen to my input. A couple of the banks were inflexible. One of them was so busy telling me how much money they could make for me they never stopped to see if it made sense. The credit union was more flexible, but limited in [its] options.”
He adds, “Jason did not promise me the moon, but was realistic and allowed me to make a number of my own choices, such as seeking tax advantages of capital gains and dividends over interest-bearing investments.”
And George was pleased Stalker spent time getting to know him and his wife—their plans for the future, and how they would impact their finances.
“After the initial investment period, Jason meets with us regularly,” says George. “And he also speaks to both of us, not relegating my wife to a lesser status.”
Since then, the entire family has become Stalker’s clients, including Kathryn’s brother and his wife, as well as the brother’s mother- and father-in-law, who reside in Quebec and have pension plans in excess of $1 million.