climbing-the-ladder

Let’s be honest. It’s more lucrative to chase wealthy prospects, but they aren’t the average advisor’s bread and butter. There are only so many affluent folks to go around, so you won’t grow your book if you keep waiting for millionaires.

You’ve got to spend at least some of your time helping people with fewer assets. Still, one advisor told me it can be hard to work with small clients because they’re just not as interested in their portfolios. You call them with ideas, but they want to set investments once and forget them. Time spent on that follow-up could have been used developing a tax plan for a wealthier prospect.

This is not a casting of aspersions. Some of these clients have locked-in pension plans they can’t add to, he says. They may even make non-registered investments for a couple years, see little growth, and then stop.

If you charge on a per-transaction basis you won’t make much on these single-service clients. Your reluctance to take them on is warranted.

So, can you help while remaining profitable? The key is to understand a client’s growth potential.

Start by setting realistic expectations. Tell the client you’ll review and monitor her account. Advise her against making rash decisions because of market swings. Detail what you can control, like fund selection, and what you can’t, like the market. And discuss how often you’ll review her investments.

For efficiency’s sake, put her in managed products and see how she responds to her first statement. Then, shoot her an email or give her a call every couple of months to provide updates. If she’s genuinely interested, notes the advisor, she’ll request clarification and also be more receptive to conversations about goal setting and other information you need to do a good job.

And she’ll be more likely to act on your advice. Another way to tell if she’s committed is if she opts for investments beyond RRSPs and pensions, and contributes to them regularly. There should be a pattern of savings, says the advisor.

Once she demonstrates appetite for the investing process, schedule a meeting to talk about additional opportunities.

Never forget: Just because a client’s small now doesn’t mean she always will be.

Suzanne Sharma is associate editor of Advisor Group.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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