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Some advisors take on young clients in hopes the relationship will eventually reap rewards. They also frequently target specific professions—on the assumption the high-earning jobs will mean big portfolios later.

That’s not always the best strategy. Consider these three traditionally sought-after prospects:

01 Entrepreneurs and business owners

One of our biggest clients is an entrepreneur. When he was young and had no money, we took him on as part of his parents’ portfolio. Yet while some entrepreneurs eventually find success, most don’t have much money in the beginning. And what they do have is usually tied up in the venture and not available for investing. Plus, about 30% of small businesses fail after five years, especially in industries like food service and construction. Your client could be left with nothing. Give them a few years to prove themselves before devoting too much time to managing non-existent money.

02 Highly paid professionals

Doctors, engineers, and lawyers eventually make great clients. Yet many don’t start saving until mid-life. Why? It can take a decade to complete their training, and they often finish with hefty student debt. Then, they have to establish a practice, which requires even more capital. By the time they start making money, they’ve grown tired of living frugally and want to treat themselves. Others may feel pressured by richer, more established colleagues to spend at levels consummate with a later stage of their profession.

03 Successful sales reps

One of my sales-rep clients paid down his mortgage solely with his annual bonuses—something he prioritized over contributing to his RRSP and TFSA. Yet, while his earnings are often good enough to allow that kind of aggressive pay down, they’re also unpredictable. Many sales professionals have a tough time saving because commission structures make it difficult for them to know how much they’ll make—or they bank on a bonus that never arrives.

What should you look for instead? Find prospects with these three characteristics:

01 Savers

High-potential clients are great at both earning and saving. They’ve accumulated a lot relative to their income levels—for instance, a new grad making $30,000 who saved $25,000 while working part-time during university. They want to invest this chunk of cash, but aren’t sure where to start. If you educate these prospects, they can become your most loyal clients.

02 debt-free

Prospects from well-off families often don’t have student debt. They’re easy to find—your records tell you which clients paid for their children’s educations. Be warned: some of these children may have substantial credit card debt. But if they don’t owe anything, consider taking them on. Bonus: you strengthen the relationship with the entire household.

03 not flashy and don’t party

Instead of spending to support a luxurious lifestyle, high potential clients are often low-key and humble. They’re more interested in long-term strategies instead of short-term gratification. So they bring their lunch every day and don’t go on holidays if they haven’t saved enough.

If your prospect is a young accountant or sales rep with these three characteristics, you’ve likely found a high-potential client. The important thing is to look beyond the letters on their diplomas.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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