Catching terrific clients by going where the hungry fish are

As I was preparing to present a workshop in Indiana to a room full of young financial advisors, I overheard a small group of them discussing fishing.

“Chris,” I called out to one of them at the beginning of the workshop. “When you go fishing, are you looking for just anything that will take your bait, or are you aiming for something specific?”

“Well, any fisherman knows that different fish go for different baits,” he called back.

“So, when you go fishing,” I asked him, “is there a particular fish that you go after?”

“I like fly-fishing,” he responded. “Usually for trout.”

“Would you do that on the ocean?” I continued. The group chuckled.

“No, of course not,” Chris replied, trying to decide whether I was acting clever or clueless. “You’re not going to find trout in the ocean. They’re a freshwater fish that you find in streams and rivers,” he continued, apparently concluding that my problem was ignorance.

“So,” I responded, “what you’re saying is that if you’re fishing for trout, you’re going to be casting with different bait, and maybe even in different waters, than if you’re fishing for tuna.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he responded, satisfied now that he had enlightened me, while others in the group continued to chuckle.

“When you’re fishing for trout, then, do you fish just anywhere — in any stream or river?” I asked.

Now, Chris must have been really concerned for me. He replied, delicately, “No, a good fisherman learns the best times to fish and where he’s most likely to land one.”

“In other words,” I continued, “he goes where the hungry fish are?”

“I guess you could put it that way,” Chris replied.

Rethink how and where you’re finding clients

My class was ready for our lesson. “When you’re looking for clients,” I asked him, “what type of client are you looking for?”

Chris chortled. “Anyone who needs my services who has the money to pay for them.”

“And where do you find these ‘anyone’ clients?”

“Anywhere I can,” Chris answered.

He had taken my bait. “Why would you be so specific about how you fish and yet so general about how you get your clients?” I asked him.

I was determined to beat the fishing analogy to death. “When you’re ‘fishing’ for clients,” I told the group, “your best results come from choosing a particular type of client, baiting the hook with a service that they might really need and then fishing where the hungry clients are.”

I was instructing them to be crystal clear about whom they wanted to serve (their target markets) and what their clients usually needed the most from them (their clients’ core needs).

Is networking right for your client acquisition strategy?

If you’re going to include networking in your marketing strategy, you must ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • Do my target clients belong to a trade association or professional group that I could tap in to?
  • Can I reach them through a preexisting club that serves them?
  • What do they want, and where do they all go to discuss what they need?

After answering these questions, you may decide the best way to reach the clients you want isn’t networking at all.

Instead of fishing all over for “anyone” clients, find the clients you want most where they’re likely to be. If networking is the right approach, research where they’re likely to be and figure out how to reach them. Visit them as a guest, a vendor or a speaker/educator. If you do this, you’ll be catching terrific clients in no time.

Sandy Schussel is a performance acceleration coach who has been working with financial advisors for more than 20 years, helping them break through to higher production levels.

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