Overhead view of young business men shaking hands

When it comes to prospecting for clients, it’s always a good idea to keep a few irons in the fire.

Prospecting is the “lifeblood” of a financial advisory business, says Samuel Waxman, managing partner and financial advisor with Toronto-based Millennial Financial Group: “You need to keep prospecting in order to continue meeting new people, making new sales and growing your business.”

If you’ve stopped prospecting, Waxman adds, “it’s either because you’ve become so successful in the business that you don’t need to obtain any new clients, or you’re no longer in the business.”

A strong digital presence often is recognized as a strategic prospecting tool for reaching a broader audience — especially millennials. However, it’s important to remember that you’re playing the long game.

“[Social media] doesn’t always necessarily lead to direct sales, but it offers awareness, which will eventually lead to more and more business,” Waxman says.

Major social media platforms shift regularly in usage and popularity, so advisors will need to tweak their approach consistently based on the response of their targeted audience. For example, Waxman knows his content is currently more likely to reach his target market on Instagram than on Facebook.

“I kind of relate Facebook to going to the fridge,” he says. “You’re not necessarily hungry, but you just want to look. People will do that on Facebook and just take a quick peek.”

In contrast, most users on Instagram, will scroll through their entire feed until the last post they’ve seen. As a result, Instagram has drawn the most success in Waxman’s practice so far.

“You really have to find out who your market is and what your market relates to,” he says.

Although online social media platforms provide one way to connect with prospects, old-fashioned networking still is powerful.

Larry Distillio, assistant vice president of practice management with Toronto-based Mackenzie Financial Corp, suggests that advisors look for prospecting opportunities within the networks of their best clients. He recommends advisors start this process by thinking of the top 10 to 20 clients in their business that they’d like to duplicate.

To replicate those clients, it’s important to be inquisitive and find out who they’re spending time with, Distillio says: “The strategy here is more of a process than a magic bullet.”

For example, if a client often speaks about an entrepreneurial networking group they belong to, ask them about what happens within the group and who they really connect with. Or, if a client mentions close friends, ask about how they met and what those friends do for a living.

“The three most powerful words are, ‘tell me more’,” Distillio says. “If you map out their networks over time, you can develop targeted, warm referrals.”

Once you’ve garnered some relevant information about a client’s connections, you can find opportunities to connect with those prospects organically, he says. If you want to attract a client’s business partner to your practice, for example, invite both your client and the business partner to an event based on their interests, such as a baseball game. That can be more effective than attempting a direct sale.

Relationship-focused prospecting generally is a more effective strategy for gaining new clients than direct marketing, such as paid radio, online and print advertising, says April-Lynn Levitt, coach with Waterloo, Ont.-based The Personal Coach.

“Strategies such as looking to your network, gaining referrals from existing clients, working with centres of influence, hosting small client events and positioning yourself on social media are the ones that typically work best,” she says.

No matter which prospecting strategies you attempt, be persistent, Levitt adds: “Put a plan in place and block off time in your calendar to keep it going. We often see advisors start something and they don’t follow through on it. No matter what your method is, persistence is really important.”

This is the second article in a three-part series on growing your business.

Up next: Expanding your practice with centres of influence.