Increasing competition is making it more challenging for financial advisors to gain new clients. A well thought-out prospecting strategy can help you attain the flow of new business you will need to achieve your business goals, says Jasmin Bergeron, director of the MBA program in financial services at l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

“Having a good prospecting strategy is paramount to building a stable and reliable business,” Bergeron says, “especially with the crunch advisors are currently facing.”

In order to get a leg up on your competition – and give your business that boost that comes with new clients – consider the following prospecting suggestions:

take advantage of your global product offering. One of the most direct ways to boost your sales is to make sure your prospects – and your clients – know about all the products and services you offer.

“A lot of advisors’ own clients don’t buy certain products,” Bergeron says, “because they don’t know the advisors offer them.”

Bergeron recently conducted a survey of advisors from three randomly selected branches that revealed that advisors tell clients about their complete product and service offering only when opening a new account. Advisors seldom repeat their list of offerings later in the relationship.

Bergeron then instructed those surveyed advisors to repeat their list of global product and service offerings to all their clients; those advisors saw their sales increase by 16% in one month.

Although that increase might not be replicated across all practices, Bergeron says, it does show that many clients “don’t buy because they don’t know.”

ask for referrals. “The referral-asking process is very important for advisors,” Bergeron says. “But most of them are too humble and don’t do it very well.”

One of the advantages of asking your clients for referrals, Bergeron says, is that the people they refer often will be qualified. Clients generally will want to refer prospects whom they see as being “superstars” who will make them look good, Bergeron says. That is a hidden advantage you might as well make use of.

If a direct request doesn’t work, says Joanne Ferguson, president, coach and consultant with Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto, you can try a more nuanced approach. A more subtle way to gauge the potential for getting a referral, Ferguson says, would be to ask about your client’s overall satisfaction with your advisory services. Although this might not lead to an immediate prospect, it can help identify whether that client would be willing to provide a referral in the future.

establish a budget and measure your success. Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money. But you don’t have to break the bank to have success in prospecting, Ferguson says.

For example, an advisory team might consider setting up a shared prospecting account that includes individual credit cards and cheques, so that if the opportunity to woo a prospect should arise, there is a pool of money available for lunches and other activities.

Or, Ferguson suggests, customize a prepaid coffee card with a simple note that says: “Have a coffee on me and think about your finances. We’d love to talk to you.”

It’s a different idea, and it tells a prospect that you will be in touch – without seeming pushy.

Be sure to take some time to analyze the results of your prospecting activities in order to get the best return on your investment.

pick a card. Another cost-effective prospecting tip is to always give out three business cards to everyone you meet. This step encourages the prospect to pass your card along to others.

With business cards costing only a few cents each, tripling your business card output for even one new client is money well spent.

do your homework. One of the best ways to find new prospects is to pay attention to changes and developments happening in your community. For example, is there a new small business opening in town?

Keeping abreast of what is going on can be a great way to identify new clients, says Ferguson. She suggests looking at what events are taking place within your community and how you can utilize these events as a way to meet people and establish relationships with prospects.

“Define and understand the kind of client you want to attract,” Ferguson says. “If you are constantly pushing with [prospecting] activities, results will happen. They may not happen the next day; but, with dedication and discipline, they will happen.”

© 2013 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.