I have maintained for many years and have shared this bit of advice with many advisors in my career: the only way to truly fail in this business is to stop prospecting.
Turned around the other way, the only way to truly succeed in this business is to keep prospecting. And it’s definitely the only way to grow.
Now maybe that’s a bit of a stretch and maybe there are other ways to fail or succeed or grow, but they would have to be small percentage outliers just based on what I have seen in my career. They might even be good fortune, great timing, or just plain luck. But if I was a firm owner, or just an advisor who was responsible for my own growth, development, and forward progress, I don’t believe counting on luck makes for a great strategy.
Granted, I can think of times where it may have looked like luck on the surface. But the more I examined the situation, the more Thomas Jefferson’s words rang true:
“I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Put another way for this business, the more I prospect, the luckier I get.
Can you think of a time when you just happened to be in the right place at the right time and struck up a conversation? Or someone ran into one of your clients who referred them to you right when they needed help? Or a year after you made a presentation someone called saying they had kept your contact info in case they ever needed it and now they do?
None of these are luck. These are just examples of your effort ultimately rewarding you with opportunity.
In my mind, Nick Murray’s book A Game of Numbers is the best book ever written on the subject of prospecting as a financial advisor. Regardless of your years in the business, if you haven’t read this book, stop right now and order a copy. It’s way more important than anything I have to say on the subject and I wish I had access to it on Day 1 of my career, but it was yet to be written at the time.
Instead, I learned the hard way that fear, uncertainty, and doubt were the dragons that I’d have to slay if I were to survive as an advisor long enough for anyone to benefit from my advice. Call reluctance and fear of prospecting was not only a real thing in those early days, it is alive and well in 2021 my friends!
Prospect avoidance of any kind is almost always sourced in some sort of fear and that fear is almost always completely fabricated to protect our confidence. We quite literally make up stories, better yet, bald-faced lies to “protect” ourselves. It’s kind of ironic actually, because our confidence actually grows with each prospect who says “yes” but we avoid prospecting out of the fear of hearing “no” in an attempt to protect…our confidence! It’s nuts and it’s just one example of why this is such an emotional business to be in. It has flat out made me have conversations with myself like a crazy person!
Now some may say that once you have the business you want, and all the new business you want is coming in from client and professional referrals, you can stop prospecting. But I disagree, mainly because this business is like a leaky boat: life transitions, deaths, RMDs, clients move, divorce, help the kids, and on and on. There’s always money leaking out and thus the need to replenish those dollars just to break even. And while you’re just breaking even, the cost of everything needed to run your business is going up.
Yes, we prospect for success. But we also prospect for basic survival. To plug the leaky boat.
Because of all of the above, I actually developed a legitimate fear of NOT prospecting. It scares me to death to let that muscle atrophy. While most advisors fear jumping out of the bushes at people so not to impose or offend, I fear what might happen to them if I don’t at least make them aware of how I can help them. Might they fall prey to the worst, cheesy, despicable advisor in your town? You know who he or she is, don’t you?! Isn’t that unacceptable? Won’t they be protected from that if they choose you and your team? And if they decline your genuine offer to help? Well, that’s their prerogative, but as ole’ Nick says “Nurse…send in the next patient.” You’ll never run out of prospects and the waiting room will always be full of people needing to see the doctor. You just have to ask them to walk into your office.
I have developed a simple phrase that continues to sustain me and our successful practice to this day: “A hook in the water every single day.”
The analogy is clear – the fish won’t jump into your boat. To have a chance, you have to have a hook in the water. Don’t over-complicate it. Don’t over-examine it. If you think it’s a hook in the water then it is and it doesn’t matter what form it takes. Challenge yourself and make a game out of it and put your head on your pillow each night knowing there’s another hook in the water and perhaps a cork bobbin’ in the morning.
You’re a financial advisor like me, so I know by default that you already talk to yourself! 😊 But what fear will you tell yourself to choose? Which will you give in to? Will you continue to let the fear of “rejection” – which who in their right mind would reject the genuine good that you provide?! – or will you embrace the fear of NOT making the offer to people who truly need your help and the negative effect that would have on your business?
One keeps you trapped in mediocrity while the other will take you to the top of this profession. Choose wisely.