Seven steps to cloning your best clients
By Bill Cates
Over the years, there has been a lot of controversy around cloning — cloning of sheep, cloning humans, etc. When it comes to cloning your best clients, there’s no controversy at all. Every financial professional wants to acquire more clients that resemble their top clients. Here are seven steps to accomplishing that goal.
Step No. 1: Develop an ideal client profile
Okay, like you’ve never heard this before. But have you done it? Done it lately? One of the quickest ways to expand your book of business is to get clear on whom you serve the best and who serves your business the best. The clearer you are on what you want, the more likely you’ll get it.
Who are your best clients? They know the value of your advice and they trust you implicitly. They have substantial discretionary cash flow and don’t have the time, desire or knowledge to manage their own finances. They may have substantial net worth — from their own hard work or inherited. They are well connected in their community. They meet or exceed your financial minimums. They are willing to pay for your advice without complaining. They are happy to take a stake in your success.
How do you attract more of these people? How do you make sure your existing clients and centers of influence only refer you to these "A" clients? Simple, you develop an ideal client profile and you share it with certain clients and centers of influence.
Many of the top producers who participate in our coaching program tell me that quantity of referrals isn’t their issue anymore. Rather, they want to improve the quality of their referrals. Using an ideal client profile (ICP) is the answer. Here’s how it works:
Determine the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of your A clients and write them down. Quantitative characteristics are things like: net worth, investable assets, income, occupation, location, age, business and family situation, to name a few. Qualitative characteristics include: attitude toward professional advice, general personality, risk tolerance, and lifestyle.
Every rep’s profile will be somewhat different. For instance, you might really like working with small business owners, while a colleague might enjoy engineers, or high-level executives in large companies. There is no right or wrong here. You may enjoy working with middle market folks. The point is, when you are only working with people who fit your profile, you do a better job for your clients, your clients experience the value you bring to the relationship, and they’re more likely to give you referrals to people like themselves.
Just taking the time to be clear on who your A clients are is a worthwhile exercise. But don’t stop there. Write your profile down in a format where you can share it with certain clients and centers of influence. I’ve found that showing people your ICP is much more effective than just telling them.
Step No. 2: Determine whom you want to interview
Steps three and four involve interviewing you’re A clients. But before you run off and start these interviews, you should know who makes the best interview candidate. Not all your clients will be open to the type of interview you're requesting. It’s best to select clients who are fairly open in their style of communication. Open people tend to be freer with their time, their advice, and their willingness to help. Guarded people are less free with their time and will probably feel uncomfortable with your interview. People who are well-networked are usually open types who enjoy helping others — you, their friends and their colleagues.
From your list of A clients, identify the most open, networked and socially active, as well as those who just plain love you.” These are your best interview candidates.
Step NO. 3: Request an interview with your best clients
It’s important to be totally up front about why you want to interview your clients. It’s a combination of wanting to know what’s working in your relationship –— what they find valuable — and then brainstorming how you might approach others like them. Your script might sound a little like the following:
“I’ve been taking a look at my business and want to focus most of my energy on serving clients much like yourself. I’m doing a little research and I really value your help. I’d like to get together for about an hour to do two things. First, I want to make sure I’m on track with you. I want to see what you value in our relationship, and see if there’s anything I could or should be doing differently to serve your needs. Second, I want to brainstorm a little on how I might reach more people like yourself — people who I believe I can serve the best. I’d be happy to do this at a time most convenient for you. I’ll even bring a nice lunch over to your office. What do you think?”
Don’t worry about the exact wording I used above. Find your own words that are natural for you.
Step No. 4: Determine the value
It’s valuable for you to determine the value you bring to your client relationships. Here’s a gusty way to start the interview: “George, on a scale of 1–10, where am I with you right now?”
That will get your juices flowing as well as some important information flowing from your client. You might also ask, “George, what about your financial situation keeps you up at night?” Follow that with, “Is our current plan addressing your concerns, or do you think we need to make some adjustments?” Of course, the questions you ask will be specific to the relationships and what you may have covered in a previous meeting.
Ask them why they do business with you and what attracted them to you in the first place. Tell them, “If you could wave a magic wand over me and our relationship, what would be different?”
You should also consider recording these interviews. You’ll be able to capture everything your client says without having to take notes. This will free you up to really listen and formulate better questions.
This value discussion will help your clients become clearer on the value you bring to them. It will teach you what people value about you, your process, and your service.
Here’s an example. I recently received an e-mail from a subscriber to my newsletter. Before he became a financial professional, he was a practicing attorney. He said that as a financial professional, he prided himself on his attention to detail, and his ability to explain a financial plan or a particular type of investment vehicle. When he stared asking his clients what they valued from him, he heard a lot of great things. But his clients never mentioned his attention to detail or his ability to explain a financial plan. What a valuable lesson for him — to see where his clients recognized the value.
Step No. 5: Brainstorm for introductions
Now you move into the area of working on your marketing plan. I suggest you start off with general ideas and become more specific. Begin this step by telling your client you want to meet more people like them — people who fit your ideal client profile.
Show them your profile. Ask them, “If you were in my shoes, how would you go about trying to meet people like yourself?”; “What would you say to them to get their attention?”; and “What’s a compelling reason for someone like yourself to take a timeout from their busy life and sit down with me?”
These types of questions will get them looking at your business from an important perspective — yours.
Tell them, “Part of my business vision is to provide such great value to my clients that they naturally want to introduce me to others who might also benefit from the important work I do. Does that make sense?”
Now, if your client was a willing participant during the interview and he or she remains open in their demeanor, you can take this meeting to the next step of actually asking for referrals.
Step No. 6: Get introduced
If you have selected the right type of client to meet with in the first place, you’ll probably get between one and five referrals. The average is four. As you move up the ladder of affluence, it becomes more important to be introduced to your new prospect, rather than calling them unexpectedly. How do you get introduced and how do you approach your new prospect?
Here are two effective questions to help you customize your approach to a new prospect:
- “How would you like to introduce me to George?”
- “What do you think you need to say to George to get him interested in taking my call.”
Step No. 7: Evaluate and follow up
After each interview, there are several things you want to do:
1. Reflect on the information you received from your client and adjust your process and/or service, if necessary.
2. Reflect on the ideal client profile you presented and fine-tune it, if necessary.
3. Send a thank you note and very small gift to your client for meeting with you and for the referrals, if you obtained some.
4. Contact any new referral prospects right away.
5. Keep your client in the loop with what happens to their referrals.
Sample ideal client profile of a retiree
Here is an example of an ideal client profile for a retired individual. In this example, no specific numbers are given relative to income, net worth, etc. If you have specific requirements, you may want to include them in your profile.
Who I serve the best
- Age 55 or older
- Highly successful when he/she worked
- Lives in an established and/or affluent neighborhood
- Family is important to them
- Knows the value of professional advice
- Wants to maintain their lifestyle
- Active in one or more organizations
- Worked for a company with a great benefit program or ran a very successful business
- IRA rollovers
- 72t distributions
- Exercising stock options
- Large case proposals
- Retirement projections and implementation
- Asset allocation
- Long term health care insurance