Growing my advisory practice from $0 to $140 million in 5 years came a little more naturally for me, because I had 10+ years of practice prior to starting as an advisor. I owned and consulted for various businesses that involved marketing and cold calling, and then I was a private banker for more than 5 years. Once I hopped into the advisor role, it was game on. In 2020, I handed over my book to lead a $4 billion investment team at JPMorgan. Over my time in wealth management, I’ve learned a thing or two about growing a successful financial advisory practice. After coaching and training dozens of advisors and watching them achieve rapid growth, I can confidently say that you don’t need 10+ years of practice to hit the ground running. You just need a solid plan, a daily routine, and the right amount of grit.
In this brass tacks guide, I will share my personal experience and insights gathered from dozens of other million dollar producers to help you create liftoff for your financial advisory practice. Let’s jump in!
1. Understand Short-Game vs. Long-Game Marketing
For the average person, growing an investment practice on your own isn’t a walk in the park. I often find advisors following the modern strategies and wonder why it results in snail-paced growth. They join the rotary club, hop into a few networking groups, start doing Instagram Reels, and write blogs. I’m not knocking it; I’ve tried many of these things myself, but they rarely turned into real business for me. It took about 5 years before I saw my first $50k account from any one of these strategies. Maybe you are a natural-born TikToker or have an amazing natural community of wealth people, but for the average person, these are looooong-term strategies. In my perspective, these should account for only 10% to 20% of your marketing time.
Are you satisfied with the growth of your investment practice? Of course not, that’s why you’re reading this. You needed to sign a new client yesterday. So now what?
Mario Mendoza was a famous baseball player who played nine seasons and made a solid contribution to his team after getting up to the plate 1,387 times. It may be surprising to know, he had such a low batting average (.200) that the term “Mendoza Line” was coined, referencing similar players with low batting averages. The point is, no matter your closing ratio, increase your number of prospect conversations immediately, and it will still result in business. You will also become a better advisor in the process because you are having more opportunities to refine your craft. In the early stages of growth, this should be the 80% to 90% of your marketing.
2. Marketing for Quick Hits
Did you cringe or frown at the fact that this was the first item on my list? Cold calling may seem outdated, but it continues to be a highly effective strategy for acquiring new clients. I’m a unique breed because I have grown to love cold calling. To me, it’s like a fast game of chess over the phone. But, I started off like many others that get nervous just holding the phone. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Just say the same thing every time, and it will result in success.
Develop a sharp cold-calling script tailored to your niche, highlighting your unique selling points and the value you provide. Practice, practice, practice your script to build confidence and improve your delivery. If you mess up on a call, who cares? Move on to the next call. Before you know it, you’ll sound as smooth as George Clooney on the phone.
- Have a great lead list to call.
- Adjust your script to relate to the leads you are calling.
- Have a CRM and dialer that makes calling quick.
- Exude confidence and knowledge.
- Provide multiple value points.
- Offer a free financial plan or portfolio analysis.
Direct Digital Outreach
In addition to cold calling, leverage other direct outreach methods, such as email and social media messaging (I prefer LinkedIn), to connect with potential clients. Craft personalized messages that demonstrate your understanding of their needs and the value you can provide. Be persistent, but respectful in your follow-up efforts. Automation works wonders here.
Where else can you have more conversations? Networking groups, building communities, referrals, etc. There are a lot of opportunities here. Just be conscious of your time input that is required to have these conversations and if it is a short-term or long-term strategy.
Here’s an example: You join Rotary, and it requires 2 hours each week, including driving and extracurricular activities. By the way, I joined the rotary club because I wanted to help, not to get business. If there are 20 people in the group, that’s the total number of conversations you are having. These people usually already have an advisor and probably won’t trust you until you’ve been in the group for years, so let’s say it’s 40 meetings a year x 2 hours = 80 hours. A total of 3 years is 240 hours. For only 20 prospects? You be the judge of that.
3. Lead With Planning
I hope you already know this. You are only going to face more and more scrutiny from clients in the coming years. Robo-advisors are grabbing a share of the market, people are doing things on their own, and more and more advisors are getting their CFP and other designations. Clients are expecting more advice and benefits from advisors, and all at a lower cost. Many will agree that the best way to check this box is through financial planning. You can remain competitive, and it doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of effort, but you have to invest in learning.
It’s absolutely clear to me that a huge component of my success was attributed to financial planning. While I could write a book about this, you just need to dive in and leverage all the resources your firm provides. Tinker with the tools you have and keep them at the forefront of your client and prospect conversations, and I promise you and your clients will see value in them. But hey, I know many advisors that are not great planners. They are great with portfolio management, strong with capital markets knowledge, or other things. The industry favorite and my favorite happens to be financial planning.
4. Your Game Plan
This is the most important part. Remember when I said you needed to have more prospect conversations? Well, here’s where we create a plan around that. It’s simple math.
Step One: Set a super personal goal. Make sure it’s REAL AF. Example: “I want to make enough money in 5 years to afford the house I want for my family in the school district I want for my daughter ($120k personal income).” Let’s say you make 50% grid or payout on your revenue, so you need $200k in revenue for this goal.
Step Two: Identify your closing ratio and average sale. If you’ve had 50 prospect meetings over a period of time and closed 6 for an average of $100k per deal, that’s a 12% closing ratio. Let’s say your average wrap fee is 1%.
Step Three: Identify how much activity you need to do to set ONE appointment. Activities could be cold calls, emails, social media DMs, etc. Let’s use cold calls and say it takes you 20 dials to set one appointment.
Step Four: The fun part. Let’s do some math.
- $240k revenue in 5 years is $48k revenue per year
- $48k revenue is $4.8MM closed business a year
- $4.8MM is $400k a month or $100k a week
- You need to have 8.33 meetings to close $100k
- You need to make 167 dials per week to set 8.33 appointments.
The bottom line is now your absolute key metric! Execute this like you would brush your teeth. No excuses.
Note: This assumes you are ONLY getting appointments from cold calls, so obviously expand this math to include your other sales funnels.
Step Five: Revisit. Your numbers and ratios will change, so adjust them annually.
The best part about this is that these numbers will soon become a joke. If you follow these steps, you will be set for so much success. Your closing ratio will skyrocket, your average closed deal size will jump up, and you will be laughing at the time you thought you only wanted to make $120,000 a year. It happened to me, and it will happen to you.
I would wish you luck, but you don’t need luck for this. You’ve got the plan; now go make it happen.
Questions? Shoot me an email directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help when I can.