By Brad Brain
Not all business is good business. Many advisors take whichever clients come their way at the start of their careers, only to find themselves saddled with exhausting clients and juggling infeasible requests a few years later. These situations threaten to demoralize advisors and sap the joy out of their profession.
As advisors progress in their careers and learn more about their jobs and themselves, they should whittle down the kinds of clients they want to work with. Even if this means ending a relationship with a current client, acquiring the discipline to turn down work will ultimately contribute to improved health and a better, more enjoyable career.
Turning Down Prospects
The best time to determine whether someone will be a poor fit is before they become a client in the first place. Most prospects likely have a set of qualifications in mind for a financial advisor, so advisors should maintain a similar set for clients in turn.
Advisors in the early phases of their careers need to keep the bills paid and lights on, but they should keep track of what they excel at and what they enjoy doing the most. Once equipped with the necessary flexibility, advisors can and should determine areas of expertise and correspondingly narrow their work down. Create some guiding principles on which clients to take, and stick to them.
This requires saying “no” to some prospects. Advisors should not feel bad about declining to work with a prospect. People get to do things for their own reasons, and advisors are people. Nor should a prospect not working out be a hit to an advisor’s sense of worth or self-esteem.
These things happen, business is business and life will go on for advisors and prospects alike. Indeed, it can often be spiritually freeing to turn people down, and advisors can and should enjoy the idea of not spending emotional energy on people who would have been poor matches.
Even if a prospect is not likely to become a client, advisors don’t have to turn them away empty-handed. Referrals to other advisors or, when possible, offers to split the work with another professional will usually be very appreciated.
Breaking Up With Clients
Ending a professional relationship with a client can be an intimidating idea, especially for advisors who depend on recurring income. But with existing advisor-client relationships, the costs and benefits of the partnership must receive due consideration. Sometimes, the income is just not worth the emotional and mental strain.
Sometimes clients regularly ask for work outside an advisor’s scope. Sometimes advisors dread getting calls or having meetings with specific clients because said clients question an advisor’s decision making or submit unreasonable requests. It’s usually best that advisors encourage such emotionally draining clients to look elsewhere.
Taking this step can relieve advisors of significant emotional burdens and allow them to spend more time on work they like doing. It might also bring relief to the client – tension rarely exists only on one side of a relationship, and a client asking for work an advisor doesn’t do typically also feels frustration.
Should an advisor need to end a partnership with a client, they can do so professionally and calmly. Simply explain that there is a difference in priorities and the client would be better suited looking for help elsewhere. Advisors need not talk down to their client nor demean themselves.
One kindness they can extend, though, is a referral to another professional who can meet their now-former client’s needs.
Expanding Your Horizons
When clients or prospects ask for something an advisor cannot provide, the advisor has three choices: they can decline the work, partner with another advisor or learn how to meet the request. Expanding one’s “circle of confidence” can boost business, though advisors should avoid becoming a jack of all trades (and master of none). Picking up new skills within a particular practice area (i.e., investments) can help advisors grow without straying too far from their expertise.
When learning new skills, advisors must be upfront about their current limits. The worst thing an advisor can do is stretch the truth about their capabilities. It is always better to be honest and transparent with clients and prospects alike.
Saying no is equally as important in life as saying yes. By strategically turning away work that distracts from their goals or hampers their well-being, financial advisors can preserve room in their careers for more happiness, satisfaction and opportunities to grow.
About The Author
Brad Brain is a nationally recognized expert on retirement income planning, an international speaker and an award-winning author. He is currently an Insurance Representative for Brad Brain Financial Planning Inc. Brad has helped to author the Certified Financial Planners qualification exam, and has appeared as an expert witness on poverty reduction strategies for the Parliament of Canada. For nine years, he also served as a member of the Insurance Council of British Columbia, the province’s insurance activities regulator. Brad is an 11-year member of MDRT with seven Court of the Table qualifications.