DANA POINT, Calif. – Not all advisors want to grow their practices, but those who do must commit to a sales-centered grind with upfront costs -- but expect a payoff down the line.

That was the main takeaway from a working discussion group at “Step Beyond,” TD Ameritrade’s annual gathering of 200 elite advisors here.

“Selling is not easy to do,” Randy Conner, president of Los Angeles-based Churchill Management Group -- with $3 billion in assets under management -- told about 50 advisors. “You just have to accept this up front and know there are going to be a lot of costs.

"There is not a universal way to growth," he added. "I suggest you try a bunch of stuff. Throw a lot of stuff up on the wall and see what sticks.”


Even advisors who don’t think they want to grow might want to reconsider, said moderator George Tamer, a TD managing director.

There are already 2.18 million investors in the U.S. under the age of 50 with more than $500,000 in investable assets, Tamer said -- and over the next generation, baby boomers will transfer $30 billion to their Generation Y descendants. Only 4% to 7% of these investors work with advisors, he said.

That creates an imperative for advisors, Tamer warned -- because those planners who fail to attract new younger clients risk losing market share as their established clients die off.

Conner said his firm decided to make growth a strategy in 1998, after 35 years in business.

“We had been around a long time but our assets had really flattened,” he said. “There was this moment of, ‘Wow, wait, we need to commit to growing.’ That was a pivotal decision for us back when we were a $180 million firm.”


For his firm, the solution was to bring on a dedicated sales force that does no planning at all.

Understand that in the beginning, he said, your newly hired sales people may not have enough to do -- until all of a sudden, “and this will happen in just a moment,” they are overwhelmed and asking for help.

Today, he says, if you walk between the marketing area of Churchill’s offices and the research side, “you would think you got on a plane and flew somewhere. It is two completely different types of people.”

The divergent personalities reflect the personal qualities and talents required to do the very different jobs of planning and selling, he explained.

In the course of the session, advisors offered several other smart ideas for generating growth.

1.  Dive into the data. “Analyze the heck out of what you do and see what is working,” Conner says. Use the following criteria to assess each strategy you consider or deploy:

  • Ensure the strategy really will get new prospects’ attention.
  • Ask what it will cost you to come in contact with each new prospect; think in marginal terms.
  • Ask how long it will take you to develop a prospect, once you have met them.
  • Ask yourself whether you can systemize each strategy you deploy.

2. Focus on sales. Develop a separate sales force within your firm that does no planning -- or, alternately, create a sales culture in which every single employee, including assistants, is encouraged to sell, knows how to sell and gets rewarded for wins.

3. Share the success. Create an extra discretionary bonus for employees who surpass recruiting goals.

4. Buy lists of prospects -- but negotiate on price to pay less than the advertised amount.

5. Hold client events. Keep the following in mind, advisors suggest:

  • “We know” events are less successful than “we care” events. Clients expect advisors to be knowledgeable about planning subjects. It’s more effective to host events, such as high-end wine tastings, that show appreciation
  • Smaller events of 10 to 15 people have the greatest impact. Don’t worry that some of your clients who you didn’t invite might feel slighted. They will be interested in attending future ones. “Scarcity is good,” Tamer says.
  • Have each client bring a prospect -- and vet those before the event to make sure they are the ones you want.
  • Don’t sell during the event, other than briefly. Conner asks clients at the end of each one if he “might be able to call you later to see if we could do business together.”
  • Check out the venue beforehand to make sure the acoustics and setting are conducive to conversation and speakers.

6. Target a niche. Host seminars for specific client groups -- such as doctors, dentists or women in transition. Donate part of the event's proceeds to a charitable cause.

7. Become an expert -- and use that expertise as marketing:

  • Be a radio show host. Promote your seminars during your show.
  • Write a newspaper column.
  • Write for online news outlets.
  • In any of these roles, position yourself as a consumer advocate. Don’t hammer on clients to call your office, lest you risk turning them off.

8. Outsource strategically. Hire external solicitors who you pay only when they produce actual clients for your practice.

9. Be smart about content marketing. If you market by creating content online, remember that generating good content will take a “monumental” amount of work.

10. Parlay other connections. Attend conferences and meetings held by others centers of influence: lawyers, CPAs and even therapists. Follow up with every single person you meet at these gatherings.

11. Split the baby. If a founder of your firm remains averse to creating a sales culture, divide the firm into two parts: old firm and new firm. Clients in the old firm are managed the old way, but new clients are brought in using new sales techniques.

12. Don't stop halfway. Once you deploy your sales strategy, never forget to close.

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