Because so much of our coaching involves helping advisors acquire more affluent clients, we're constantly asked the question, “What does it take to become a rainmaker?” In an effort to learn more, we conducted a focus group with elite rainmakers (an average $42 million in new assets per financial advisor in 2010.) It soon became clear these high achievers shared some common traits.

Imagine a three-legged stool. It's a model that represents how elite advisors think (their mindset), what they do (their marketing activities) and how they have mastered the art of affluent sales (their skill set). As you will discover, today's rainmakers are walking testimonials to today's opportunities.

They are extremely ambitious. One advisor at a recent focus group told us about a master dream list he created of clients. “I put every wealthy person I ever heard of on my list. My partners thought that I had lost my mind, that I was crazy. My response to them was simple; we might not get all of them as clients, but I'm going to use this list as a focal point for strategically getting myself into their centers-of-influence.

“It's been unreal,” he continued. “We've gotten clients that we never would've thought we had a chance with. And I've got into a much higher level of affluent circles by approaching every name on that list with strategic intent — my affluent centers-of-influence have been greatly enhanced.”

Contrast that with the mindset of John, a senior partner in a team, who spoke briefly with me following a speech I'd delivered. “I don't buy all this research about the affluent looking to change advisors. I travel in very wealthy circles, I'm on boards, belong to the right country clubs. And everywhere I go, when the discussion turns to the markets, these people are in a ‘wait and see’ mode. They're wealthy, they're smart, and they're not about to make a change in today's environment.”

The financial services industry is filled with advisors like John who, for whatever reason, are unable to develop the mindset necessary to capitalize on opportunities. Consider John's attitude in light of the fact that our research tells us that nine out of 10 affluent investors are so dissatisfied with their advisors that they would entertain a second opinion on their holdings. And in a separate focus group of clients with $1 million to $10 million in assets, the investors unamimously agreed that they would accept a second opinion if they encountered a trustworthy professional they respected.

The elite rainmaker also understands that acquiring new affluent clients, and strengthening existing affluent client relationships, are interrelated. These advisors recognize the nexus between relationship management and relationship marketing. The question, “How can I prospect without neglecting my existing clients?” is replaced with, “What's the best way for me to get my client Jack to introduce me to his partner Bob?”

Marketing has fundamentally changed for advisors who target the affluent. What used to be the norm — public seminars, direct mail, cold-calling, brochures, PR campaigns — is now ineffective. As one top rainmaker put it, “All of our new business comes from word of mouth. Whether it's social prospecting, getting a personal introduction, or getting a referral from the CPAs and JDs we work with, it's all about relationships.”

Today's advisor world is much like a four-lane highway. In the slow lane, you've got advisors who are paralyzed; lane two has advisors who are resorting to ineffective marketing activities of yesteryear; and lane three has advisors doing the right activities but lacking the sales skills. The fourth lane is where our rainmakers travel — doing the right activities with seamless sales skills.

Skill training is a blast! Many skills can be developed: role-playing various situations regarding social settings; asking a client to bring a specific guest to an event; asking for an introduction; handling an obnoxious prospect; dealing with the fee question; not discussing business while executing a mini-close.

If advisors have the proper mindset and can incorporate the high-impact marketing activities with the right sales skills, they will have all the components of the rainmakers in our focus group. Skill development requires practice, activity, and coaching. As always, activity drives the dream.


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.