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Cloning Your Best Clients

By developing an ideal client profile, you can focus in on the types of prospects that best support your business.

By Bill Cates

There has been a lot of controversy the last few years about cloning—cloning sheep, cloning humans, etc. But, when it comes to cloning your best clients there’s no controversy at all. All financial professionals want to find more prospects that resemble top clients. Here are five steps to accomplishing that goal.

Many top producers say that the quantity of referrals isn’t an issue anymore. Rather, they want to improve the quality of their referrals.

Develop an ideal client profile
One of the quickest ways to expand your book of business is to pinpoint who you serve the best and who serves your business the best. The clearer you are on what you want, the more likely you are to get it.

Your best clients know the value of your advice, and they trust you implicitly. They have substantial discretionary cash 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 an inheritance. They are well connected in their community, meet or exceed your financial minimums, are willing to pay for your advice without complaining and are happy to take a stake in your success.

How do you attract more of this kind of client? How do you make sure your existing clients and contacts only refer you to these “A” clients? Simple, you develop an "ideal client profile" and you share it with them.

Many top producers say that the quantity of referrals isn’t an issue anymore. Rather, they want to improve the quality of their referrals. Using an ideal client profile is the answer. Here’s how it works:

Write down the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of an “A” client. Quantitative characteristics are net worth, investable assets, income, occupation, location, age, business and family situation—to name a few. Qualitative characteristics are attitude toward professional advice, general personality, risk tolerance and lifestyle. Every advisor'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. The point is, when you are only working with clients who fit your profile, you do a better job for them, and they experience the value you bring to the relationship. In addition they’re more likely to give you referrals to people like themselves.

But don’t stop here. Show your profile to your clients and contacts.

Get the facts
The next step involves interviewing your “A” clients to begin gathering information on any prospects they may know. But before you run off and start these interviews, it would be good to know who makes the best interview candidate. Not all your clients will be open to the type of interview you will be requesting. It’s best to select clients who tend to be freer with their time, advice and willingness to help. People who are well-connected usually enjoy helping others.

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 candidates.

Request an interview
It’s important to be up front with why you want an interview. It’s a combination of wanting to know what’s working in your relationship—what they find valuable—then brainstorming how you might approach others like them. Your script might sound a like this:

“I’ve been taking a look at my business and want to focus most of my energy serving clients much like you. 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 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 if need be. What do you think?”

Don’t worry about using these exact words. Find words that are natural for you.

Determine the value
Here’s a gusty way to start the interview: “On a scale of one to ten, where am I with you right now?” That will get some important information flowing from your client. You might also ask, “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?”

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 discussion will help your clients get a clear view of the value you bring to them, and will teach you what people like about you, your process and your service.

Brainstorm for introductions
Now move into the area of working on your marketing plan. Show your clients your profile. Ask them, “If you were in my shoes, how would you go about trying to meet people like you? What would you say to get their attention? What’s a compelling reason for someone like you to take a timeout from your 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 has been a willing participant in this interview, you can take this meeting to the next step of asking for referrals.

Get introduced
If you have selected the right type of client to meet with, you should get from one to five referrals. As you move up the ladder of affluence, it becomes more important to be introduced to your new prospect, rather then 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?” And, “What do you think you need to say to George to get him interested in taking my call?” It’s as simple as that.

Evaluate and follow up
After each interview, there are several things you want to do:

  • Reflect on the information you received from your client and adjust your processes and services if necessary.
  • Reflect on the ideal client profile you presented and fine tune it if necessary.
  • Send a thank-you note and a small gift to your client for meeting with you and for the referrals.
  • Contact any new referrals right away.
  • Keep your clients in the loop with what happens with their referrals.

This is merely a template to follow, not an exact road map. Adjust this process to fit your style and your client base. Remember, when you come from a place of service to others, you’ll always be on safe ground.

Bill Cates is the author of Unlimited Referrals and the creator of the Unlimited Referrals Marketing System. He can be reached through his website at or at 800-488-5464.


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