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How to Grow Your Practice During a Recession

It’s time to recognize the upside to today's economic downturn and leverage the current climate to grow your referrals.

By Duncan MacPherson

What you need to do
You are at your highest levels of “referability” during times of recession, when money and investing are topical points of conversation for friends and family. Friends of existing clients are more open now than ever to considering their investing options. That said, the best way to convince new prospects to use your services is to spend more time with the people who are already convinced: your existing clients. Now is a great time to convert those people into referral-generating advocates. After all, in times of uncertainty, many of your competitors are neglecting their current clients as they attempt to actively acquire new business.

Attracting referrals is achieved by design, not by chance. You are a reflection of your client. Therefore, for your client to feel comfortable enough to refer you to his friend, he must first be pleased with the level of professionalism and confidentiality that you provide.

Call-rotation campaign
During times of turmoil, it is easy to appear needy when acquiring new business, which is not very appealing to current or prospective clients. The best way to initiate the referral process is to launch a simple call-rotation campaign to the 20 percent of your clients who generate 80 percent of your business. Your aim is simply to touch base with them and ask them how they are doing. You aren't trying to sell anything or be the bearer of any profound news; you are merely placing a courtesy call to convey a sense of calm and clarity. Here are some tips to conduct a successful call-rotation campaign:

  • Position the concept of referrals as a service you are offering rather than as a favor you are requesting:
    As the conversation is winding down, remind your client that as a value-added service, you are available to answer any questions that his friends or family members might have regarding your services. Simply planting the seed and presenting the option gets the concept of referrals imbedded in your clients’ minds so they can respond when the opportunity presents itself without making you appear needy or putting them on the spot.
  • Explain how your services are especially beneficial during times of economic uncertainty:
    During tough times, people think of getting rid of any “unessential” services and are generally reluctant to seek assistance that costs money. Outline the short- and long-term benefits of your services to them to make yourself indispensable.
  • Turn your clients into advocates:
    If your clients cannot describe you to you, they cannot describe you to a friend. Make sure they know and like what you do for them.

Don’t adjust fees
Once you’ve mastered how to best sell yourself, next comes the conversation no one wants to have during a recession: money. Always keep in mind that you are trying to attract great clients, not chase them. By lowering your fees, prospective clients might start focusing on what you cost rather than on what you are worth. Adjustments you make to service fees can come across as a reactive and an even desperate move in today’s marketplace. Your persuasive impact will soar when you stop selling and start consulting. After all, your clients aren’t buying something—they are buying into something, which is a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.

Duncan MacPherson is co-author of Breakthrough Business Development and co-founder of Pareto Platform, an industry-leading, business-development firm that helps entrepreneurs improve their practice-management and business-development systems. Contact him at 866-593-8020 or at



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