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Letting Go of Less-Than-Ideal Clients

Some advisors hold onto clients that they consciously know are bad for them instead of taking one bold step that could improve the quality of their business. The challenge of letting go is tough for some people especially if they see their business situation as less-than-ideal but are more afraid of the unknown. It’s been said that the unknown is where your professional potential lies and that choosing the discomfort of change will reveal to you a whole new world of possibilities. It’s all about making that one courageous decision and leaving the status quo behind.

For advisors, there comes a time in the maturity of the business where the number of clients can be overwhelming.  The trigger may be a missed meeting, a forgotten call, or a day with a series of very small transactions that take up hours.  Suddenly, their top client needs to see them, and they can’t fit them in. Wham! That’s when it hits them. Things need to change.

The trigger forces the advisor to look at their client list and decide who is going to be let go. The path of letting go of small or non-ideal clients is different depending on the firm, but try to highlight  positive for both yourself  and the client. Moving on  to a national call center or a rookie can hopefully be an opportunity  for those clients to be serviced with more vim and vigor.

Obviously, the benefits for advisors include better service for their top tier clients, less stress, more time for events and appreciations, more enjoyment of their revamped schedules, and being more productive overall with their time.

The tough part for advisors comes when they see the names of their very first clients on the list. They’ve had them for years, and they were the ones that trusted them with their small amount of money when they were just starting.

However, the intention of letting go of non-ideal clients that no longer  fit the business model is about creating a new client experience with noticeable value and benefit that the advisor can be proud of.

To make sure unbiased decisions about segmenting client lists are made, follow a structured process.

Step #1 Create a selection criteria list

The selection criteria will mirror the list of your ideal clients. For example, you enjoy working with them, they give you referrals, their household recurring revenue is in your target range, and they are willing to accept your recommendations. Once you set the list, prioritize it and decide how many of the items on your list are going to have to be checked off for you to classify them as ideal clients. If you are stuck for criteria, think about your favorite clients and what makes them your favorite.

Also, consider if you divide last year’s income to an hourly rate and calculate how many hours that you would be spending over the year with that client. What revenue would have to be the baseline for you to cover your time?

Step #2 Go through your client list

With the selection criteria now established, carefully go through your client list. Be sure to tag family households together so you don’t happen to miss a relative that has a different last name. Take your time doing this, and if you have an assistant, work on it together as you both will be able to share your experiences with the clients.  Try to split this task into smaller chunks, so that you can complete it accurately and are confident with your final decisions.

Step #3 Take action

Once you have the list of the non-ideal clients, and have decided where they will be going, put some time limits on when you will take action and how you will let the clients know. Some advisors like to do this quickly and do it all at once like ripping off a Band-Aid. Others need to gradually get used to the idea. Whether it’s calling the clients or sending them a letter introducing their new advisor or new situation, frame the conversation as to why this change is good for the client and be clear what’s in it for them.

The reality is that, every year, you need to be bringing in new assets, and by going through this process of letting go, you will have to bring in more to reach your goal. The hope is that all your existing clients fit your ideal criteria and you will have more time and energy to prospect and follow up on those referrals.

About Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at You can email Rosemary at:

Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. He is working on his second book. Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.

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