Creating a Practice with Little (or No) Natural Market

Here is an article from my friend Gail Goodman, a phone skills trainer and teacher to the financial services industry. Visit her at I refer her to my financial services clients. If you have a team of financial advisors, reps, agents, brokers, or producers that need to make more and better sales appointments, hire her.

If you’re an advisor or other type of sales producer, think about some of these points so you can be effective at making more connections.

natural market - gail goodmanThe financial services industry is highly dependent on using a recruit’s natural market to kick start their practice. This makes sense for a couple of reasons: One, if you are truly committed to this business, then sharing your knowledge with the people you care about is important. Two, if those same people care about you, and want you to be successful, they will be a terrific source of referrals.

But what about the new advisor that DOESN’T have a natural market?

I know several managers that have flat out said “I wouldn’t hire them.” I posed the following question to a manager with whom I have a long-standing relationship.

“If I chose to move to this area and wanted to be an advisor, would you hire me? You know I wouldn’t have a strong natural market, but I know how to make phone calls and network, and I’d be the best student you ever had.”
Without hesitation, he said “No.”

His answer reflected a weakness of his management team. If we cannot “bring up” a new recruit without a natural market, then we do not fully understand how to create a practice.

It’s not just about who you know. It’s about who you meet. Every advisor has a “new” natural market every 7-10 years. I challenged a highly experienced class to write down their CURRENT Project 200 (their top 200 family members and friends) since it would not be the same as their initial one. They were excited to do this. And the General Agent used my idea to create excitement about following through on reaching out to these people. But I guarantee that most of the “New Project 200” were people they had newly met as an advisor within the past 10+ years, not the people they knew when they started.

So why can’t we start a new advisor in a new city?

The question has extra meaning to me because my husband and I are about to move out of my home town. I have lived in the New York City area my entire life, exclusive of four years in college. But we are embarking on an exciting adventure and moving to a new horse farm outside of Nashville.

I can’t tell you how many people (close friends included) are shocked that we would move to someplace “Where you know nobody.” And that’s exactly the phrase they use. I DO know a couple of people in the Greater Nashville area because two of my Nashville clients suggested the area to me. And my realtor has become a good friend.

But aside from those three individuals, we are interested in meeting new people. I know how to network and have had colleagues and clients tell me they have folks to introduce me to. And I’m a friendly, out-going person, as most sales people are. And we’re moving to a place that has already proven to be filled with generous, friendly, “happy you’re moving here” people (yes, they actually say that to us). We’re seeing this as an adventure, not walking into a wasteland without friends.

So why are we so afraid to hire someone without a Natural Market? Because we’re not good at teaching face-to-face prospecting in a clear, systematic way. We’re not teaching and role playing trade shows, breakfast meetings, civic organizations and chance meetings as we go about living in a new community.

We are in a high tech world where people don’t pick up their phones. Meeting someone face to face, you have a great chance of:
1. Making a good impression
2. Getting (your name) into their phone as a new contact and
3. Asking for an appointment right then (when appropriate).

Sticking to the old rules of “dialing another hour” when a rookie doesn’t have enough appointments will often be more frustrating than rewarding in our current no-picking-up world.

We have to know how to teach new advisors to meet people and create relationships in a new city. If you know how to do it yourself as a manager, but don’t know how to teach it, give me a call. I know trainers who do.

It can be exhilarating and exciting for someone confident in their own interpersonal face-to-face skills to “go out and meet people” as a way of building a practice. Yes, a Project 200 is a GREAT way to start. But to eliminate the possibility of a new advisor who has the personality, energy, and passion to do the work, because you don’t know how to teach them, is a missed opportunity on both sides.

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