Back in 1984 Bert sat in the corner cubicle, the best seat in the bullpen. He was opening new accounts with machine like efficiency.

Sitting right next to the scrolling ticker, Bert had a bird’s eye view of the stock market.

I was a jealous rookie.

Everyone knew Bert was going to make it big. The rest of us raw “account executives” in the pit weren’t so sure of our futures.

As in Vegas, the odds were stacked against us.

Quickly, I realized that most of the training we had received during our month on Wall Street was J-U-N-K.

In earnest, I searched for someone getting results. And Bert seemed to have a knack for just that.

However, Bert was NOT the most endearing guy to be around initially. He had a negative personality and chain-smoked like a chimney in wintertime – yet he was going to teach me things that would save my nascent career.

One lasting nugget from Bert…

Treat your active prospects like they’re already clients of your practice.

Fast forward to present-day, I’m coaching a group of million-dollar financial advisors and we get to the topic of building a pipeline.

Most in the room had successful practices, but also dealt with the pain of watching seven and eight figure prospects slip through the cracks.

Ideal clients did not slip by Bert. Why? First and foremost, he was crystal clear on who was an ideal client. That, in itself, is a big hinge for success. His time was spent on truly worthwhile prospects.

As my coaching session continued, I thought more about Bert. I hadn’t talked about him in years, but I can’t recall anyone who was better at building and managing a pipeline of qualified prospects.

The system he taught me was an integral part of my early success as an advisor. Elements of his strategy have remained a part of one of my core prospecting principles:

Here’s how I recounted Bert’s philosophy…

First, right-size your pipeline – Even back in the early eighties, Bert ran a financial planning based business. He didn’t want to just smile and dial with a product of the month like most of the stock and bond jockeys. So he only kept 25 active prospects in his rolodex. This number, along with his closing ratio, matched up with his goals for production, assets and new accounts. When a prospect became a client, he replaced them.  When a prospect didn’t work out (very rarely), he replaced them. (If you need some ideas for right-sizing your pipeline, send me an email and I’ll forward you an article I wrote on this topic a few years ago.)

Next, put your prospects on your monthly calendar – Bert called or met with each of his clients, once per month. This routine extended to his 25 active prospects. With this number, Bert was able to have a new business conversation with roughly one future client each business day. To Bert’s way of thinking, if he had fewer than 25 he wouldn’t have enough prospects to make client acquisition a regular part of his daily routine. If he had more, he may not be able to keep pace and he didn’t want to send the wrong message to his prospects.

Third, don’t waste time on unqualified prospects – Bert had a very clear picture of the type of client he preferred. They had substantial liquid assets; he knew how much cash they kept on hand. They were decision-makers, executives or business owners. They were sophisticated investors with whom he could hold intelligent conversations; he suffered fools lightly. At a time when some brokers preyed on the unsuspecting, Bert wanted meaningful long-term relationships.

Finally, build your bench – Bert garnered a steady flow of referrals from his clients and a few centers of influence. And he hosted an occasional seminar or workshop. These activities allowed him to uncover a group of new prospects that formed his bench. Over time, he would qualify them and determine if they would eventually fit into his active prospect pipeline.

When he had an opening in his top 25, they were added to his rolodex.

We need to reconnect so I can thank Bert for those business-building jewels he taught me from his corner cubicle.

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