Prospecting in volatile times

Volatile markets (and pandemics) are tough to live through, but there are often positive surprises for an advisory practice when markets stabilize.

Research after the 2008–2009 downturn showed that many affluent investors planned to take their money away from their current adviser. That was bad news for some, but for many of the advisers I work with, that downturn turned out to be a catalyst for growth that has continued ever since. People desperately needed the help of a skilled financial adviser to make sense of the markets and choices they were faced with, and history will most likely repeat itself in 2020 with the same silver lining.

You’ve probably sent out market updates, held remote client reviews and routinely checked in with clients on the phone. Now that some states are getting back to “normal” and easing up on restrictions, it’s time to take a more targeted approach with some of your communications to start gaining introductions and referrals.

First, a word of caution: While you want to grow your business and gain new clients, your communications shouldn’t be about you. Your focus, messaging and positioning all need to be on the problems you solve and the people you help. This is a great time to make sure both clients and prospects know the specific and concrete ways your expertise can benefit them.


Market concerns and COVID-19 fears have created ripple effects on the economy. Entire industries, like cruise lines, might now be in jeopardy, while other industries, such as respirator developers, and lab testing and equipment, have sprung into prominence. Some clients in the midst of job changes might need assistance with weighing offers and assessing stock option grants and restricted stock units, rolling over 401(k)s, or making decisions about selling company equity. Some not-so-fortunate clients might need to take hardship loans or negotiate aid packages to pay for their children’s college tuition.

Do prospective clients know you are an expert at helping them with these types of planning needs? Develop communications and messages so that you can be sure they would answer, “Yes.”


Boeing, as one example, announced massive plans to cut its workforce at the end of April. Some employees will likely be offered voluntary retirement incentive packages. Depending on how many years away from retirement they are, those employees will have to quickly recalibrate their plans to decide whether they should take the offer. What are the pros and cons, from a dollar standpoint as well as the impact on the family? Do they have enough savings? What will the pension payout be? How will they handle health care?

This same scenario is playing out at many other companies. Set up Google alerts for companies in your area and leverage LinkedIn to start reaching out to clients. Be sure to use the 2nd connection feature on LinkedIn, which will tell you who among your contacts can introduce you to someone at a specific company. Assure your current clients of your willingness to be a resource for their friends and colleagues at any of the beleaguered companies.


Many business owners might need the expertise you possess to help them understand current laws as well as new legislation. How does the CARES Act impact their business, and can they benefit from the greater flexibility in using net operating losses? Business owners with pass-through entities might benefit from a Roth conversion discussion. Other businesses need assistance deciding whether they could benefit from legislation like the Paycheck Protection Program and might need help filing or weighing the alternatives.

We’ve never had a perfect storm quite like the one we’ve experienced these past months, and it can be difficult living through it day to day. But for advisers who are willing to be proactive, and who can communicate how potential clients can benefit from their expertise, there should be brighter days ahead.

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Kristine McManus is vice president and chief business development officer for practice management at 

Written by Investors Wallets

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