The Undisputable Truth

Your time is limited, so working with ideal clients is essential.

It's simple math. A finite number of hours in the day translates into having only so much time to serve however many clients you take on. This being an undisputable truth, chances are you either have too many clients or you don't have enough ideal clients-or both. There is a "right" number of ideal clients for your business-the number that allows you to sleep at night, both because you have the time to do it and because you know you are doing the best you can for both your clients and your business.

You can't serve them all. So you have to decide which people to keep and which ones to let go, either to make room for more of the ideal clients, or to simply decrease your clientele to a manageable number so you can serve the ideal clients even better.

If you've come to this conclusion already, whether you're comfortable with it or scared about it, congratulations. You've faced a fact that can make a huge, positive difference for both your clients and you. It's all part of deciding to make your business all about them, the clients.

So when the time comes to thin the rows, separate wheat from chaff, raise the cream to the top (or whatever other euphemism makes the idea of letting go of hard-won clients easier), how can you begin this process with efficiency and grace? A letter is a simple, clear way to help people understand what you are doing.

Of course, sending a letter has its hurdles, the primary one being clearance from your compliance department. The other difficulty, knowing what to write, will be addressed here, in this article. Know that we've tried to make the message as compliance-friendly as we can, and you should work with your own people to ensure that it is acceptable.

Now that I've said my piece, what should you say?

Consider creating two different letters, which you'll send to different types of clients. First is the "Dear John" letter saying, essentially, that you're working in a different market niche-and they are not part of it. (Sound harsh? I suppose it could be, but if you remember that it is in their best interest to find an advisor who specializes in serving them and other people like them, you should be able to communicate this with some kindness.) You can also include a referral to another advisor, if there's someone in whom you have confidence.

The other letter is more of an announcement of coming changes and an invitation for clients to talk with you, their advisor, about what the new changes will mean.

In either case, you start by telling them the truth: Let people know that, in order to provide the best possible service to your clients, you are focusing on a core group who meet specific criteria. (Those criteria are what I call the Ideal Client Profile, which you can read more about and can be created or modified by going to The profile includes both personality characteristics, such as "enjoys delegating financial tasks," as well as financial factors, such as "has investable assets exceeding $250,000.") Including these criteria as part of the first letter could help recipients realize that they are not your ideal clients. It might be along these lines:

Dear Joe & Susan,

This letter is to announce that we have been examining how we can be of the utmost service and value to our ideal clients. Although we have appreciated your business and working with you, it has become apparent that we will no longer be able to serve your needs. We are enclosing a referral to a reputable financial advisor who may be better suited to your financial situation and advisory requirements. Also enclosed is our Ideal Client Profile, which details the type of client who benefits most from working with us. If you feel there has been some error or misunderstanding, please contact our office, either by calling 555-5555 or e-mailing us at [email protected]. Know that we wish you the best of success in your financial future.

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