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How to Build a Peer-to-Peer Sales Force

How to Build a Peer-to-Peer Sales Force

Imagine if everyone who knew you promoted your services. This would be a financial advisor’s dream. Yet this is the world of many “elite” financial advisors. They have mastered the most powerful affluent marketing tool: word-of-mouth influence

For the past decade, the Oechsli Institute’s annual affluent research report has found word-of-mouth influence to be the most effective marketing tactic. The affluent talk to peers and others in their spheres of influence.

But these people are not trained to sell. In most cases when affluent clients favorably mention a financial advisor, it’s just conversation.

Only a handful of financial advisors are reaping the benefits of word-of-mouth influence. There are three basic steps to building a word-of-mouth influence sales force.


Step One – Be crystal clear about your value and how it’s delivered to clients. Today’s affluent want a primary financial advisor who can oversee every aspect of their family’s financial affairs—someone who can vet outside experts and work closely with other professionals such as CPAs, bankers and attorneys, as well as every member of their family. 

That said, is everyone fully aware of your value and how it’s delivered? Are they able to explain this in a natural conversation? Does your spouse really know the true role you play in the lives of your clients and their families? The same question needs to be posed to referral alliance partners, friends, neighbors, people you associate with on boards or in civic organizations, and those you socialize with—whether on the golf course, at the theater, or during nights on the town. The odds are that the majority of this potential word-of-mouth sales team doesn’t really know what you do for your clients.


Step Two – Clearly define the profile of your ideal client—the one who derives the most benefit from your financial services. Is this a family headed by two working professionals who lack the time and interest to micromanage the totality of their family’s increasingly complex financial affairs? Or is it someone from the niche of like-minded professionals you've cultivated, such as doctors, small-business owners or retired executives? The tighter the profile, the easier it is for your word-of-mouth influencers to identify them and pass on your credentials. You should also identify the number of new ideal clients you have capacity to onboard. The number is fluid and might change next quarter.


Step Three – Communicate steps one and two to your extended sales force. We suggest segmenting this into two groups:

1. Family, friends and colleagues – This requires having a serious conversation with your spouse about—as noted above—your true value to clients, how best to articulate it, and the profile of your ideal client. It’s also important that your spouse know your long-range vision, your annual targets (e.g., $20 million in new assets) and the rewards (e.g., vacation, dream home).

The same tactic can be used with close friends, minus the reward. In both instances you’re communicating the importance of their word-of-mouth influence.

Although you would think your colleagues would know your value proposition, our experience suggests that unless it is constantly reinforced people fall into converational routines that are comfortable. The challenge is to get them to focus on your vision and annual growth targets. There should also be a personal reward (bonus) that each will receive when annual targets are reached.

2. Clients and centers of influence – Holding a "lunch and learn" is one way to get clients and COIs on board. Here is where you showcase your team and highlight their role in delivering your value proposition.

Explaining the power of word of mouth and its importance to you works well in this venue. You can also explain that you’re selective in the clients you work with and that currently (this quarter) you’ve got the capacity to take on a handful of new clients.

This message should be reinforced in one-on-one communication with both clients and COIs. You can’t come across as though you’re asking for a referral; rather, you’re fertilizing those positive word-of-mouth seeds you’ve planted.

The more people you get speaking favorably about you as a financial advisor, the larger your sales force.

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