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How to Politely Turn Away Poor-Fit Prospects

It may feel a little awkward in the moment, but your future self and team will thank you.

“How do you handle prospects who aren’t a good fit?”

It’s a common question we hear. Many financial advisors find themselves caught between the present and the future. Bringing on new clients feels great in the moment, but bringing on the wrong clients can create future headaches.

The truth is, turning away a prospect is more nuanced than simply telling them “no.” After all, we don’t want to be offensive or ruin any relationships. So you’ll need to be armed with the right language and use a delivery that oozes with empathy.

Not being a great “fit” can come in many forms. But for the sake of this article, we thought we’d discuss the two most common — assets and attitude.


Scenario 1: Prospect Has Assets Below Your Minimum 

During a discovery conversation, you uncover that they are well below your asset minimum.

Script: At this stage [name of prospect], you don’t really need the breadth of wealth management services we provide. What I’d suggest is that you chat with [insert low-cost alternative]When your financial situation gets more complex, please call me and we can determine what direction you should take.”   

If the prospect was referred by a COI or client, it’s important to call the referrer and thank them. However, this is also an opportunity to coach them on your ideal client profile.

Script: “Thank you for referring [name of prospect] to me. I had a nice chat with them, but at this stage they don’t need the depth and breadth of wealth management services we provide. I suggested they contact [alternative]. 

As you know [name of referrer], most of our clients are [insert profession, life event, niche, etc.] So please keep me in mind if you run into anyone who fits that profile.


Scenario 2: Prospect’s Personality Makes Them a Poor Fit

I recall a conversation years ago with a top advisor who told me potential clients have to pass what he refers to as the “Caller ID” test. He envisions an incoming phone call from this prospect and if the thought of answering makes him cringe, he won’t take them on as a client.

When you find yourself in that conversation with a prospect who, in your gut, you know is a poor fit, it’s OK to address it in a respectful manner.

Script: “Before we take on any new client, we have to ensure that we could have a good working relationship and that we could add value to your situation. Based on our conversation today, I’m not sure if our services are the best fit. You might want to take a look at [insert alternative].” 

You don’t have to confront the fact that their personality makes them a bad fit. Being polite, you could say something like, “I think you’ll benefit from an advisor that specializes in …” or “I think you’d work best with someone who thrives on stock picking.”

If this person was referred, it’s still a good idea to follow up with the referrer. Give them a ring and thank them.

Script: “Thank you for referring [name of prospect] to me. I had a nice chat with them – but unfortunately it just wasn’t the best fit for our services. I suggested they contact [alternative]. 

Just wanted to keep you in the loop and thank you for the referral. Please never hesitate to send someone my way. If we are unable to help, we will at least point them in the right direction.

It’s impossible to cover every scenario, but I’m sure you’ve got the gist of it. Resist the temptation of taking on poor-fit clients. It may feel a little awkward in the moment, but your future self and team will thank you.

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