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Potentials vs. Prospects

Separate the folks you’d like to have as clients from the ones who truly are prospects.

In our studies of the industry’s elite, we see a variety of techniques for pipeline management. For starters, they’re more active in managing their pipeline than the average advisor. It gets reviewed weekly, if not daily. This helps them provide enough, but not too much, contact and to be very thoughtful in how they move potential clients from one stage to the next.  

They’re also careful about their labeling. We often use the term “prospect” too loosely in sales. It’s often used in reference to anyone we hope to engage as a client, whether or not they hope to engage us as an advisor. 

We think it’s helpful to look at your current pipeline and separate it into two groups—potentials and prospects. Not only is this helpful in determining next steps with each group, it’s a good reality check for your marketing.


Potentials are literally anyone you know that you’d like to have as a client. This includes friends, family, neighbors, former colleagues, community contacts, your kid’s soccer coach, the list goes on. This list is naturally broad—that’s OK. That’s why this list exists. It puts people on your radar, without muddying the water in your prospect list. Here are a few examples to illustrate who you should include:

  • You have a friend who’s a local business owner. He’s asked some innocuous questions about happenings in the markets, but it’s never gone further. 
  • You know an attorney who’s mentioned a client of hers that she’d like you to meet. You know who this person is, but have never connected with them. 
  • Someone fills out a lead form from a Facebook ad, but you’ve not been able to speak with them to determine their wealth or desire to engage with you.


This list should be cleaner and more focused than your list of Potentials. This list is your gold, it’s your core focus, it’s the lifeblood of your marketing. There are three criteria that must be met for someone to be labeled as a Prospect:  

  • You’ve talked business. In order for someone to be considered a prospect, a business conversation must have taken place.
  • They are receptive. If at any point they tell you, implicitly or explicitly, that they aren’t interested, they aren’t a prospect anymore. 
  • You perceive they qualify. While you may not know every detail regarding their financial situation, everything from assets to attitude needs to be pointing in the right direction.

Here’s the question ... what does your current pipeline reveal about your marketing? Is it full? Is it empty? Are there more potentials than clients? Each of these scenarios represents cause and effect. Let’s get active!

@StephenBoswell is President of The Oechsli Institute and author of Best Practices of Elite Advisors@KevinANichols is the Chief Operating Officer for The Oechsli Institute and author of The Indispensable LinkedIn Sales Guide for Financial Advisors.

TAGS: Marketing
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