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May 01 2023 / Round the Table Magazine

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Two experts teach you how to attract wealthy clients by doing seminars right.

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Attracting high-net-worth clients is among the top goals of financial advisors — and two longtime MDRT members say they’ve developed an effective strategy of gaining their attention by hosting seminars and workshops. 

Karl Hartey, a 28-year MDRT member from Oswestry, England, UK, was holding an average of 25 seminars a year when he first started as an advisor. And Marc A. Silverman, CFP, ChFC, a 39-year MDRT member from Miami, Florida, USA, says he was organizing about 40 a year at the beginning of his career. 

The industry veterans advise using the events not only as an opportunity to attract new clients, but also as a starting point for building a database of prospects. “When we started, we had no clients, so we went out and we were aggressive in the marketplace,” Hartey said. He organizes about half as many these days, explaining that it’s due in part to the fact that his attendees today have a higher net worth than those who attended his first seminars.

Silverman also said holding the events has paid dividends over the years, noting that his database of potential clients — many of whom were discovered at the firm’s workshops — has grown to roughly 4,500 people. “We’re doing a lot of email marketing to them. We’re doing a lot of everything to get people to start calling us, and they do,” he said. 

Setting the stage

Building a business of high-end clients doesn’t just happen overnight, but careful planning in the early stages can help set a course for success further down the road. That entails organizing seminars that attract wealthy individuals.

Hartey said he’s fortunate to operate his business in the U.K., where luxury venues, such as castles, are abundant. He said the firm typically holds events at Peckforton Castle in Tarporley, about an hour’s drive from Oswestry. The goal is to create an experience that potential clients will remember and share with their friends, he explained.“They’re going to say, ‘Do you know where I went today? I went to Peckforton Castle because we went to this really good wealth management firm,’” Hartey said. “If we send them to the Days Inn, they’re not going to say that, because they want to brag about where they’re going. It’s not cheap. But cheap is not what we’re about. First class is what we’re looking to do.”

The goal is to create an experience that potential clients will remember and share with their friends.
—Karl Hartey

Hiring memorable speakers to moderate or host the events can also help get the attention of potential clients. Silverman said he has brought on celebrity speakers, such as Broadway actor and motivational speaker Sandra Joseph, and Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist for Prudential Financial.

Silverman said he organized his workshops in the evening and offered participants dinner and advice on a number of topics, including retirement planning, Social Security, required minimum distributions and more. 

“At the end of the workshop, I would say, ‘How many of you got something out of this evening by a show of hands? If you did, if you would like to come in and see us for a no-cost obligation, please fill out the sheet you have. Give it to my assistant who’s here with me this evening.’ We started building our database that way,” he explained.

Asking participants to fill out a questionnaire is only one of the ways Silverman said he mines for data in the workshops. He introduces himself to each participant during the dinner and takes mental notes during those conversations that he passes along to an assistant at the event. That’s why it helps to keep the events relatively small — no more than 30 participants, Silverman said. 

Hartey said that over time, his firm began inviting existing clients to the seminars, so the audience is now made up of both existing and potential clients. “Each client is given a lanyard. Our clients have a black lanyard, and the prospects have silver lanyards,” he explained, noting that clients offer a living, breathing endorsement. “It’s pointed out to (our prospects), so our clients are becoming our unpaid salesforce.”

Establishing trust

Having happy clients at the events is just one of the ways financial advisors can build trust with prospects at seminars and workshops. Both Hartey and Silverman said they have published multiple books that they distribute at their events to help establish their expertise. 

Silverman says he uses his publications as a calling card and hands them out regularly. Hartey said he also includes his own book as part of a gift packet distributed to participants. He believes being a published author lends credibility to the operation. “You have people who ask, ‘Can I take one for my neighbor?’” He said the answer is always yes. “It’s the power of a book, which costs us a couple of pounds to produce but means a big, big difference to our clients.”

Receiving free books and a meal is part of the package participants receive, according to Hartey. He said that many participants expect to receive some kind of gift just for attending. His firm hands out gift packages with custom chocolates, pads and pens, and handwritten thank-you cards. 

“There are some who just come for the free lunch, but that’s fine because if they go away and say, ‘Oh, I’ve had a free lunch, but it was with this company,’ at least the association is with us, and it’s that magnetic attraction that we’re trying to produce,” Hartey said.

Silverman says he uses his publications as a calling card and hands them out regularly.

Tweaking the system

Hartey said that over time, the team made a few adjustments to how they run the seminars, such as bringing in existing clients to establish trust with prospects. More recently, they made a big change in the structure of the presentation. 

In the past, they spent most of the time presenting the workshop topic and the value of the firm. But he realized structuring the meetings this way is a missed opportunity. “If you imagine, say, you’re going on a date for the very first time and the person that you’re on that date with, all they did was talk about themselves for an hour, and they didn’t spend any time talking to you or paying any interest in you, would you give them a second date?” he asked. 

They restructured the presentations to introduce themselves and then ask participants what they hope to achieve by attending. “And with a little bit of coaxing, they will tell me they’re here because they want to know more about wills, trusts, tax, pensions or whatever it is. It’s always the same answers because they’re different people, but they all have the same problems.”

The approach enables them to make the presentation about solutions high-net-worth individuals need because they already know the prospects’ issues, Hartey said. They use the second half of the presentation to promote the company and show some of their success stories. 

“So, we changed our running order of it over the last couple of months, and it’s helped to improve the appointment ratio, which is the most important part at the end of the day from our side,” Hartey said.

Find resources about planning and holding seminars at mdrt.org/seminar-guide.