Screening Prospects…

Sometimes the most powerful approach to growth is “Next!”

John Bowen – CEO – CEG Worldwide

I first saw John Bowen present in Santa Monica in early 2002.

Despite everyone’s development nerves, we were still tight in the aftermath of the previous year’s 9/11 attacks, John’s insights on how he had managed to successfully build and then sell his wealth management firm to a growing Canadian group – Assante – were a highlight of the USA Study Tour I was leading ten of my advisory firms down the east coast of USA.

One of John’s simple doctrines was maintaining a day-to-day focus.

His simple approach was “Next!”.

When clients, complexities, team members, suppliers or plans were fundamentally not aligned with the job of advancing the best interests of his clients or firm, he dismissed it, with a ‘Next!’, to maintain a focus on what was important.

Simple, but tough.

This is particularly relevant when selecting clients to engage (or re-engage).


Intent doesn’t start anything, actions do.

Actions fire up commitments, which are needed for performance.

Performance produces returns – hopefully, the right ones.

Start-ups learn that returns are not due to initial plans, but the on-going ‘planning’ and ‘re-planning’ that is totally fueled by the continual learning actions provided.

So, most start-ups learn the ‘yes’ habit quickly.

Yes, I can deliver that to you by Monday.

Yes, I can look into that for you.

Yes, I can do that for that price.

Yes, I’ll look into that for you and get back to you with recommendation in the time frame you need.

Yes, I can meet with you at any time that best works for you.

‘Yes’ is how you start, but not how you grow.

“Yes’ generates the revenue, but firms need profits to grow.

There comes a time, however, when John’s “Next!” is needed.

Many firms miss these signposts, too focused delivering on commitments to notice they are veering down a slippery slope of more activity and less real returns i.e. time off.


Implementing “Next!” starts with a methodical approach to selecting clients (and re-engaging existing clients – that’s another discussion).

The first step before any “Next!” methodology is an acceptance that implementing “Next!” is fundamentally about serving the best interests of the clients and the firm. Trying to be too many things to too many clients ends up serving fewer clients and eventually the advisory teams working an activity model rather than a productivity model.

The steps are simple, the implementation is hard.

First step is respect.

Respect is about starting conversations with new enquiries with the issues of an enquirer. Thanking them for their enquiry, understanding their timeframes, why they have approached your firm, and any relevant pressing issues.

Second step is positioning.

Positioning is just that. Sharing your proven and preferred approach to how you do what you do – your methodology – not driven by a compliance script, but by what you believe works well for the majority of your clients.

You share your speciality. (If you don’t have one, you might still be in activity mode?).

You describe how your first meeting will be conducted and seek their approval to your approach. If they do agree, that’s great, if they don’t, that’s probably due to a misunderstanding or possibly a “Next!”.

Third step is logistics.

You note how long you will need. The documents you might need. The people you need to attend. Where and how the meeting will be conducted.

You share your lead-times to meet and possibly to respond, particularly if you are busy and you possibly tentatively schedule a follow-up meeting for implementation which is easily cancelled for those occasions when there wasn’t a ‘fit’.

Fundamentally these steps outline ‘how’ you run your first meetings. Any deviation request will always be considered however if deviations become less of an exception and more the norm, are the prospective client’s best interests being served?


What if a prospective client is seeking specific advice on a specific issue (i.e. not seeking your firm’s preferred comprehensive advice approach)?

You politely explain that you are not a Bunnings store.

What if they want to know your fees?

You politely explain you are not a Bunnings with fixed pricing, but explain that no client proceeds with fees unless it is of value. (Compliance will explain that fees are somewhere buried in a Financial Services Guide somewhere on your website). If they press, provide them with your minimum annual fee for comprehensive advice.

What if they seek some flexibility to your new prospect methodology?



I hear a lot about how important ‘flexibility’ is in business.

Flexibility is not to be confused with boundaries. Being flexible while operating within boundaries is essential.

But being flexible without boundaries is like shifting the sidelines and goalposts of a sports game.

It doesn’t really work.

For start-ups, all business is good business until it isn’t.

There comes a time when ‘Next!’ is an important tool for growth not only for new opportunities, but throughout a growing firm.

The commoditisation of advice due to technology is inevitable and will aid those advisory firms that know and define their advice speciality.

Next! helps build your speciality.

John Bowen and many others before and since have proven it.

What do you reckon?




If you wish to master your approach to screening clients, I’m discussing my Certainty Advice “Conversation Zero” (screening frameworks) on my Monday 14th March Roundtable – it’s a free event.

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For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group coaches, trains and is building a growing group of advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice, priced purely on value. The community of advisory firms aligns with Australia’s highest and only ACCC/IP Australia Certification Mark standard of comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice. He has authored four books regarding financial advice with his latest – What Price Value – available now in pre-release for launch in March 2022.


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