When to Waitlist - What Would Arlene Say?

6 min read
October 19, 2017

When you’re just starting out it in your financial planning business it can be a struggle to find those first few clients. Now, though, business is booming. You have a comfortably sized client list, you love your work, and you’re a happy camper. But those prospects just keep walking in the door. Darn them! You may be considering waitlisting as a solution to your scaling problem. Unfortunately, waitlisting is trickier than it sounds. And there are several steps to take to get you to and through that step.

Why are you waitlisting?

Obviously, you feel the need to waitlist prospective clients if your client list is completely full. Still, that’s just the scratching the surface of the problem. Yes, I said problem. Waitlisting becomes a problem when you don’t have a plan to scale your business. You grow too quickly, and you no longer have a strategy in place to service new clients. So, what’s really motivating you to waitlist prospects?

  1. You’re lacking a plan. Clients and referrals are streaming in for a reason - you’re amazing at what you do! Obviously your marketing strategy and your work speak for themselves. But you’re clearly lacking in one area - a plan to scale your business.
  2. You’re not actually full - but you’re close. You might be saying - Oh believe me, Arlene, I’m maxed out. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but whenever I talk to a “maxed out” advisor, they’re usually pushed to their limit because their business isn’t as efficient as it could be. It might be time to evaluate your processes and see where you’re falling down.
  3. You’re unwilling to outsource work. This is a big one. It’s easy to believe that there’s some level of glory in going it alone - there’s not! As an advisor your time should be spent on client-facing and revenue-generating activities. You can outsource so much of your business - all without losing what makes it “yours.” Bookkeeping, marketing strategy, blog writing, and virtual assistant work are just a few examples.
  4. You haven’t thought about expanding. Are you outsourcing tasks and are still full? Have you thought about hiring? Maybe you need a paraplanner, or maybe it’s time to bring on an intern or associate. Either way, if you’re bummed about waitlisting and you’re still the only planner on staff - consider hiring.

Unfortunately, waitlisting tends to be the easy answer to your growth problem. If you’re happy with your current client load - that’s totally fine! This is your business and you can run it the way you see fit. But if you’re hitting a wall, are thinking about starting a waitlist, but still feel like you’ve got some growing to do - you have other options. They may require more work than waitlisting, but they’ll be worth it in the long run.

Why should you waitlist?

All of this is not to say that waitlisting is bad. In some cases, it is a useful tool. But think of it as that: a tool. You can use a waitlist to help you accomplish several different goals.

First, a waitlist can help free you up to comb through your client list. Although you may have a niche, it’s very possible that when you were getting started you accepted anyone with a pulse as a client. Of course, we all know that “alive” is not a niche. Having a few waitlisted clients in que as you comb through your client list to weed out any not-so-ideal clients can relieve the stress of losing a client.

A waitlist can also help you to control your growth. Let’s say you’re in the process of outsourcing tasks, you’re considering a growth strategy, and you are working to make processes more efficient. That’s all great news - look at you go! But progress doesn’t happen overnight. If you don’t feel that you can adequately serve prospective clients who are coming through your door right now, it’s okay to put them on a waitlist.

Be honest with them about your situation. Explain that while, yes, right now you’ve hit your capacity you are actively working to expand your business. They’ll appreciate your honesty, and they’ll appreciate it even more when your practice is able to give them the full attention they deserve as a client.

Finally, when you hit a point where waitlisting is an option, it opens up the opportunity for you to take advantage of your schedule. This is the tactic I usually suggest advisors use when building their waitlist. Rather than keeping an old-school list of names, force yourself into a limited number of prospective client meetings each month.

Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s three. Whatever number of people you’re comfortable speaking with and potentially taking on as a client, don’t take more prospective client meetings than that. If someone else is interested, explain that they’ll need to take the next available appointment (either next month or a few months out). This ties back into the concept of controlling the speed at which your practice is growing. It also forces you to be introspective as a business owner and take the necessary steps to keep pace with that growth.

What else should you keep in mind?

A waitlist isn’t a crutch. As I said before, it’s easier to waitlist than to take the steps necessary to grow. This is the case for many reasons. Most of the time it’s easier to tell a new prospect that you’re too busy than to fire a client that’s a terrible fit or is abusive to your staff. As business owners, we often live in fear of losing existing clients.

Instead of approaching your waitlist from that place of fear, I challenge you to think outside of the box. Use this opportunity to manage your schedule more wisely and evaluate your business. There are several things you can do to either prevent a waitlist problem or make your growth a little bit more manageable.

  1. Get picky. If you haven’t decided on a niche already, do that. If you have a niche, make it more specific. Be very choosy when you’re in prospective client meetings. And have a ton of referrals on hand in case you meet with someone who isn’t a perfect fit. They’ll likely be a great client for another advisor! This allows you to only bring on clients who you can serve and serve to the best of your ability.
  2. Raise prices. Oof, this one is always controversial. Yes, I do mean raise prices on new and existing clients. Many advisors shy away from the idea of raising prices on existing clients because it feels wrong - and I understand. I also understand if it’s absolutely not something you can do because of your niche, or because you just don’t want to. Again, this is your business. You are 100% in control. But if you are feeling like the prospective clients coming in are paying an arm and a leg more than some of your existing clients, it may be time to raise your rates.
  3. Screen better. This is similar to getting picky about who you sign on, but it is much more about the initial screening stage. Before you even get on a video call with a prospect, or invite them into your office for a meeting, screen them. Decide on what will determine whether or not they’re a good fit. This will help you reserve your few monthly prospect meetings for potential clients who are an even better fit. Again, if they’re not a fit for you, don’t forget to pass out referrals!
  4. Become a process pro. Give your business a hard look. Are you maximizing tech? Are all of your onboarding processes efficient? Try using a source like Toggl or RescueTime to track where your time is spent during any given day. If there’s anything that’s taking too long or is inefficient, find a method that works better for you. This will not only open up more room in your schedule right now, it will help you grow as you go.

Remember: you are the boss.

I can’t stress this enough. You are the boss of your business. That means you are the boss of your calendar and the length of your client list. It also means that you’re in charge of growth strategy and overall improvement.

There isn’t an easy way to scale a business - you’re totally going to face bumps in the road! And that’s okay, it’s part of what makes being a business owner fun. So, if you’re staring down the possibility of incorporating waitlisting into your business routine, I encourage you to take a closer look. Decide for yourself what you can change to either grow your business, free up more of your time for current clients, or limit the pace at which you’re taking on new prospects.

No matter which improvements you choose to make in your processes or hiring strategy, this is a big step for you! Congrats on making it to this exciting point.


About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach

Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.

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