Most financial advisors surveyed by Incapital believe prospecting and selling can be done effectively in a virtual environment, and many said they have already successfully done so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vast majority, or 80%, of the survey respondents in December said they conducted at least one virtual meeting with their prospects in 2020, according to Incapital, which distributes investment products to broker-dealers, RIAs, banks and asset managers.

More than two-thirds, or 71%, of the advisors surveyed said one to five virtual meetings resulted in new clients. Around 22% said six to 10 of those meetings brought in new clients.

Incapital and Red Zone Marketing surveyed 396 advisors from December 8 to 14.

The respondents are from more than 50 broker-dealers, RIAs and banks. Most of them are in the 36 to 77 age range. Around 45% of the respondents are 50 to 63 years old, 26% are 36 to 49 years old and 20% are 56 to 77 years old.

The rest are 22 to 35 years old (8%) and 78 years old and older (1%).

Geographically, the respondents are based in 42 states across urban, suburban and rural locations.

As virtual meetings are here to stay for most advisors, around 67% of the advisors surveyed said they felt confident that prospecting and selling could effectively be done remotely.

Around 53% of the respondents said they had “a lot” or “a great deal” of comfort level when meeting with prospects virtually. Less than 20% said they had little or no comfort in doing so.

Despite the rising popularity of virtual prospect meetings, referrals remain the most effective way to bring in new clients, the survey shows.

“Referrals without asking” was cited by the advisors surveyed as the top marketing strategy that brought in the most new clients. This was followed by “asking for referrals from clients and strategic alliances.” The other strategies include email campaigns, virtual educational seminars and LinkedIn prospecting.

Around 29% of advisors surveyed said they got more referrals last year than in 2019. Around 20% said they got less. The rest, or 51%, said the number of referrals stayed the same.

There have been concerns that advisors are relying too much on referrals for new business and focusing too little on finding new ways to engage with prospects, as reported.

Referrals from existing clients made up nearly half, or an average of 49%, of the new clients at advisory firms surveyed by TD Ameritrade Institutional in early 2020. Meanwhile, referrals from “centers of influence,” such as local lawyers, accountants or other professionals, contributed 22% of new clients. Marketing through social media generated 8% of new clients.

“Firms heavily reliant on client referrals may overlook other growth opportunities or be challenged should referral rates begin to decline,” TD Ameritrade wrote in a report in August last year.

Amid the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, social media tools and electronic communications are more important than ever for staying present in the lives of clients and prospects, TD Ameritrade noted at the time.

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