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How to attract wealthy prospects — profitably

Most firms start their sales pitch with what they can do for the prospect, then describe how they will do it, and maybe mention why the prospect should choose them.

Reverse the order, says Alexandre Monnier, president of the Family Office Exchange.

"Start with why a prospect should select your firm," says Monnier. "Work from the inside out. You won't sound like all the other planners who want their business. Instead of having a transactional discussion, it will be a very different conversation - you will be aspirational, and you will demonstrate that you're value-centric."

For wealthy prospects, for example, an adviser can explain why his or her firm can help the family achieve the purpose of their wealth. "It's an elevated dialogue," Monnier says. "Instead of just being a service provider, you're an integrated holistic wealth adviser."

Engaging prospects in the right way is especially critical for family offices — and wealth managers who are considering ramping up their practices to become family offices — because pricing has become such a contentious issue.

Indeed, fees for advisers in the ultrahigh-net-worth market have dropped 17% since 2008, according to the FOX Wealth Adviser Benchmarking Study 2015, which will be released in September.

"Advisers are losing pricing power with prospects," the study concluded, as wealth managers have become increasingly concerned with charging for "softer services" such as estate planning, family governance and a slew of other non-investment services.

This situation has not gone unnoticed by others in the industry. "Getting pricing right is the single biggest economic challenge facing wealth management firms today," says UHNW strategy consultant Jamie McLaughlin. "More clients are receiving more complex services which aren't been paid for, and are eroding profit margins."

Read More: How to avoid client service creep and price more profitably

According to Monnier, there's a "fundamental [pricing] misalignment in the industry. Pricing has been based on a percentage of assets under management, which is appealing because it's simple and straightforward. But if everything is part of a bundled price, some services are subsidizing others, and some clients are subsidizing other clients."

The goal, he says, is to make clients appreciate the value of the services they are being offered, and have advisory firms align the value created by their services with the costs they incur to provide them.

"It's a real challenge for integrated wealth advisers," Monnier says.

Discussing various additional charges with clients for "soft" services is "not an easy conversation," Monnier acknowledges.

Nonetheless, he adds, "most sophisticated clients like to know how they're being charged and for what, as opposed to a bundled pricing structure that they may or may not use."

Indeed, FOX research shows that current clients who are actually charged for all the services they receive are receptive when they see the outcomes, Monnier says. "When they see the tangible results, they're much more willing to pay for the additional services."

It's more difficult to convince prospects who haven't had work done, Monnier says. Only half of prospects understood the value/price relationship advisory firms were offering, according to the FOX Benchmarking study.

Read More: How to price for HNW and UHNW clients

The best chance of winning prospects over is to educate them on the value of integrated advice versus other alternatives, according to Monnier. Advisers also have to be extremely selective when dealing with prospects, Monnier says.

"Client selection is the best predictor of future profitability," he explains. "You have to attract people who are willing to pay for the services you provide and will use them. It takes discipline but sometimes you have to say this prospect is not the right client for our firm."

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