Chicago: “I just ran into a great opportunity”, Tom told us on a recent conference call. “I’ve been getting up early and going to the gym every morning. I usually get there by 5am, before I get started with my workout I end up chatting with an older guy who works there. The other day he asked me what I do for a living and I gave him my value proposition. This started a conversation where I found out this guy is a retired OB-GYN, who said he really needs a new advisor (lack of service), and has $1.6 million investable. I couldn’t believe it”.
You might call it luck, but getting up early, being at a high-end fitness center, and being prepared with a strong value proposition, landed an initial meeting with an excellent prospect. A testament to our mantra; advisors always be “in traffic.” This quick discussion prompted us to ask Tom a basic question, “What’s next? What steps will you take him through into becoming a client?”
We find that many advisors put a great deal of thought into how they’ll find affluent prospects, but less on how they’ll convert these prospects in to clients. Tom’s team was no exception. The more we talked, the more we uncovered a critical sales issue. Prospects were agreeing to an initial meeting, some wouldn’t show, and of those that did, few were coming back for a 2nd or 3rd meeting, and even fewer became clients.
Elite advisors have a clearly defined process for taking a prospect through their pipeline and becoming clients. This is important, as without a clear process it’s hard to explain with conviction the purpose of your initial meeting, why they meet with you a 2nd or 3rd time, and why they should sign the paperwork to move their accounts.
These processes vary – some advisors have two meetings and expect prospects to sign paperwork; others plan for 5-6 meetings. We shared with Tom a 3-step approach that many elite advisors use. The objective is to “mini-close” the prospect each step of the way. First, you must sell your prospect on the first meeting, during which you gather information and sell, the second meeting, during which you’re either selling the final appointment or, if the opportunity presents itself, moving right into the third step and getting the paperwork signed. The following is a brief outline of this 3-Step process:
First Meeting – Fact Finding and Rapport Building
· Build Rapport and Learn about Them.
The 80/20 rule holds true in this situation. They should be doing most of the talking. Your objective is to get to know their family situation, retirement horizon, what they do for fun, and so on.
· Briefly Explain Your Financial Advisory Process.
This meeting should be focused on them, not on you, your firm, or your investment acumen. At this stage you should take a few minutes to explain how you work with your clients. Share examples of the type of service and services you provide. Hint - focus on the high-level personal service you provide your clients, most affluent investors leave their advisor because of poor service.
· Sell Them on a Second Meeting
“Mr./Mrs. Prospect – I have really enjoyed talking with you today and learning more about your family. I’d like to take some time to review your situation in more detail and to compile some recommendations. I think we can really help with your XYZ situation. If it works for you, let’s set some time for meeting again next week. No obligation at that point, I’ll just offer my thoughts and we’ll see if there’s any way I can help. Would XYZ date and time work for you?”
· Request Necessary Statements
Encourage the prospective client to send you (or you go pick them up) any remaining account statements, tax returns, etc. that you may need to create their plan/proposal.
Second Meeting – Deeper Dive and Recommendations
· Build Rapport
Revisit topics you discussed in your first meeting regarding family, hobbies and other things important to them. Continue with the 80/20 plan of letting them do most of the talking. Come prepared with a few other areas to inquire about – summer vacation plans, grandkids and so on.
· Present your Recommendations
Re-state the financial priorities you uncovered in your first meeting.
· Ask Questions
Do you have any initial questions based on what we’ve covered here? Are there any other financial concerns you might have that we haven’t discussed? And so on…
· Read Them and Sell Them
o On a Third Meeting – “Mr./Mrs. Prospect – I know we’ve covered a lot of ground today. You probably need a little time to digest all of this. Could we plan on getting back together so that I can answer any questions you might have in a week or so? Would XYZ date and time work for you?”
o On Signing Account Paperwork – “Mr./Mrs. Prospect – I am confident that we would work well together and that we’d be able to help you with X, Y and Z. All we’ll need to do is sign a bit of paperwork and the rest of the process is in our hands. Does that work for you?”
Third Meeting – Final Q&A and Paperwork
· Rapport Building
Re-visit topics discussed in meetings one and two. Remembering their hobbies and family situation will show that you’re a good listener, and that they’re important to you.
· Final Questions
Ask your prospective client a couple of clarifying questions if needed. For example, “You mentioned helping pay for your grandchildren’s college. Is this something you’d want to start immediately or is that a longer term objective?” Also ask if the prospect has any final questions for you. Hopefully they’ve had a chance to review your proposal/plan and will give you an opportunity to address any questions or concerns they may have.
· Clinching the Relationship
Using the language mentioned above in meeting two, suggest they sign paperwork and move forward with you.
Great salespeople read their prospects and adapt their process to the individual. They might plan for three meetings, but discover their prospect is an engineer who’s engrossed in the details, so they add a fourth meeting. Conversely, if they found their prospect to be a busy business owner, they might have the introductory meeting at their office with the second and final meeting at this person’s place of business.
Selling to today’s affluent is much like being a great chef, you might be working from a recipe, but you can customize your dish based on available ingredients, the preferences of your guests and so on. As of this writing, Tom’s initial meeting went well and his OB-GYN prospect agreed to come back for round 2. For Tom’s team, this simple adjustment of having a plan for transitioning a prospect into a client should be the difference between frustration and results.