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The Disappearing Prospect

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Apr 4, 2008 12:16 pm

Ok, so you’ve had good meeting. No, a really good meeting with a couple - everyone seemed to make a connection, they were forthcoming about goals, concerns, assets. Agreed to second meeting for the “proposed solution” and showed up - on time. Proposal went well - still good “vibes” but they didn’t move forward on the spot. “We want to think a little” they say. You probe a little, without becoming overly salesy and ultimately book a follow-up…

the phone rings couple of days later - we’re still thinking they say… then… nothing. No return calls. Voicemail at each phone attempt.

For me this scenario has played out several times over the last several weeks. It’s unusual for me so I’m tuned in to it. I’d like to hear from others about what types of things you do in this situation to attempt another move forward. We don’t want to sit on these people and try to hatch them, but curious about the next few steps…


Apr 4, 2008 1:33 pm

Couple of points-

  I use a tactic from the Sandler institute of giving an upfront disclosure at the first meeting. "Mr prospect, through the course of our discussion you may find that what you need and what I do are two different things. However turnabout is fair play and I may find  that I can't help you. In any event, I will tell you, and I need you to tell me if that's the case. I can accept a yes or no, but not a maybe. Does that sound fair?"   On your current case if you can contact them again and they say they need more time, I would say "You know Mr. Prospect, we both know it takes information, not time, to make a decision. What other information were you looking for? Nows the time to ask while you have an expert on the phone."     If they say they aren't interested I would say" can you give me a reason or two why so I don't waste time calling with inappropriate ideas in the future?" This will tell you what he wants to buy.   Or Hell, maybe it's just you.   Stok
Apr 4, 2008 2:26 pm

Was there any insurance involved?

Apr 4, 2008 2:47 pm

regarding insurance: In one instance there was an annuity as part of the discussion, in the other instances, no…

Apr 4, 2008 4:20 pm

anonyous: I just got it. nice

Apr 4, 2008 8:59 pm

Andre, That happened to me once also.  I will not mention the “a” word until they become a client now.

Apr 4, 2008 10:30 pm

“anonyous: I just got it. nice”

  What did you just get?  I have no idea what you are talking about.  If there was insurance involved, I was going to tell you how to stop the "we want to think about it".   What did you say when you left messages?    The only thing that they should be thinking about is whether they want to do business with you.
Apr 5, 2008 1:59 am

Sorry anonymous - I thought you were making a funny - please disregard. I am open to suggestion. As for messages, not too many - but what I did leave sounded something like: great meeting with you, you mentioned taking some time to consider (list a couple of things we discussed) could help you (insert benefit here), I’m looking forward to speaking with you further about how (whatever was proposed) may fit with your plans. Give me a call when you can - talk with you soon… that sort of thing…

Apr 5, 2008 1:42 pm

Andre, tell us a little more.  What is it that they are thinking about?   Personally, I think that if they are deciding whether to follow your recommendations or not, you have messed up.   More specifically, it is ok if they aren't sure whether to go with your exact recommendations, but that should be absolutely secondary to whether they are doing business with you.  Typically, I will have the accounts set up and the money transferred before they are given any specific recommendations.  Maybe this makes things a little more personal because they have to reject me and not my recommendations.

With all that being said, I'm still not immune to "let me think about it".    You need to find out specifically what it is that they are thinking about.  They need to know that you are fine with them saying no and you just want them to tell you so you don't have to waste time calling them.  Don't let them leave without setting up a follow up appointment.  If one doesn't get set, they aren't serious.    If something happens and for some reason I don't have an appointment, I will call and leave a message.  If I have to leave a second message,  it will be very direct.  I want them to say "we don't want to do business with you."  Nothing's wrong with hearing no.  We have to stay away from the time wasting maybes.
Apr 5, 2008 2:01 pm

Most people have to think about it because hey are scared - scared of the unknown. They know that their broker is average, or that their Vanguard stuff has done OK. But they are more comfortable with the “known” (their current situation) than the “unknown” (which is what you will do to them). Sometimes it is best to develop rapport so they begin to “like” you, and feel comfortable with you. Unless your philosophies are way out of the box, they will begin to trust you. Maybe invite them to dinner with a wholesaler (“industry specialist”), let them see that you are in fact the real deal.

Apr 5, 2008 5:03 pm

I agree with anon that this is largely a result of your process, i.e. if you have a second meeting at which you present your specific proposals before they commit to working with you and moving their assets over.  I made that mistake early in my career and steadfastly refuse to do it again.  First I sell them on me and my process, but I don’t give away my advice for free.

Apr 6, 2008 2:32 am

great posts - and thought provoking. I consider myself relatively people-savvy - try to create a comfortable environment right from the start, but I have not had much luck in the way of transferring assets in before presenting some solutions. I’m middle-aged but new to the area and this business (1 year out) - so could be a little bit of the “new guy” in town I suppose. But this thread has provoked a question: Do you get the assets in before explaining what you plan to do with them? I would be of the opinion (if I were the new prospect) that I’m not moving my assets until I know what your plan is for them… what’s your process?

Apr 6, 2008 9:08 pm

I almost always get the assets before the client knows the exact plan.   The client needs to know general things in advance like why we are moving the money from a 401(k) into an IRA and my general philosophy on investment strategies and the different ways that we can work together...fees, commissions, combination, etc.  They need to know what they can expect in terms of service and they must feel comfortable with me.  The one thing that they don't need to know is exactly what we are going to do with the money.

The primary reason for this is that it simply doesn't matter.   I do not take any discretionary authority.  I make recommendations, but all decisions are up to the client.  The client understands that it's not about my plan for his money.  It is about OUR plan for the money.   We work together on an ongoing basis to accomplish his financial objectives.  In short, it doesn't matter if the client agrees with my initial suggestions.   If he doesn't, we'll go back to the drawing board to put something together that he likes.  He's working with me because he wants to work with me and not because of some recommendations that I gave him before he was a client.   Sometimes I'll get a call from a client who has either met with another advisor or has been approached by one.  I have no problem with this happening.  I always tell my client that if they have time I have no problem with them meeting with someone else because maybe we'll pick up a good idea.   I then get a follow-up call and the client says the advisor said, "I should do X, Y, Z."  Normally, I can tell them why that isn't the best for them.   Other times, I get surprised, and the recommendation does have some merit.  So what happens?  I tell the client, "That makes some sense.  Let's give it a try.  I'll take care of that immediately for you."  You see, you don't lose clients over better ideas.  You lose client by not giving them good service.   The secondary issue why I transfer assets first is because of the insurance side of the equation.  I don't know what the insurance side looks like until after we apply, get approved and put the policies in force.  What gets done or doesn't get done on the insurance side has influence on the investment side.   Just as a simple example, someone who has a significant amount of whole life insurance can take more investment risk than someone who only has term insurance. 
Apr 7, 2008 10:44 pm

1) They don't fully understand what you presented that creates fear and apathy.

2) They spoke with their current rep or somebody they trust that has corrupted your proposal in thier mind.   3) Your solution demanded significant or even radical changes to what they now have creating fear perhaps resentment.   Mix and match the above
Apr 8, 2008 1:59 pm

great comments everyone - and thank you. I finally got through to one of these prospects yesterday. good conversation - actually one of my goals on the phone was to reaffirm that we were putting a thoughtful plan together, not a quick sale. Anyway, I determined that the major cause for concern in this case is market volatility and a nervous wife. That’s telling me that I may not have done quite enough to convince them that my approach is what counts - thoughtful, careful, etc. - not necessarily the “mix” probably should have talked a little more about DCA too…

Apr 15, 2008 4:30 pm

Sounds to me that maybe you did too much talking…Get them in again and just start asking questions about them…find out what makes them tick.  This usually works all the time when your dealing with an unsure wife…get her to like you by getting to know her.

Apr 15, 2008 8:12 pm

Same situation recently. Guy has a huge 401k sitting with former employer. Took him to lunch and showed him my proposal which had a mix of UITs in it. He had never heard of a UIT before so I made the education process very short and simple.

  I called back and he wanted to take time to educate himself more he said he'd call me IF he decided to take action. That was my que that I dropped the ball.   On a second note, I read anonymous' philosophy about getting money in first and frankly I do not agree with it. Here's why. I recently ACAT'ed in a good sized account for a new client who was previously working with an FA who was his brother in law. The client first came to me with questions about his portfolio because he could never get a straight answer from his brother in law what he was being charged for his services.   I put his investments under a microscope and uncovered huge overlapes, trades, and unnecessary risks. I educated the client about needs and wants, careful asset allocations, good money managers etc, put a new allocation for him, told him how the mutual fund companies paid me, had a tax professional sit with me and talk about his distribution plan and he signed his account that his brother in law had been helping him with for 23+ years.   What you recommend for the client is a huge part of WHO you are as an advisor and is as important as them finding out that they want to work with you for YOU. Your recommendations do count because no matter who you are, one day someone is going to come along and challenge your recommendations. If you think your clients are entitled to liking and trusting you rather than have more money in their pocket you are a fool. What you can do for them at the end of the day is king, not who you are.   I dropped the ball on the UIT case but I did not give the sense of urgency I think.
Apr 15, 2008 8:20 pm

and seriously anonymous, wtf is up with you not wanting your ideas stolen but stealing ideas yourself? You said customer service wins? Customer service would have been you coming up with the ideas and research yourself to take care of your clients. If you did not take the time to take care of your clients in the first place then why are you entitled to keep them by stealing other’s recommendations?

Apr 15, 2008 10:18 pm


Interesting that giving your expertise away for free didn’t work - by your own admission - and yet you attack anonymous for using an approach that would have prevented that very scenario.

When you go to an attorney, does he give you specific written recommendations before you agree to engage him?  Does a doctor diagnose your condition and write a prescription before you sign on with him?  An architect give you blueprints before he’s hired?

I could go on and on, but I think you see my point.  It is a mystery to me why some think it is necessary or helpful to freely give prospects specific investment recommendations before they commit to work with us or pay us. 

Apr 16, 2008 2:46 am

Thanks all. Sounds like I need to think about my process with prospects and focus on listening a little more. Although I do understand about creating trying to create an environment where they are buying ME and not whatever investment plan(s) I may propose, I still would like to get a better understanding of how any of you get out of the “show me your plan and I’ll transfer the money” and into the “transfer the money and I’ll show you the plan”. I’m going to make a guess that the latter is a little easier to accomplish when you’re out of the “starving artist” phase of your business and more established - of course, that could just be a head game too…