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How to Talk to Prospects During a Global Pandemic

You’re looking to strike a delicate balance between positioning yourself as a resource and being seen as too opportunistic.

Social prospecting might seem like an oxymoron in times of social distancing, but it’s actually more powerful right now than in a long-term bull market. With news headlines like “worst crash since 1987,” people are talking about the economy and markets. There is a legitimate concern, and despite what you might think, not all financial advisors have been in contact with their clients.

Done properly, social prospecting is just a natural extension of the calls you’re probably already making. We’ve taught financial advisors how to talk business with social contacts for years. The key difference right now is that your approach must be done by phone, with empathy and with finesse.

You’re looking to strike a delicate balance between positioning yourself as a resource and being seen as too opportunistic. Here’s a way to be proactive, without being off-putting.

Step 1: Call all your social contacts to check on them personally. That’s right. Just ask them “How are you?” Do they have the supplies they need? Do they have an at-risk family member? Are they quarantined?

If your conversation ended here, that’s OK. At least you were in contact with them and showed you care. But most conversations won’t end here.

Step 2: When they reciprocate the question, be prepared with your response. First, respond personally. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and let them into your personal life.

Next, segue into your business. When responding, make sure you avoid using words like hecticcrazy or wild. You want to portray calm confidence. You might say. …

“As you can imagine, in my space, this type of market correction gets everyone's attention. We’re making sure our clients are staying the course on the plans we’ve created.”

Step 3: Share a relatable story. Immediately follow up your statement with a story that gives your social contact insight into your day-to-day. The objective is to share a brief yet relatable story. Your story needs to be real, concise and relevant.

“I had a client this morning who was thinking of selling and …”

“I had a Zoom meeting with someone yesterday who was sitting on cash and wondering when this will bottom out …”

“I received a phone call from someone who hadn’t even heard from their advisors and …”

“My neighbor asked me about …”

Step 4: Silence. Now that you’ve shared your relatable story, stop talking. Your prospect may ask follow-up questions, open up about their own financial concerns, or they may change the subject. Either way, that’s OK. No hard close here. You’ve just planted a seed that may grow.

As you process this formula, think first about the people you should call, then think about what you’ll say. You may not get the language perfect, but simply making the call is half the battle. You are more needed right now than ever. Stay strong!

Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are partners with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols

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