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How to Turn Away Prospects Without Hurting Feelings

Be delicate, but firm.

We frequently get asked the question “How do you handle prospects who don’t qualify?” Advisors regularly tell us that they find themselves sitting down with prospects that are not ideal and struggle to navigate the situation. Every financial advisor faces these situations when they’re serious about working with today’s affluent—they are more selective in bringing new clients onboard. This is the reality of any financial advisor positioning his or herself as the advisor of choice in affluent circles. 

How does an advisor turn someone away without insulting them? The short answer is, very delicately but firmly. However there are a handful of scenarios that an advisor should be prepared to address. 

The following is my attempt to re-create the typical scenarios our coaching clients have encountered, and verbiage they’ve been coached to use. We often role-play this verbiage as the delivery requires an inflection that communicates genuine empathy, insight and helpfulness. 

Scenario 1: Referral

A prospect is referred by an affluent client or referral alliance partner.

Your Response

“I’m honored that (name of referral) thinks so highly of our services. So, (name of prospect) can I ask you a couple of questions regarding your finances? [affirmative response] Great. How are you currently invested? [not invested, 401(k), CD, mutual fund, etc.]  How much do you have invested? [they obviously don’t qualify].

“You know (name), at this stage [name of prospect], you don’t really need the breadth of wealth management services we provide. What I’d suggest is that you put your money with (XYZ no-load fund or a local bank; provide a phone number for fund company and/or name of contact person at the bank). When your financial situation gets more complex, please call me and we can determine what direction you should take.”   

Follow Up With Referral Source

Call the referrer and say something along the lines of “Thank you for referring [name of prospect] to me. I had a nice chat with him/her—and at this stage, he/she doesn’t need the depth and breadth of wealth management services we provide. I suggested he/she contact [name of no-load fund or person at a local bank]. As you know [name of referrer], most of our clients are families like yours” (planting the seed that this is the type of referral you want).

Scenario 2: Second Opinion 

You’ve offered someone a second opinion while social prospecting. Now they’re meeting with you in your office and you’ve discovered they don’t qualify. 

Your Response

“At this stage [name of prospect], you don’t need the breadth of wealth management services we provide. What I’d suggest is you put your money with (XYZ no-load fund or a local bank; provide a phone number for fund company and/or name of contact person at the bank). When your financial situation gets more complex, please call me and we can determine what direction you should take.”

Scenario 3: Walk-In    

You have a great reputation and someone just walked in to inquire about your services. 

Your Response

Thanks for stopping by, can I ask you a couple of questions regarding your finances? [affirmative response] Great. How are you currently invested? [not, 401(k), CD, mutual fund, etc.] How much do you have invested?” [they obviously don’t qualify]

“At this stage [name of prospect], you don’t need the breadth of wealth management services we provide. What I’d suggest is for you to put your money with (XYZ no-load fund or a local bank; provide a phone number for fund company and or name of contact person at the bank). When your financial situation gets more complex, please call me and we can determine what direction you should take.”  

It’s impossible to cover every scenario, but I’m sure you’ve got the gist of it. And remember, your response requires a delivery that oozes how much you care and want to help.

Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, and Retaining Affluent Clientswww.oechsli.com

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