Just as independent financial advisors need to provide clients with the personalized experience they want in order to keep their business, advisors have to engage with prospects on the latter’s terms in order to convert them to clients. Understandably, advisors want to put their best foot forward during discussions with prospects, but not all prospects want to peruse the same materials, nor do all prospects possess the same understanding of the nuances of financial advice and planning.
Internalizing this reality is often the first step toward improving engagement with, and conversion rates for, prospects. Getting a feel for how much, and what type of, information a prospect prefers to consume at the beginning of the conversation can help advisors start off on the right foot and spark a meaningful connection with each prospect they identify.
The following tips can potentially help advisors strengthen their engagement with prospects:
Help Investors Contextualize Life Events Over the Past Year from a Financial Perspective
As we begin the second month of 2018, advisors and investors are still digesting and analyzing 2017 performance and developments, and what they could have done differently. Engagement with prospects at this time of year can be especially effective if advisors review major events in an investor’s life over 2017 and suggest asset reallocations and other actions they can take to potentially improve investment performance this year.
For example, if a prospective client is saving to buy a house, and was involved in a car accident in 2017, the most helpful information an advisor can provide would help the prospect contextualize these events from a financial perspective—suggesting new investment strategies or asset allocations for 2018 that can cover hospital and auto insurance costs stemming from the accident, and also strengthen the prospect’s overall financial picture.
Don’t Overwhelm Investors with Too Much Analysis—Keep the Conversation Holistic and Consultative
Advisors should never assume that long and fancy reports will win over prospects, especially in today’s digital age. Different investors want different types of information. Some investors prefer brief snapshots of quarterly or annual investment performance and a brief summary of recommendations for how to improve, while others want more comprehensive details about what changes they should make and why.
The capability to tailor information, and present it in a way that makes it relevant to each investor’s overall financial picture, is one of the key differentiators—elevating traditional advisors above automated advice platforms—and advisors should embrace it. Instead of bogging down reports and presentations with lots of analysis and charts, advisors should get right to the point and explain, in layman’s terms, why their recommendations can improve an individual investor’s financial future.
Prospects may or may not care about the nuances of why an advisor recommends a specific investment strategy or fund, but they do care about what impact that recommendation would have on reaching long-term goals, such as saving for retirement, buying a house, putting their kids through college, etc. Reports and presentations that reinforce this basic theme can ensure that prospects don’t get lost wading through lots of supplementary materials, and that advisors can keep the conversation holistic and consultative.
Demonstrate Value as an Educator
We are living in a time of ongoing regulatory evolution and geopolitical uncertainty, and investors want to know how all of the developments they read about affect their financial future. Advisors who act as educators for investors, explaining to them what impact today’s news stories can have on their overall wealth—and how their recommendations as an advisor can help them adapt—have a better chance of converting prospects into clients.
For example, advisors can take the initiative and forge a meaningful connection with prospects by educating them about the recently ratified tax reform legislation. Suggesting actions that prospects can take this year in order to optimize their tax situation for 2019, when the U.S. Tax Code changes will go into effect, can be enormously valuable. After all, robo advisors can’t help investors feel like they understand the tax reform legislation, and the impact it will have on their holistic financial picture.
During the year-end planning that consumed advisors’ time in November and December, many advisors likely resolved to increase their ratio of referrals to new clients this year. By giving prospects the information, context, and recommendations that they really care about, and explaining—like a sympathetic teacher—how they can improve their investment performance and progress toward their financial goals, advisors can make good on that resolution.
David Lyon is CEO and Founder of Oranj, a Chicago-based provider of digital wealth management solutions for financial advisors.