We have the privilege of coaching thousands of advisors every year on how to market their practice. Through this process we hear many of the same frustrations, grumblings, and concerns. Patterns emerge. Many of these advisors have great relationships with their clients and host well-attended intimate events. But one of the most common refrains we hear from these advisors is, “My clients don’t bring prospects.”
Can you relate? Do you host events that seem like merely client appreciation events, and have very little prospecting potential? If so, you’re not alone. The secret to getting your clients to bring guests is in the invitation process.
We know what some of you are thinking – “I don’t have a budget for any type of client event.” Think again. With a little creativity, you can host cost effective events. We’ve seen many advisors do these events on the cheap. Don’t let this be your speed bump!
Consider the following to ensure your next event is full of some fresh faces.
Get Advice From Your Clients
Get your clients’ input – involve them in your process. Essentially, you are planting the seed for an invitation in the future. Also, there is a psychological effect that happens when you ask for advice. According to a study by Harvard Business School, (Smart People Ask for (My) Advice), asking for advice actually makes you look more competent. Also, it validates the perspective and intelligence of the person you are asking, and in turn, makes them feel good!
You might say:
“Mrs. Client, we’re considering holding a handful of intimate events this year for our good clients, like you, and their friends and family. We’re thinking of a wine tasting or maybe a golf clinic. I’d love your advice. Do those sound appealing?”
Source Names Early On
“Bring a friend” doesn’t cut it any longer. When you call your client to invite them to your event, you want to know the name(s) of the person you would like for them to bring. Thus, it’s imperative that you gather intelligence before the actual event.
For example, if your next event is a short-game golf clinic, make a point to ask your clients the following question, “Have you been playing much golf lately? Who do you typically get out there with?” Notice the “who” question we incorporated? This is essential for sourcing names.
Use Positive Energy
Imagine Ben Stein (the “clear eye” guy) inviting you to an intimate event. Remember those commercials? A deep, monotone, robotic voice inviting you to an event. Sound appealing? This should go without saying, but when you call your client to invite them and encourage them to bring someone; you need to have good positive energy! If you don’t seem excited about your event, they won’t be excited about bringing someone.
Extend the Invitation Strategically
Now you’re ready to make the invite. When making this personal call to your client or COI, it’s important that you stress the following.
- Exclusivity – this event is for a handful of your close clients and guests
- It’s all fun – no business (if this is true of course)
- Mention the name of the person you would like for them to bring
- If you don’t have a specific guest in mind, reference a group they associate with (colleague, golf group, etc.).
You might say:
“Mr. Client, Remember when we spoke a few months back about holding an event for a handful of our close clients like you and their friends and family? (WAIT FOR RESPONSE) Thanks for your input on by the way.
Well, we scheduled a wine tasting for (INSERT DATE) at (INSERT LOCATION). We have some excellent wines lined up and I hear the facility is top notch. Do you think you and (SPOUSE) can make it?
This event is going to be all fun, no business, and we’ve found that our clients have a better time if they bring someone they enjoy spending time with. Maybe you could bring your partner from the law firm Jim or one of the guys from your golfing group?
Incorporate Polite Accountability
Most likely, your client is not going to be able to confirm the attendance of the guest you are requesting on the spot – they will need to get back to you. That’s fine! Your job is to put a small dose of polite accountability on them. You might say:
“That’s great. I really appreciate you reaching out to Jim to see if he and his wife can join us. I know you’re busy, so if it’s okay with you, I’ll give you a call on Friday to finalize the guest list.”
Call Back to Confirm Guests
Next, call your client on the day you promised to confirm your guest list. If they are able to bring the person you identified – great! But be prepared for the alternative. There is a chance they didn’t get in touch with the person you asked them to bring or the person may not be able to attend. When they don’t have a guest to bring, you need to have a back-up plan. Instead of accepting the fact that they can’t bring anyone, your objective is to spark a brainstorming conversation around who they can bring. You might say:
“Sorry to hear Jim can’t come. I had two extra seats reserved for you. What about the other couple you mentioned you frequently go to dinner with. Would they enjoy this event? (WAIT FOR RESPONSE) Who else do you know who likes good wine?”
Make an Assumptive Confirmation Call the Day Before the Event
Nothing is more frustrating than people backing out the day of your event. One way to avoid this is by making an assumptive call the day before your event. Don’t call to “make sure they are coming.” Instead, call to express your excitement about them coming and mention something specific you feel they will enjoy about your event, or mention event logistics they should keep in mind (i.e. parking, etc.). Most of the time, you will be leaving a voicemail anyway.
You might say:
“Mr. Client, just wanted to give you a quick call and let you know we’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at the wine tasting. I know you’re a big fan of merlots, so I made sure we have some of our favorites there for you. Again, looking forward to seeing you and (GUEST NAME) there.”
If your objective is to hold events that are more than just appreciation events, follow the steps above. While it will take more effort on the front end, you will build new relationships and fill your pipeline.
Did this article help you? If so, we would greatly appreciate a comment below.
Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols www.oechsli.com