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How to Get Prospects off the Fence

November 4, 2014

by Dan Richards

Incorporate a “value trigger” into prospect communication

Let’s say you meet someone who you’d like to cultivate. You suggest that you stay in touch and she agrees. The question is what happens next to maximize the odds that she will become a client. You could put her on the mailing list for a newsletter that you or your firm produces. But depending on the newsletter’s quality, this could be seen as self-serving and as poorly disguised sales pitches. If you simply follow up with a phone call once a year to touch base, it might be seen as a call to ask, “Are you ready to buy yet?”

My articles on low pressure ways to follow up with prospects and how to follow up without being a pest suggested an alternative. Some advisors send clients emails with links to one or two relevant articles from credible third-party publications like Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week, The Economist and The Financial Times. The frequency varies. Some do it quarterly, others monthly, a few as often as weekly. But almost all advisors who do this report an extremely positive response from clients. The fact that it comes from a credible third party makes the article much more compelling and more likely to get read. 

Once you’ve begun sending those articles to clients, you can offer to put prospects on the distribution list for these regular emails too. As soon as someone says yes, a number of things happen that increase the odds of converting him or her into a client:

  • Their awareness of you increases and you stay top-of-mind

  • You send a strong message about your commitment to providing value to clients

  • You provide a contrast to the communication that prospects are getting from their existing advisors. As one prospect won over by this strategy told the advisor, “The reason I moved was that I was hearing from you more than I was from my own advisor.”

A value trigger isn’t limited to sending articles. One advisor offers to put prospects on the invitation list for a twice-yearly speaker series he hosts for clients, in which experts discuss topical issues. Prospects who are offered clear value are more likely to agree to receive ongoing information from you. They are more likely to engage with it and are more likely to become clients as well. 

Tap into the power of consistency

Dan Solin has written about research by Utah State’s Robert Cialdini, one of the leading researchers on what creates persuasive conversations. One of Cialdini’s laws of persuasion is the law of consistency; once people have made a commitment (even a small one), they generally feel they should act in a way that is consistent with that action. That’s why if you walk into a shop in a bazaar in the Middle East, you will first be offered a soft drink or a coffee. If you accept that offer, you are more likely to feel an obligation to buy something.

You might use this principle to advance a conversation with a prospect by offering no-cost reviews of her tax situation or a second opinion on his portfolio or financial plan. By introducing an intermediate step on the route to asking for their business, you increase the chances that the prospects will do business with you.   

This is also why some advisors have success when they invite prospects to talks by third-party speakers and social events for their clients. When someone accepts an invitation where there is value for them but no immediate benefit for you, the odds go up that they will open an account in the period that follows.