How to Get Prospects off the Fence
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.
Take the pressure off
I’ve written in the past that landing clients is like dating; the harder we try, the less success we have. Four years ago, I wrote about strategies to get prospects to move, in which I described a scenario in which an advisor was referred to the CEO of a public company and had an extremely positive initial meeting. Despite agreeing to a follow-up session, the CEO did not respond to the phone calls and emails that he’d sent to try to set up this meeting.
The advisor sent the prospect an email saying that he’d enjoyed meeting him, thought they were a good fit and that he might be in a position to help the CEO. The advisor went on to say that he had the capacity to take on three new clients in the next quarter and thought that the CEO had the potential to be one of those new clients. The advisor said that it appeared that the CEO’s schedule wouldn’t allow them to move forward at the current point in time and that he would be in touch in six months to see if that might be a better time to meet.
The goal of the email was to reset the conversation in a way that would allow him to contact the prospect down the road. But, as an unexpected consequences, a few days later he got a response from the CEO’s assistant looking to set up a meeting. One way to get prospects off the fence is to take off the pressure and convey that you’re as busy as they are.
Consider whether one or two of these approaches will work for you and use it. If you do, your conversations with prospective clients will be more productive and you’ll get prospects off the fence as a result.
Dan Richards conducts programs to help advisors gain and retain clients and is an award winning faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Toronto. To see more of his written commentaries, go to www.danrichards.com or here for his videos.