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Navigating the subtleties of an initial prospect meeting is an incredibly important step to landing a client. That’s why I’m so surprised when advisors make the mistake of asking the wrong questions when given the opportunity.
Recently, I reached out to a video producer who I was considering as a resource for our digital marketing firm. Here was his response:
I would be really excited about working with your new firm. What’s your budget?
I never responded.
While I advocate asking questions, this one was off-putting. Why should I provide a budget before learning more about him and his services? Why is it my responsibility to provide a budget at all?
This experience reminded me of similar conduct by advisors. I have no doubt it costs them business as well. I know how difficult it is to generate more AUM. These tips should help.
Having an elaborate process
Many advisors have an elaborate process for dealing with inquires from clients. Some do DNA profiling, in which the prospect is asked to answer a number of questions designed to determine his or her personality type. Others send information about their firm, request financial information and ask the prospect to “think about” questions relating to their financial goals.
Screening, providing information about your firm and giving prospects homework assignments all create unnecessary barriers to a sale and should be eliminated.
You can invariably tell if a prospect is suitable after the initial call. If someone slips through the cracks, think about how great it will be if you can direct him or her to another responsible advisor like you.
Asking for personal information before you meet is akin to asking someone his or her net worth before the first date. It’s too soon. It’s presumptuous. It’s offensive and off-putting.
Don’t do it.
Setting the agenda
It’s incredibly arrogant to assume your agenda is in perfect harmony with what’s on the prospect’s mind.
Yet, many of you have a set agenda, which you impose on prospects during the first meeting.
Do you really think the widow whose husband handled all their personal finances, versus the Ph.D. in statistics from MIT, have the same issues?
If you follow the Solin Process℠, you’ll have no agenda. Your goal in the first meeting is not to convey information, but rather to elicit it. You’ll initiate an open-ended discussion intended to get to know the prospect as a person (“Tell me about yourself”).
You’ll wait for the prospect to ask you questions. Then (and only then) will you know what’s on their mind. If you jump the gun, you’re making a dangerous assumption, with a high degree of likelihood you’re wrong.
Making it about you
There may well be prospects who have a keen interest in you, your firm, your background and your expertise. But this is rare. Here’s a surefire way to know if your prospect is one of them.
Wait until they ask. If they never do, don’t make the meeting about you. Most prospects care only about how you can solve their problem. They’ve gone to your web page. If they didn’t think you were qualified, they probably wouldn’t have scheduled a meeting.
Misunderstanding what drives a favorable outcome
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Advisors are often disappointed when I tell them what drives a favorable outcome. They want it to be “qualifications” and “expertise.”
It isn’t. It’s likeability.
When we like someone, we trust them. When we like and trust them, we hire them. We then rationalize our decision by telling ourselves we made the best choice based on objective data.
There’s one surefire way to be perceived as likeable: Empower people to talk about themselves.
This means you have to stop talking and focus intensely on the prospect.
This is more difficult than you think. But when you do it, you’ll find it’s transformational.
Dan Solin is a New York Times best-selling author of the Smartest series of books. His latest book is The Smartest Sales Book You'll Ever Read. His sales coaching practice includes helping advisors convert prospects into clients and generating leads through videos and other elements of marketing. Dan is not affiliated with any advisory firm.
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