Our Prospects Keep “Ghosting” Us

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

One of the most frustrating things I encounter in working with prospects for our advisory firm is the lack of response. We will have a meeting with someone who obviously needs our help, we’ll follow up and follow up again and again. We have a high rate of client satisfaction based on our annual surveys. Our performance has been strong even with the market ups and downs of the last few years. Our planning process is our own – not a packaged software product. We tell our story well (I have asked clients about this and I always get good feedback). What should be working is working well.

Why do we have a lower than 50% close-rate for new conversations?

We do dinners and seminars to attract people and we have a very active social media effort. Most prospects are in the “cold” category – they aren’t coming from existing clients like many advisors. It’s a great funnel for us, and we’ve honed the process so we are talking to between five and 10 new prospects each and every month. We used to close upwards of 80-90%. But the numbers have dropped significantly. I think common courtesy has gone away. Why spend time talking with us when you don’t plan on following up?


Dear P.A.,

There are many sales-process questions I would like answered before I recommend what to do:

  1. I understand these are “cold” meetings, but do you do anything in advance of the meeting to gauge the person or couple’s interest in working with a financial advisor? Or to identify a stated need they might have that would encourage them to want to make a decision? If you schedule a meeting with someone, it can be in the best interest of your time and theirs to have a short pre-meeting discussion to make sure you are focused on the right things. You can frame the need to ask a few questions as wanting to make best use of their time and focus on what’s meaningful to them. Most people like someone who values their time (it’s our most important commodity), and if you explain your desire to focus on things they care about, they will likely share some insights with you. If they don’t want to have a pre-meeting discussion and tell you it is just an exploratory meeting and they are simply hoping to learn more about you, that’s a flag right away that lets you know they may be in very early stages and do not have a real interest.
  1. In the first meeting, are you asking questions about how they make decisions? Unless you can get someone to articulate a clear decision-making process, and you can “see” the steps you will need to take to help them decide, you are going to be operating in the dark about what they need and when they need it. If you are asking this question and you aren’t getting a clear answer, you have someone in front of you who probably isn’t interested – yet.
  1. Do you ask the “obstacles question”? If you ascertain some level of need, let the prospect know how hard it can often be to make a final decision. Ask them directly, “What do you see as getting in the way of making a decision to partner with us in this important endeavor?” Many advisors are hesitant to ask this because they don’t want to get bad news – i.e., find out the prospect isn’t so interested. You want to know. Why waste your time with someone who has not confirmed a desire to decide?