Closing the Difficult Prospect
Beverly 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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We have a strong outbound marketing campaign happening. We have received a number of interested inquiries for our financial planning services, so it is going well. In more than 80% of the cases, however, we have a conversation, get interest from the person or couple and provide a proposal for our services, but we are not able to finalize the business. We follow up pretty religiously with email and phone calls, but most times we don’t even hear back from the person with whom we have been talking. Obviously we are doing something wrong, but we can’t figure out what it is. One of my colleagues thinks it is the timing – between the election chatter and the market ups and downs, people aren’t making decisions to move money. I could buy that for some situations, but not for 80%. Do you have ideas about what we could try differently that might lead to better results?
Have you been able to discern anything that is different in your approach from the 20% that have become clients? Some things that come to my mind for you to consider:
- How well qualified are the people who are coming through these marketing efforts? It can be great to have interest, but qualification depends on the type of interest. In other words, let’s say you are just sending out something basic like a “Free Report on Current Economic Market Conditions.” Many people will respond to get the free information, but they may not have any interest in actually investing or finding a new advisor.
- If you aren’t doing something this basic, the next place to consider is your questioning process in the early conversations. It is common to ask questions like goals, retirement objectives, family situation and risk tolerance, but when a person or family is coming to you because you have done outbound marketing, you want to find out “why?” Why now? Why not six months ago or six months from now? What’s happening today that prompted them to reach out? If they just say they want to learn or they are interested in what you have to say, they may not have a real need to work with you. Unless someone can articulate need and desire, it can be hard to get them to close in a timely manner.
- What’s your established sales process? Do you have a clear step-by-step that you can outline for a prospect early on in the discussions? You should be able to articulate what you will provide, what they should do and what the typical timing is. I’ve seen too many cases where the prospect gets a proposal or asks for information, but the process for decision-making hasn’t been established. You want to outline a partnership approach; you do something, but they do something too.
- Be sure you are asking for the business in a formal way. It’s surprising, but many times advisors will assume the close is clear, or they send the proposal with just a note saying, “I look forward to hearing from you.” You want to be clear – “We really want to win your trust and your business. We’ve spent a great deal of time putting together this proposal. Is it reasonable to expect an answer by ____?” State your interest, and get their commitment.