In the crowded landscape of the financial services industry, when it comes to earning new clients, you need to connect with your prospects and stand out amongst the sea of other advisors. This sounds obvious to most advisors, but the real question, “How?” usually remains.
Sadly, I find many advisors I work with overly focused on numbers, unconsciously spouting jargon, talking too much, and sharing charts and numbers that prospects and clients find hard to read, let alone comprehend or get excited about. Politely their prospects nod their heads, smile, and never return an email or call.
I’ve found three key truths that make all the difference in resonating with a prospect to move them to take action to engage with you as a client. Your prospecting and sales process follow up conversations need to accomplish three key things:
- Attract and qualify your best-fitting prospect.
- Uncover what is of utmost value and importance to your prospect.
- Reveal how you can help improve their financial picture to get them to their desired life.
Let’s dive into each and answer the aforementioned question, “How?”
#1. Attracting and qualifying your best-fitting prospect
Before building trust or creating an environment where a prospect is willing to share their finances and emotional vulnerabilities, you need to attract your lead and convert them to prospect status. (I consider a lead converted to prospect status when they’ve signed up for an introductory meeting with you.) Their meeting with you is meant for sharing at a high level what’s on their mind and to learn about how you as advisor might be the right choice for getting them past challenges and toward goals they deem important.
During the introductory meeting stage, you have two jobs in the prospect engaging process.
- The first is to learn about your prospect’s main reason for reaching out to you while identifying yourself as an expert in your niche environment.
- Your second job is working to qualify which prospects are the right fit for you and allow your prospect to determine if you are the right fit for them.
Internally we refer to this meeting as the “prospect fit” meeting. This meeting is framed as a short discussion to see if, after engaging for a half hour or less, if you as advisor seem fitting for your prospect’s concerns and if they are the right fit for you. You need to determine if your prospect is within your fundamental niche, or “umbrella niche,” with concerns that fit within your areas of expertise and passion.
Note: An example “umbrella niche” might be that you work with individuals in the helping professions(i.e., nurses, teachers, police officers, non-profit workers, firefighters). Your identified commonalities within the umbrella niche and services you provide as an advisor are focused on addressing common needs within that group.
In time you might find that your client base becomes more predominantly teachers, at which point your focus can narrow more on that specific group. The key is to keep your messaging simple, focused, and clear with regard to:
- Who you are most focused on helping and why.
- Your passion for and story behind choosing that group as a business focus.
Moving forward with a non-fitting client is not smart. Why?
- Creating client services outside of your main framework of offerings is time-consuming and not an efficient practice.
- Working to serve a group where you have less expertise or passion is draining and does not energize you the way someone in your chosen group can.
- Research shows that staying within your niche focus helps create a referral marketing channel that is much easier to develop than one outside of that focused network.
Below are several steps for helping your prospect to begin to trust that you can be the guide, coach, and accountability partner for their dreams. Consider your:
- Website: Does it highlight the problems you help people in your niche (i.e., busy young professionals) solve? Do you identify on your landing page that you understand the pain points within this demographic—i.e., they are busy working two jobs, have young children, are possibly saddled with student loan debt, are starved for time, and possibly don’t get enough sleep. They need guidance on making the right financial decisions to allay their fears, and they don’t want to do it themselves nor have the expertise.
If you have drawn your prospect’s attention and made them feel heard and seen through who you say you serve on your website, onward they go to your “contact us” form on your website. You’re on your way to uncovering their true desire for reaching out. They’ve felt seen and are now contacting you.
- Your “‘contact us”’ form: What questions do you pose on your website’s “contact us” form to help learn what your prospect needs? Consider just one or two questions:
#1. What is the main reason you are reaching out to an advisor at this time?
#2: How did you hear about our services as a fee-for-service financial advisory firm?
Additionally, you might ask if they’ve worked with an advisor in the past, giving you a frame of reference in an Introductory meeting to further learn what was fitting or not for your prospect in working with another advisor.
Include as well a scheduling link inviting them to sign up for a brief Introductory meeting. Be sure to outline the focus and intent of this meeting to manage expectations while possibly alluding to your “best practice” two-step meeting process (which I outline below) and why that is important.
Assure you ask for your contact’s email address and make adding their phone number optional to not lose prospective prospects who aren’t yet willing to share their phone number.
- Email follow-up and information sent: Do you send an article about the differences between fee-for-service advising over the typical brokerage firm model? Do you share in your email why you started your RIA, highlighting your passion and expertise for the niche group you serve and why? Do you share your story that helps your prospect better understand your capabilities in the area where they have needs and values?
- A short questionnaire: Might you also send a short questionnaire to learn more about your prospect? Do you point your prospect to a brief video that further describes how you work with clients with similar challenges to their own? You might include these in a second follow-up email to engage your lead in that it often takes more than one communication to get a lead to sign up for your Introductory meeting. Consider what information might attract your audience to engage in the next step with you.
Regarding your initial communication with your lead, you need to consider how to further engage—to “woo,” if you will—your prospect and prepare them for the 30-minute introductory meeting for which they signed up. All website messaging should work to help them define what they value and begin to highlight you as the person who can be the best guide on their journey to the life they most desire.
Again, on your website, assure you frame your meeting cadence and “best practice two-step meeting” process at this stage. This will help establish you as the leader and guide that you are with a process to assess a mutual fit—no pressure, just an opportunity to see if working with someone might constitute a win-win. Share why the two-step process and how this complimentary service works to assure you take on only the right fitting clients for your unique practice while allowing the prospects to determine if they feel comfortable with what you have to offer.
Following an agenda of what you want to cover in the meeting helps avoid a distracting conversation meant for a deeper dive meeting. This guideline keeps your first prospect conversation as intended with clear objectives for an assessment at the end of your conversation for each party to determine whether a deeper dive engagement makes sense.
Important to note:
I am often asked why a two-step inquiry process when potentially bringing on a new client can sometimes happen after one meeting. Great question! In that a sales process is both art and science, I remind advisors that they need to establish three things with a prospect as they weave in how they might be the person to get them where they want to go in life.
As an advisor,
- You need to build trust with your prospect.
- You need to create a safe space for them to share.
- You need time to uncover the core of what they value and need.
The structure of your meetings, agendas, and follow-up cadence after your meetings and conversations is the “science” and repeatable aspect of your work with a prospect. The “art” is more the unfolding of conversations within that structure that takes the unique information you gather from the person you are speaking with. This is where you pull the right resources and stories from your tool kit of information and experience to uniquely share with your prospect.
Throughout this unfolding, you need time to share examples of how you’ve worked with success in the arena to which they are inquiring. These revelations often take conversations that happen over a certain span of time with life planning tools that help you go beyond the surface inquiry that is typically in an initial conversation.
If, however, you deem your prospect a fit through the high-level inquiries you make at this initial stage, and you have passed your prospect’s assessment of you as a right fit, use your best intuition. If time allows, dive into a deeper discussion within your first meeting.
To weed out ill-fitting prospects at this stage, consider qualifying the suitableness of a lead by highlighting a price range for your services on your website or in a follow-up email. Your goal here is to sort out those who aren’t suitable prospects for you. At the end of your introductory meeting, you might also recommend an advisor colleague who has a niche more suited to serving your prospect.
Again, you want to stay focused on the people who you can truly help and who value what you can bring to their lives. Part of the value you bring is your expertise in a certain area of knowledge and passion.
If helping people to move into retirement is not your passion point, but serving millennials in their 30s and 40s is, don’t waiver. You’ll be hard-pressed to uncover what a person in an ill-fitting demographic values if your heart is not there. If you can’t embrace what matters to a certain psychographic group, accomplishing how their finances can get them there will be less compelling.
Consider your story of why you prefer serving one niche group over another and stay there. Serve the people you most desire to serve and watch the unfolding of what they deem most valuable unfold with ease to both you and to them!
#2. Uncovering what is of utmost value and importance to your prospect
Now that you’ve agreed to a deep-dive investigation of what is important to your prospect, which typically happens in your second meeting, it’s time to mine below the surface to find out how you can most fully serve your prospect. With that, several things need to happen to create an environment to get to what your prospect truly needs and values.
Your prospect may have come to you stressed with anxiety over tax challenges or surmounting debt, or they’re going through a life transition, a death, divorce, or loss of a job that has left them paralyzed. While managing those urgent situations is vital, what’s more important is getting to the root of either why your prospect has found themselves in a given situation or to discern how to get them to a more peaceful and wanted place in life. As noted above, this type of sensitive investigation takes time, trust, and the right tools to mindfully uncover how to suggest your prospect move forward.
In looking at a repeatable sales process, consider the following actions and tools to begin to both identify you as the person to trust and get to the root of what a prospect wants and needs—an emergency situation at hand or not. A prospect is understandably focused on the “fires” burning in their life and not looking at the root cause of the situation or even asking some of the deep questions that help them truly understand what they most value.
Many of us have grown up with expectations drilled into our minds on the life we feel we should lead and are not tuned in to other driving purpose-driven factors which have perhaps laid dormant over the years. Your prospect may be distracted with their crisis situation or are following a career or life path they have been told they should want but maybe don’t truly desire. Your job is to help them sort through where they are and where they want to be.
To know how best to do this, you need to gain a more thorough understanding of some of the following aspects of your prospect’s life. These areas of interest are prompt opener conversation areas within your second “deeper dive” discovery meeting. This is where your focused listening takes place and where you need to hone your ability to excavate further to get to what really matters to your prospect.
To name a few, below are assessment areas of satisfaction or dissatisfaction to explore within your prospect’s life, asking (with their permission) gently probing questions addressing areas that need focus and attention and clarify the importance of any given area to create fullness and richness in your prospect’s life.
- Family life
- Financial picture
- Life transitions
- Money mindset
- Community engagement
- Learning and growth
- Leisure time
- Retirement and legacy
As you continue to work to unveil what your prospect most dearly values in life and areas that need attention, it is essential that you work to guide your prospect into further opening up in a safe and a trusted environment. Together you work to further explore what your prospect is truly after that their finances can help leverage.
As you did on your website and in your follow-up emails, work through your conversation to understanding the main pain points shared by your prospect while revealing your intrinsic value as an advisor and the ways you’ve helped other people in similar situations as your prospect. Let your intuition guide you as you volley your conversation back and forth between learning about what’s important to your prospect while sharing your passion and expertise for working in areas presented by your prospect. Endeavor to put their mind at ease and to give them comfort with the help you can offer.
You might elaborate on stories of how you’ve gotten your clients from one less than desirable state to a place of greater peace in their life or met a before considered impossible goal. Consider sharing how on a high level, you might work to achieve key life goals for your prospect through financial strategies that you are trained to guide them through.
After better understanding not just the known challenges and goals of your clients, you might work them through an exercise where you dig deeply into their core values. Help your prospect relook at stated priorities and consider anew what values are perhaps more meaningful to them at their current stage in life.
With a focus on Life Planning, companies such as Money Quotient®️ and George Kinder’s organization, Kinder Institute of Life Planning, provide well-researched tools to get to the heart of what matters in a prospect’s world. Kinder is well known for his careful three-question approach, which guides prospects into what matters most in their lives, using the framing of how much time an individual might have to live to reveal what matters most to them.
Money Quotient®️ was founded in 2001 and is a leader in the development of effective life planning tools providing advisors with tools to assist their clients in uncovering what truly matters to them. They focus on both the practical and emotional factors that either enhance or hinder quality of life and financial satisfaction. According to their underlying philosophy, an individual’s financial life can be represented by a simple formula, aligning emotional awareness with financial knowledge to then lead to financial well-being.
These carefully developed inquiry processes and tools work to guide you and your prospect, or client, into deeper conversations to help more accurately guide them to the life that really matters, using their finances as a backing to get them there.
One Money Quotient®️ tool, entitled, “Wheel of Life®️,” names some of the above-mentioned categories asking prospects to rate their degree of satisfaction, on a scale of 1-10—10 being a higher level of satisfaction in that core area of life, depicted with a dot toward the outer edge of the circle, as opposed to a low score taking the assessment dot close to the middle of the diagram. This easy assessment creates a framing for a conversation on what matters most to a prospect to begin a relevant discussion around priorities on which to focus with regard to managing time and finances.
So, regardless of what tool you use, if it’s one that uncovers current or upcoming transitions in your life or a questionnaire around financial fitness, your job is to begin to reveal the expertise you have as an advisor to help navigate priorities, transitions, and the creation of a robust financial picture and life for your prospect.
Your next step is to clearly align these revealing conversations with where your prospect is and how you can work to get them where they want to be financially to serve their most heartfelt purpose and desire for living.
#3. Revealing how you can help improve your prospect’s financial picture to get them to their desired life
Your number three step in engaging your prospect as a client is to inquire from a very high level, a questionnaire that will give you an idea of the financial buckets of risk or growth your prospect has set up in their life or not set up.
Without uploading any key financial statements or paperwork, you can use a tool such as Asset Map®️ to gather high-level financial data from your prospect to then graphically show the areas of strength and weakness in your prospect’s map to better guide what you might do to get them where they want to go. Updating this tool once your prospect has come on as a client also works throughout your financial planning process as you engage and advance toward goals with your client.
Or, taking key information to showcase in this Kitces recommended tool, MindGenius, to layout an overarching financial plan works well to encourage your prospect to convert to client status. Another consideration is MindManager which will help you put in graphic form a plan of action dictated from information gathering from your prospect.
You may have your own high-level financial questionnaire to share to build ala Carl Richard’s "The One Page Financial Plan" to consult from and to describe your plan of action through one simple and relevant snapshot of your prospect’s financial picture. Choose what works best for you to gather key information to guide your prospect in the direction you recommend based on the values you’ve gathered from other simple tools.
Starting with the positive areas in any profile is always encouraging and lets your prospect know they have a positive and workable financial base from which to start, however minimal! Move next into describing a plan of action based on the clearer vision you unveiled through previous value exercises and questions you entertained. Whether it’s a key transitions questionnaire, “Wheel of Life®️” exercise or a detailed "Kinder-esque" questioning that you have used to guide your insights, gathering your prospect’s financial picture will better support your recommendations for moving forward.
Your most essential job at this juncture is to piece together a coordinated assessment of what you learned through navigating your prospect’s goals, challenges, and key values with their current financial overview. From this, you want to build a case on how and why your expertise and passion are the right mix to move them toward the life they desire. With tools that reveal beyond the critical thoughts and concerns your prospect brought to the conversation, your mining for deeper truths and sharing a simple map of how you suggest navigating together is crucial and will showcase your apparent value as an advisor.
With you at the helm as a guide, coach, advisor, and accountability partner, you both define and accomplish the very work you are trained to do to serve the person who needs exactly what you can do for them. Summarizing the findings revealed through your two-step meeting process will allow you to easily share your understanding of their situation and allude to high-level recommendations should you work together. Take time to express your passion, expertise, and the joy you’d have in working on getting your prospect where they need to go.
This, my friend, is a possibly new framing from the world of sales you have known. No pressure—just careful, curious inquiry within a structured process, with focused conversations in a spirit of support and kindness. Then, aligning a prospect’s need with the service you can provide and then delivering that matched service at the highest level.
Sales = Inquiry + Skillset + Service. Embrace it. Work to reveal it. Joyfully communicate the fit. Most of all, enjoy the fruits of your labor and the results you will help many people obtain—individuals who need exactly what you are meticulously trained to do. Thank you for your incredible work.
About BB Webb, XYPN Sales Coach
XYPN Sales Coach BB Webb boasts an impressive background in the arts and as an entrepreneur. She first dipped her toe in the world of sales while touring her one-woman play across the country, and then dove in headfirst as the founder of an award-winning Atlanta-based special event venue. In 2014 BB published her book, Build Your Business: BB Webb’s Notes From the Highwire and has worked as an Executive Coach with small business owners.
BB’s goal is to help XYPN members build great relationships, plans, and processes for sharing their services as financial advisors. With a focus on consultative selling, her programs are designed to guide advisors in having meaningful conversations with prospects and sharing their value fearlessly and with joy.
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