As a successful financial advisor, you know there’s more to networking than handshakes and exchanging business cards. Your initial contact with a prospective client is only the first step in the process that nurtures your relationship and converts that prospect into your client.
Here’s how one advisor learned that the early bird really does catch the worm. At the urging of family and friends, he joined a nearby fitness center and determined to work out early before heading to the office. He didn’t expect to find much company at 5 a.m., so it was a pleasant surprise to end up chatting with an older man who worked at the gym. Asked what he did for a living, the advisor was ready with his well-rehearsed description of how he serves his clients and adds value to their lives as well as their portfolios.
The new acquaintance turned out to be a recently retired physician, coincidentally in search of a financial professional who could collaborate on developing a plan for this new stage of his life.
Of course it takes more than locker room conversation to turn a prospect into a client. And more than coincidence to foster the trust and confidence it takes to build a business relationship. In this case, the advisor’s next step was to arrange a meeting away from the fitness center.
While a casual lunch date might be a great way to start a friendship, this advisor realized that a meeting in his office was a better way to introduce his professional bona fides. And he also knew that the process of converting a prospect into a client could take as many as two or three more meetings—each with its own objective:
- 1st Meeting: Forget the paperwork. Encourage the prospective client to open up. For a retiree, this might mean sharing his goals and those he has for his family down the road. Younger prospects are likely to talk about their career path, college savings or family demands. Don’t forget to set a date for another meeting!
- 2nd Meeting: If you’ve been a successful listener, your prospect will come back…this time, to interview you. Some people will want to know more about your personal life—how and why you got into the business of financial services. Others may ask about your investing style, your fee structure. Be prepared to share examples of how you successfully serve clients in situations similar to theirs. Present an outline of your proposals that they can take away and review. At this point, you should both be ready to close the deal—at your next meeting.
- 3rd Meeting: Before you get to the paperwork, remember to engage in some of the “small talk” that led up to this moment. Whether you ask about a family member or a family matter, this kind of conversation emphasizes that you’ve been listening and that you care. If they’re back, it means they are considering your proposal, which doesn’t mean they won’t have questions. Be prepared to answer them…and then, to have them sign on the dotted line.
While process is an important element in turning prospects into clients, networking to find those prospects can be as simple as joining a community group or as strategic as establishing relationships with professionals like attorneys and CPAs. Like referrals, an introduction may be the difference between a casual encounter and a substantial new client.
Draw on your own resources. If you’re an art lover, you’ll find more common ground with members of your area museum’s support group than you will with the gardening club—or vice versa. And never make the mistake of joining a group in which you have little or no interest other than to meet new prospects. Your motives are bound to expose themselves!
Many advisors still find seminars an effective way to introduce themselves to prospective clients. But in today’s competitive workplace, others are holding smaller, more intimate gatherings where existing clients are encouraged to bring guests. And sometimes a few hours away from the office can be as effective as the time you put in. Joining a prospect for lunch or a round of golf could be the key that opens the door to new business. Or you might just go for an early workout at the gym!