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December 23, 2013

2 Reasons You’re Not Getting More Clients

Beware these mistakes that can drive prospects away

Illustration: © Laughing Stock/Corbis Illustration: © Laughing Stock/Corbis

I get a lot of calls from advisors who need help with building a better business. One of the key issues I see: They have a steady stream of potential clients but can’t seem to close more than one in five cases.

Today, I want to address two reasons you are not closing more cases.

The Wrong Focus

One of the great things I have enjoyed in working with multimillion dollar advisors is to actually sit in on their meetings with clients and observe them in action. At first I thought I was going to learn a lot in these meetings. In fact, in one firm, I must have asked to sit in on three different first meetings. The reason? They were doing such a bad job, I couldn’t figure out how in the world they had gotten their production to over a million dollars. I thought I was missing something, so I kept asking to see more of them in action with their clients.

What may surprise you is that even the largest advisor we have ever assisted (I think he grossed about $16 million per year) made some serious mistakes in his first meeting with clients. The less money advisors make, the more mistakes they are making in their first meeting. It was a great lesson for me—no matter how big you get, there will always be room for improvement in your client communications.

Here is a very typical situation we saw with an advisor, whom I’ll name Stan. We helped increase his income by 25% during the market crash of 2008.

As the client comes in the room, Stan greets them, smiles and then starts talking about—whom? The client? No! Stan starts talking about Stan, his designations, his CFP, how long he has been in the business, and on and on. I was shocked, because in Texas, where I grew up, this would be considered the height of bad manners.

Stan goes on to talk “at” the client and doesn’t ever engage the client in what are the client’s real issues.

To make matters worse, at numerous times throughout the meeting, Stan turns around to look something up on the computer, leaving his back to the client for long periods of time.

Solution: This time is about your potential client. It is not about you. I would be very surprised if more than 10% of my clients even knew I was once on the CFP Board of Ethics or had been legal counsel to former President Gerald Ford—they don’t care! And it doesn’t bother me that they don’t care. Prospective clients just want to know how I can fix their pain.

Here is how I start off my first meeting with a potential client to make sure we stay focused on them, not me:

“I know your time is valuable, what do you want to make sure we cover today?” Or another way to get at their issues: “So what prompted your visit today?”

I spend the entire first meeting, listening to the client’s pain and asking questions. My initial meetings can easily take 1.5 to 2 hours for more complicated cases.

In fact, the only time I ever bring up anything about myself is when we get referrals who have not attended any of our educational events. In that case, I will ask them if they have any questions about us, or had a chance to look us up on the Internet. I explain a little bit about how we work, but I don’t usually bring up anything about my background unless they specifically ask.

Lesson: Your clients aren’t really interested in you—they just want you to help them feel better.

No Compelling Story

An advisor, whom I’ll call Greg, called me recently and said he had plenty of prospects; he just couldn’t seem to get them engaged to do business with him. When I listened to how Greg handled his initial meeting with them, it became perfectly clear. There was absolutely nothing compelling about how Greg did business. He was just another ho-hum, plain vanilla, wealth manager. In fact, the client probably couldn’t even identify by the end of the meeting how Greg was going to fix his problems. It was too nondescript.

How to write a compelling story could be the topic of another article. For now let’s say it needs a few key elements:

First: Who is the target prospect/client? This is crucial because the ­client must identify that they are one of this special group.

Second: The story needs to identify the pain they are feeling with their finances. Better still, it needs to identify how you, as the advisor, can help them fix the pain.

Third: It needs to paint a picture on how good it will feel to not be in pain.

Before we opened our practice in Rhode Island, I worked with a number of advisors who were focusing on pre-retirees, and I got to craft their compelling story for them. I can think of one group in particular, which had 12 advisors, each averaging over a million a year in production, and they hadn’t figured out what their compelling story was. Prospects were calling them by the droves, but the advisors didn’t see what I saw.

Here is the story I crafted for them:

“You know how the very wealthy have an entire team of professionals helping them with their money? If you were Bill Gates, you would have a group of highly paid consultants, including a tax attorney, an investment specialist, a banker, a mortgage broker, an estate planning attorney, a CPA and an insurance guru all sitting around the table to help you manage your money. I am sure it costs Bill thousands of dollars every time they all get together to coordinate his affairs.”

More: “We felt that everyone facing retirement needed this same type of coordinated financial advice, because the world has gotten just too darn complicated. And furthermore—we don’t think pre-retirees should have to pay thousands of dollars to get it. That’s why we created Blue Bonnet Wealth Management, so we could help small business owners just like you, get the same kind of coordinated advice that was previously only available to the very wealthy.”

Concluding: “That’s what we do, we provide a coordinated team of experts to help people like you, who are nearing retirement, manage all aspects of your finances—and we don’t charge extra for it!”

In this case the compelling story addressed these key issues:

The target clients are pre-retirees.

The pain: Their finances are complicated and it could be expensive and time-consuming to straighten them out.

The relief: We are here to do that for you, and we don’t charge any extra for it.

This is designed for those prospects who are feeling overwhelmed with the decisions they have to make as they approach retirement, to seek out professional advice and to not be stymied by the costs. For the right client, this is much more compelling than a plain vanilla wealth manager.

So two things you can do to have more clients engage you: Focus on the client in the meetings, and get clarity about your compelling story.

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