In a different age, alchemists claimed they’d mastered a secret formula that turned base metals into gold. Fast-forward to today. Senior advisors are regularly bombarded with promises to turn sales leads into solid customers. Is it a different form of alchemy or is there truth behind the formula?
There are always senior producers who outpace the pack when it comes to sales numbers. They convert more prospects to clients. One point all of them make – the tip that helps them regularly reach into the seemingly infinite sea of leads and come back with a fistful of sales – is the skill to educate the prospect with a promise to make his life better.
“You’ve got to enable the prospect to see the promise of a better tomorrow,” says AG Edwards & Sons’ perennial top producer Shaun P. Golden, CRPC, based in rural Riverhead, N.Y.
Golden, a regular on the seminar circuit, criticizes many advisors for giving away too much free advice and then complaining when leads walk away. “My seminar goal is to educate the attendees by identifying a problem and letting them know I offer ways to fix it. No one’s ever made money off a tire kicker, which is why I do not answer questions at seminars.”
“Representatives who regularly turn leads into clients obtain the client’s trust,” says Jim Freeman of Cantella & Co. Inc., in Boston. “The best way to earn trust is to show the client that you care about them and their financial well-being. Successful reps convey in simple terms their expertise and how their skills can benefit a client.”
“To convert leads into clients requires you to absolutely think like a marketer,” says Russ Story, a Certified Senior Advisor at Story Wealth Management Group in Douglas, Ga., who regularly targets high-net-worth leads. “Word of mouth, direct mail and even referrals are no longer enough. To move from a cold lead to a warm one to a close, you need as much client information as possible.” Story examines prospects’ tax returns and current investments before providing cash-flow and risk analysis and making recommendations.
Every piece of your business communication should lead toward the same goal: educating prospects about how you can help them. This is the key way to move them from the lead file to the client list, according to advisors interviewed here. Remaining on topic and delivering a concise, factual message and respecting their time is usually a good, sensible strategy.
“Seniors often need long-term income solutions,” says Christopher Genovese of Fixed Income Securities in Melville, N.Y. “A Certificate of Deposit or bond is easy to understand and may solve their problem. Is it the best solution for a complex retirement planning challenge? Might the client be better served with structured products such as reverse-convertible notes? Subsequently, advisors need to be educated on these products to determine if there’s a proper fit and how to market them.”
Due to projected 20- to 30-year retirements, finding income solutions for seniors has indeed become complex. Genovese notes that new financial solutions come through seemingly every day, yet advisors often fail to learn about how they can utilize them to help their clients and subsequently grow their businesses.
“Many seniors wanted to get involved with commodities,” Genovese recalls.
“Unfortunately, many became interested when prices were very high. In some cases, a principal-protected note could have offered this exposure while providing downside protection.”
“When trying to turn a lead into a client, it’s vital to get as much information as you can before making that first phone call,” says Mark Hall of Market Street Advisors in Smithfield, N.C. Hall, who says about 60 percent of his 600-member client base has come from referrals provided by local banks, offers a proven but rigid lead-to-client recipe.
“I try to learn as much about the lead as I can before that first phone call,” Hall says. Key data are age and marital, employment, and health status. “The worst starting position is to have only a name and phone number,” says Hall, who once got information on a prospect by visiting the prospect’s company’s Web site. “The first telephone call is all about introducing yourself, stating how you got their name and scheduling a face-to-face meeting, preferably in our office. For the meeting, I ask them to bring statements and other pertinent material.”
It’s at subsequent meetings that Hall makes recommendations. “We may start with something simple, like consolidating IRAs to reduce expenses and enable us to better manage their money. There’s absolutely no pressure. We want them to feel comfortable.”
Hall also recommends that advisors study the quality of the leads they receive, pay attention to client detail and deal with good quality companies.
The personal touch