An experienced senior advisor knows that converting leads to prospects and ultimately to clients can be much more difficult than it appears. In theory, at least, anyone above a specified age qualifies as a lead: Cynics call that the “fog-a-mirror” qualification method. While that approach will generate viable prospects, the only result it usually yields is reduced productivity.
We asked several successful advisors to share their methods for generating qualified leads and converting those leads to clients. Their approaches vary, but in each case, the advisor has grown his or her business by following a clearly defined process that supports their business model.
Quality leads equals quality prospects
List brokers can improve the quality of leads by screening names according to pre-determined criteria, provided you use their services properly. John Melchinger, a Tampa, Fla.-based marketing coach to financial advisors, says it’s critical to use market differentiation and segmentation strategies when working with a list broker. “If you’re buying lists, you need to understand where the lists are coming from: what zip codes, what size homes, etc.,” he says. “You can find out some of those things and some you have to guess at to formulate a list. But if you spend a little more money and have the list sorted versus just getting as many names of people over age 65 as you can, you will do much better.”
Anil Vazirani, president and CEO of Secured Financial Solutions, LLC, in Scottsdale, Ariz., works with list brokers to identify invitees for his seminars. He says advisors need to research their target market’s demographics and then find a response company that can provide accurate lists and accurately report invitees’ demographics. His method works: He estimates seminars generate roughly 35 to 40 follow-up appointments for him each month.
“If you give the response company the demographics and the zip codes, they will tell you how many prospects in that area meet the criteria,” Vazirani says. “So when someone makes a reservation to attend a workshop, I know it’s a client I want to work with because it was the demographics I had chosen and given to the mail company.”
Seminar attendees are asked to complete an evaluation form that lists areas of concern and interest. Attendees keep a copy of their completed form; Vazirani and his staff follow up by phone. The caller reviews the areas of concern listed on the form with the attendee and books appointments with those who express further interest. At this stage, the caller does not probe deeply into financial specifics; that comes later, says Vazirani. “I ask them to share with me only accounts that are of concern to them,” he says. “It sets you up perfectly because if they bring an account to the table that is of concern, there are two good things about it: a) they are concerned about the account, and b) they are willing for you to look at it to make a change. So in a very professional and non-threatening way, you’ve pretty much isolated what account is of concern to them.”
Vazirani works only with insurance products, primarily fixed index annuities, life insurance and long term care coverage. That business model allows him to keep the initial meeting with prospects focused on exploring their desire for secure accounts versus more volatile investments. Additionally, many insurance products are available for relatively low outlays, allowing Vazirani to work with clients across the wealth spectrum. “Many of the companies we work with, their minimum to set up an annuity is only $5,000,” he says. “Why should I deny somebody the opportunity of buying into an account if the insurance company has set its minimum to take the business at $5,000? My job is to be a facilitator at that point.”
Christine B. Cooper, owner of Cooper Financial Services in Lutz, Fla., uses a mix of marketing methods to generate leads, although she does not host seminars. Her business consists of financial planning and sales of mutual funds, variable annuities and variable life. Cooper makes arrangements to speak before civic club meetings and community organizations; she has also started paying to place articles in local newspapers. She has found that audience members or readers who contact her in response to a presentation or article often qualify themselves when they explain why they have initiated the contact.