You’ve completed the fact finder with the prospect: You know their numbers and there seems to be a good personal match between you and them. You’ve spotted several areas where they need your help and you’re ready to move to the next stage. But they are subtly resisting. You look at your notes and wonder what you might have overlooked, but nothing jumps off the page at you.
Getting in front of qualified prospects is hard work and you want to ensure that they become clients. Understanding prospects involves more than collecting financial data, though. While successful advisors ask the quantitative questions, they go beyond the numbers and learn about their goals, hopes and fears, as well. By combining hard data with prospects’ “softer” concerns, they reach a deeper understanding of prospects’ past behavior and what motivates their financial decisions.
The first step to getting beyond the numbers is to show prospects that you’re genuinely interested in them and their situation. “Part of the process is my natural desire to like and get along with people, and I think part of it is really paying attention and learning about the psychologies of communications,” says Erika Safran, CFP, a principal with Financial Asset Management Corp. in New York City: “It’s not enough that the prospect is filling out the documentation and sending it back to me, because then I can be replaced by a computer program.”
There is a fuzzy boundary between professional interest and personal curiosity when probing clients, however, and Safran says it’s important to avoid crossing it. “I have been in situations when you probe because it’s your natural desire to gather information, but then you have to stop and ask yourself, ‘Is the question that I’m asking valuable to this situation, or is it satisfying a curiosity?’ If you’re going in a direction that does not benefit the client, then stop.”
Scott Bernhagen, LUTCF, a producer with MetLife in Itasca, Ill., takes prospects through a fact finder. Although he asks for comprehensive information, Bernhagen says the point of the questions is to bring issues to their attention. One method he uses is to share his personal experiences when illustrating a point. For example, when he discusses long term care expenses, he might cite his clients’ and family’s experiences. “The first thing I do is let them know that I have no applications with me,” he says. “I’m not going to attempt to sell them anything. I just want to discuss the issues because, based on the experiences I’ve had, these are things that need to be discussed. It’s my responsibility as a professional advisor to bring them to their attention.”