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