For independent advisors and agents, nothing is more important than attracting a steady stream of prospects that could (they hope) become long-term clients. It’s the lifeblood of the advisory industry.
For that reason, experienced financial planners typically advise that if you see enough people you will eventually gain enough clients to have a successful, sustaining practice. So all you need to do it get out there and talk to as many people as possible and your business will grow in leaps and bounds. Sounds easy, right? Well, yes and no.
Simply putting yourself in front of the general public on a regular basis is unlikely to result in a thriving business … unless you target your audience more precisely and thoughtfully.
In this more targeted approach, you seek out those people in your community or business sphere that would have a legitimate reason to hear you speak or a true need for your services. In that way, you are more likely to see more interested prospects and engage more clients.
How an advisor actually gets before potential clients varies. It could come from the tried-and-true methods like workshops or seminars or an alliance with other professionals, or via more recent innovations, like social media. But the theory behind it is always the same: Getting a motivated prospect through your door.
When Retirement Advisor spoke to three successful advisors specializing in three distinct product types — annuities, life insurance and long-term care insurance — about lead-generation techniques, the overriding theme that emerged was one of casting a wide, but well-thought-out net in an effort to gain prospects and clients.
There are some lead generation strategies that are to be avoided, however. Buying leads was seen as an ineffective and expensive way to reach prospects. Solely pushing products was also cited as a no-no. While there is no single golden ticket, what they have found to be successful can be helpful to any advisor.
“Commit to doing it for at least a year.”
The commitment Marc Silverman refers to is to doing workshops. Yes, workshops, the lead generation method that usually makes most advisors groan with frustration. But Silverman, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of Silverman Financial, Inc., says that if you choose your audience wisely, workshops can be a fruitful avenue to attract prospects and clients. He strongly advises against sending out invitations to the general public — unless you want to be a star on the plate-licker circuit where the only people who will show up are those looking for a free meal.
Therefore, in his home base of Miami, he targets pre-retirees who work for the utility company, the phone company and the Florida Retirement System.
“They all have one thing in common: They are eventually going to retire,” Silverman says.
Therefore, they have a reason to come to his workshop where he discusses retirement planning issues revolving around their pensions plans, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and his latest workshop topic, Social Security.
Though Silverman does about $25 million a year in annuity premium, he never brings up products during his workshops. Nor does he tell participants when to retire (which would run afoul of the regulators). Rather, the purpose is purely education and he stresses that he is simply “applying for the job” of helping them fund a secure retirement. Typically, it costs between $500 and $700 to host a workshop.
Here are his basics for running successful workshops:
- Schedule for either a Tuesday or Thursday, starting between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Talk for no more than an hour, then serve dinner.
- Keep the attendee list to around 20-25.
- Get your presentation compliance approved.
Out of that 20 or so, Silverman says he typically gets between six and seven appointments. “I don’t understand these people who say they get 20 out of 20 appointments,” he says. “I don’t believe them, I really don’t. Or they are saying something to entice people to come in and they are coming in for the wrong reasons. In any given workshop, if you do it properly, you are probably going to get 35 percent to 40 percent that will come and want to see you.”
How he first contacts those attendees begins with some old- and new-fashioned prospecting methods. For instance, one of his staffers, who once worked in the telecommunications industry, drops fliers announcing the workshops at that office. Attendees at workshops are encouraged to take fliers for future workshops home to distribute (“Some may throw them away, but some will take them back to the office and pass them out,” Silverman says.).
Using a database of about 4,000, Silverman sends out emails, and his company’s website regularly announces the 35 workshops he does a year. “We never seem to have a problem filling the workshops,” he says.
Follow-up is a must, Silverman stresses. He details an example of just how effective following up can be.
Recently, he held a workshop and two of the attendees, a couple, made an appointment to see him. However, they had seen him three years earlier, but he had forgotten about the meeting.
“I just didn’t remember them, but I had all my notes from the meeting,” he recalls. “They did invest with me last night, and it was the result of them meeting me three years ago. So as long as you have a system in place for following up and staying in touch with people you will generate more sales down the road, more business for you and you are helping people.”
He books appointments with 20 people each week, and currently has north of $330 million in assets his clients have invested with him.
“We see close to a thousand people a year,” Silverman says. “When you see a thousand people a year, about 25 percent to 30 percent of those people will do business with you in a given year, and 70 percent will not. But I’m planting seeds. There is always going to be an element of the public that is going to be retiring and they have to put their money somewhere.”
For those advisors who have given up on workshops, Silverman says to stick with it, at least for a year.
“They do one or two workshops and they get maybe one appointment,” he says. “And they say, ‘I just invested X number of dollars, I’m not doing this anymore.’ That’s the wrong approach. When you commit to doing workshops I would say commit to doing it for at least a year, if not longer; otherwise don’t even start. Because if you don’t commit to doing it for at least a year, you will fail.”
“A more empathetic approach.”