Turning prospects into happy, satisfied clients has not always been easy for me. When I first started in the industry, my closing ratio was an abysmal 20% to 30%. In fact, it was so bad I had to take a salaried job as legal counsel to a mutual fund board, just to make ends meet.
Fast forward to today. It still amazes me that getting and keeping beloved clients is now the easy part of this business. Here are some of the steps we took to go from 20% of our prospects engaging us and following our advice, to over 90%:
1. We found a great niche that worked for us. If you have been reading these articles, you know that I started working with professors at Brown University and have since expanded the practice from there. All of our clients have doctoral degrees. Young professors, with lots of needs and no other financial advisors, turned out to be a good fit for us. They like that I have a degrees after my name and we can relate to each other.
2. We approach all of our client interactions from an educational perspective. I frequently will tell our clients: “You are very smart. My job is to show you the pros and cons of your options. Once you have good information, you can make good decisions for yourself.” Professors really like this approach, and it also shows them that they are in control, so it reduces a lot of the pressure.
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3. We are exceedingly patient. One thing I discovered about professors is they need a lot more information than most clients before they can make a decision. More than once, I have had 12 meetings with a client before they pulled the trigger on anything! Many advisors would have given up at meeting two or three.
4. We design the entire sales process (which I call the WOW client experience) for the decision style of the client. The important lesson here is to target your client experience to your ideal client. Once in a while we will work with a business owner. This group likes to make decisions quickly and move on. Most business owners don’t need a lot of information or meetings to move ahead. They are the opposite of a research-loving professor. For business owners, we cut to the chase, use bullets and then only go in depth if they need more information.
5. We tailor the solution to the client. Six months into my great experiment, I noticed that about 95% of our clients really liked a particular product. It addressed their desire to reduce taxes in the future and had some downside protection. It also had good after-tax returns. It was the 5% who didn’t like it that really troubled me.
I looked at the few cases who turned this product down and noticed a similar theme. Some were older, some younger. Some married. Some single, but all of them had trouble saving money. In fact, they were in debt, and living very hand to mouth. When I noticed that, it became clear to me, the clients recognized something that initially escaped me: The product would have been a very bad choice for them, because they would have had to commit to an inflexible funding level for many years. It simply was not something they could do in their current circumstances. Each client had made the right short term decision: decline this opportunity and focus on something that was both more liquid and more flexible.
Now, I never recommend this product to a client who can’t save. There is no point. We select a solution that has more flexibility, more liquidity and a better chance of success. Result: more yeses, more often.
6. We are tenacious about setting up first meetings. Once someone joins us for one of our educational briefings and indicates that they would like to meet with us, we just keep reaching out until we can finally connect. We have one client who took us two years to get on the books and another who took nine months. One of my rules is we don’t say “no” until the prospect says “no.” The only time I take them off of our call-back list is if they ask to be removed.
7. We provide services that other advisors don’t. We opted for the concierge-level practice early on. Yes, this does take a lot more time on our side, and it does require a bigger staff, but the results have been well worth the investment.
One of the many things we do for our clients is create an individual debt plan. Many professors finish their training owing hundreds of thousands in school loans. They have no concept of what this will actually cost them when they finish training and have to start paying these loans back.