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Scheduling appointments: Stop typing and start talking

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I teach financial professionals how to set initial appointments by phone.  In the past couple of years many advisers have wanted to discuss emailing and texting in lieu of phone calling.

Even with more phones than ever, people pick up less often and everyone can rely on voice mail.  It’s easy to ignore arriving phone calls because you can retrieve the information when it’s convenient for you.

I am appreciative of technology.  But probably less than those who are of younger generations. Inevitably, I turn to my 24-year-old niece for help when I can’t understand something on my computer, though I manage pretty well for a baby boomer.

Technology’s role is important and we discuss it in every seminar I conduct.  Those in their early thirties and younger are perturbed by the fact that the phone is still an important part of the equation. I strongly believe it must be in your mix of contact methods.

Yes, many people prefer to communicate by email and its swiftness can be helpful when trying to do certain types of communication. But if you agree with me that we’re in a relationship-driven business, the personal touch of an “in-real-time” phone call is still important. And you must master it. 

There are many disadvantages to emailing. The first is that you cannot guarantee that the recipient didn’t just delete your email if they don’t know you or your email address (think of a referral).  The second is that it is very easy for the prospect to ignore you and not respond to your email. (The comparable issue on the phone is the low contact rate we are all experiencing these days.) 

Third, it is very hard to express what you are trying to say in your initial appointment-setting contact. Writing a marketing email requires a talent that many of us don’t have.

I help people to write perfect, short scripts for a reason: It’s hard to get your message across in the brief opportunity you have on the phone with a live person. 

In an email, you can take your time to write and edit as needed, but you cannot put in the inflection of your voice. (BTW: None of my scripts translate well as an email.)

Fourth, your interaction with the prospect is not in “real time.”  You can write to me on Monday and then I answer you on Wednesday. The lack of simultaneous back and forth, which conversation allows, makes emailing a stilted way to “connect” to a new person.

If you are introduced to a referral via email by the referring party, I highly recommend your first email be to simply ask for a time to talk by phone.  My primary use of emails (when contacting new clients) is to get an agreed-upon time to talk in person.  And that, to me, is your best use of emailing when trying to get an initial appointment with a new client.

If you meet someone at a networking event or at any other face-to-face marketing gathering (seminar, social event, etc.), then using the individual’s e-mail address to schedule a phone call (or to nail down an appointment time if it’s been discussed in person) is also a good use of emailing.

For those of you who are taught to visit your prospect, get them comfortable with you and then do a complete financial fact-find; you are in the “long-term relationship” side of the industry.  I highly recommend you consider the proper role of technology before just blindly emailing new prospects. 

In addition, FINRA does not allow texting, so just don’t do it until the rules change. If your prospect texts YOU, then let them know you need to speak to them on the phone.  In this case, you can use the restrictions to your advantage!