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Rethink your first client meeting and go digital

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The prevailing sales wisdom suggests that face-to-face interactions are best. The personal element of sales is best in person, so we should do our best to have our appointments that way. At least that’s what we assume.

Related: 5 secrets to making larger sales

An advisor who focuses on retirement plans came to us with an aggressive sales goal: He wanted to close more plans worth $10 million+, but he was based in a smaller market (Richmond, Virginia). To reach the volume of prospects that he needed to close the amount of business he desired, we needed to reach out to prospects from Washington, D.C. all the way down to Charlotte, North Carolina. Taking face-to-face meetings across this much territory was a significant challenge, especially with the location of appointments varying a great deal from week to week.

So he asked: “What if we used GoTo Meeting for the first appointment?”

We had our initial reservations, especially in the face of the classic thinking around first meetings. But we also recognized that the popularity of remote meetings in general is rising — and has been for some time. It might come with some growing pains, but the potential was hard to deny once we really looked at the opportunity objectively.

The activity that we saw from prospects went way up. When we saw that, we rolled a GoTo Meeting exclusive structure out to three more clients, and the data was compelling.

Here is what we learned:

          • Appointment set rate goes up by 15 percent to 50 percent depending on the region, call-type, plan or group size, and how compelling the advisor’s story is. The cancellation rate drifts up slightly from 20 percent to 25 percent (because remote meetings are less intimidating a few less serious prospects agree to meetings and don’t follow through). With the number of high-value appointments increasing by such a significant volume, that small increase in cancelled appointments is almost irrelevant.
          • Offering remote meetings for the first appointment gives you (the advisor) a boost in perceived professionalism. You’re using new tools and giving prospects more flexibility from your very first interaction, and that can give you an edge.
          • You can expand your reach without sacrificing budget or time. Hopping on a plane for a first appointment might be hard to swallow, but after a successful first meeting, that expense becomes much more practical. If you use remote meetings for your first appointment, you can cast a much wider net and keep your practice efficient.
          • In casting a wider net, you might be able to break into areas where face-to-face meetings are hard or impossible to get. For example, we used to refuse to do appointment setting programs in New York City, but the remote meeting approach for the first appointment took our average of 0 to 1 set appointments a month up to 4 to 6 a month.
          • The type of prospect matters. For example, business owners have a higher likelihood of being too distracted by being at their desk computer for a meeting. They often get interrupted by people in the office or sidetracked by email alerts. We see advisors working qualified plans or health & welfare having the most success with remote meetings because they typically meet with CFOs or with HR directors rather than owners.
          • The sales process is still important. If you are used to selling face-to-face, you will need to pay more attention to your sales process during a remote meeting. The same best practices are still important: Stay on track. Make your goal of a getting a second meeting clear to your prospect. Follow your process.
          • The face-to-face element of a first meeting is possible with remote meetings, but it’s not mandatory. We find that some prospects prefer not to use a webcam, at least to start. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use your webcam. It might feel unbalanced to be the only one in the meeting with your camera on, but it gives you the opportunity to let the prospect feel comfortable while still getting that face-to-face. Down the road, this could even become a coachable moment where you encourage them to use their webcam and embrace technology, a subtle but positive step closer to being their trusted expert.

Though remote meeting tools like GoTo Meeting are fairly common in broader business applications, we are still seeing very few advisors using them at all, let alone for first meetings. This could be a potential competitive advantage if you become an early adopter, you could capture opportunities that your less agile competitors won’t find for a few years.

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