When it comes to spending big money, people have traditionally bought face to face. There are lots of reasons. Personally, I don’t think someone is going to buy an intangible like insurance or investments by hitting a key and sending $500,000 or $50,000 or even $5,000 into cyberspace. Business gets done face to face. How are you going to get that initial appointment?
Let’s assume there are two tracks, active and passive. You reach out to them or they reach out to you. We’ll look at each track and come up with several different approaches.
Active: You Reach Out to Them
When you make the first move, remember two rules. It’s not one and done. You usually need to be persistent. Second, there are many more communication channels today than when you were growing up. You don’t know which one they prefer. Try a few simultaneously, see which one gets a response and use that one for them going forward.
It goes without saying many channels have been almost wrecked because of slash-and-burn strategies. Robocalling is a big villain, especially during election season. Junk mail has been around for years. Everyone knows about spam emails. You need to be successful in spite of these obstacles. In other words, in a world of generic communication, the more personalized you can be, the better your chances of getting a response.
Let’s assume you are contacting a person at their place of business.
- Calling. Cold calling has been around since at least 1925. You dial them outside business hours, you hope they answer their own phone. People in sales or who built their own business will often give you some time. Not always.
- Asking. It’s more likely you call goes to voicemail (unlucky) or gets answered by a live person. (Yes!) Although their role might be assistant or secretary, they are screeners. If you can develop a rapport over multiple calls, they may suggest a time to call. They may even give you an appointment or suggest when to come in.
- Letters. They are so infrequently used, they stand out. The more personalized, the better. When you call for an appointment, you are following up on your letter.
- LinkedIn. Step one is getting a connection. Ideally you find someone who knows them, get them on the phone and ask for them to introduce you. This is tougher than it looks because LinkedIn is incredibly underutilized by it’s 610 million users. Your best bet may be to find how many people you know in common (1st level connections) and lead with that. “I think it’s amazing we know 65 of the same people.” Once you are connected, you send a message and ask for an appointment.
- Email. Some people love it! Unlike texts demanding immediate attention, emails (and LinkedIn messages) can be sorted through at leisure. If you write: “Request for appointment on Monday, May 6th” it carries a sense of urgency.
- Text. Your firm likely has rules. It’s a direct form of communication that probably won’t get stopped by filters. If they know who you are, you might get a quick answer to your appointment request because texting has a sense of immediacy to it.
- Outlook scheduling. You know you can use Outlook to invite people to meetings. It’s a way to get your request for a face-to-face visit in front of them. It helps a lot if they are already familiar with you as a fellow Chamber member, for example.
- You go where they go. Spring and fall are the gala seasons for local charities. The invitations usually list the major sponsors. The person you want might belong to the same gym or club. You encounter them, politely explain this isn’t the time or the place to talk, but you would like to sit down with them later in the week. When are you free?
- Face-to-face intro. That’s the gold standard. A client introduces you in a professional capacity, possibly in a client/prospect dinner scenario. A friend introduces you socially over drinks, telling you when and where to show up to make the connection.
- Buying lunch. Lots of charity fundraising is done this way. You have a person you want as a client. You invite them out to lunch and make your case. You both have to eat. Ever notice how many advisors turn up for an office meeting when free food is on offer?
Out-of-the Box Ideas
People in sales are definitely creative. Here are four unusual approaches.
- Buying time. An advisor wanted lawyers as clients. If there was a top prospect he really wanted to see, he would ask their hourly rate and simply buy 30 to 60 minutes of their time.
- Paying for introduction. This isn’t as dark as it sounds. I came across this story involving a major charity that counted almost all the city’s movers and shakers as donors. The head explained they appreciated donations to the cause and were comfortable arranging the introduction of one donor to another, if that would help their business. Donating to a charity at a higher tier as a way to get invited to exclusive events accomplishes the same purpose.
- Overnight Mail/Welcome to City. A Midwest advisor would buy a stack of their city’s namesake magazine, specifically the “Best of” issue ranking neighborhoods, schools and golf clubs. They would send it to the office of a relocated senior executive by overnight mail with a cover letter. The information is very useful for someone needing to choose where to live. He would call afterwards, referencing the magazine sent by overnight mail in his conversation with the screener.
- Camping out. Flying back from Asia, I sat next to a fellow in the camping equipment business. His Asian wife wanted to get in front of a certain executive. As I recall, she needed his company as a supplier or distributor. She sat in his office all day, maybe longer! She eventually saw the guy and got the business connection. Her business took off!
Passive Strategies: They Reach Out To You
In these approaches you are “casting your bread upon the waters.” Many people hear a message. You hope some buy in and want to take the next step.
- Reading about you. You write articles for the local paper or the Chamber newsletter. Your byline establishes you as a subject matter expert. When people have a need, your name springs to mind. Writing requires compliance approval.
- Hearing about you. Teach your clients how to spot opportunities. The safest ground is a problem you solved for them. Can they be on the lookout for other people with the same problem? They suggest getting in touch with you might be the first step toward a solution.
- Professional referral. Having accountants or attorneys send clients your way is every agent and advisor’s fantasy. It does happen. You have some as clients. They likely have a few advisors in mind, so clients with a need can choose. Can you be one of them?
- Hear you speak. They attended a talk you gave at a conference, professional association luncheon or public seminar. You made a good impression. They keep you in mind for the time when they have a need. That time is now.
- Webinar, video. You are technologically advanced. You produce podcasts. You post videos. You get compliance approval beforehand. While searching for an answer to a problem, your prospect finds your video.
- Search engine results. Your client searches for a local service provider. You turn up on the first page of search results. According to Junto, 75% of people never go beyond the first page of search results. You learn about search engine optimization.
Getting in front of people is a skill. Very often, if you have the opportunity to sit across from someone, your professionalism and sincerity can win them over. People generally give money to other people, someone they connect with and feel will work on their behalf. It all starts with getting in front of them.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor:
- The Ten Commandments of Prospecting
- 4 Deceptively Simple Tips to Turn Prospects Into Clients
- The Worst & Very Best Cold-Calling Scripts
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.