If you’re an adviser in a selling role, then one of the most important skills to master is converting new clients. That is, taking a new enquiry all the way from initial contact right through to becoming an ongoing client.
As I discussed in my white paper How To Solve The Scale Problem (In Financial Planning Businesses), not all advisers should be in selling roles. A distinction between servicing advisers (who look after existing clients and revenue) and selling advisers (who convert new enquiries into ongoing clients) feels more appropriate as firms become larger and look to continue growing at a decent clip.
You’d be surprised at how ineffective many advisers are in their selling skills with new prospects. I’m not trying to be hyper-critical here. I just want you to know that if you suspect you could be better at converting new clients, then you’re certainly not alone.
In many financial planning firms advisers are closing between 25% – 30% of new enquiries. That’s just too low.
From my experience, a skilled selling adviser will be converting 60%+. This assumes you are screening out leads you just shouldn’t be meeting with, so that you’re only doing first meetings with genuine prospects who meet your criteria. (See pain point 2. below)
There are seven major pain points for advice firms that I see in my role as a consultant:
- Low conversion percentage
Not enough prospects are buying.
- Not enough screening
There’s not enough screening of new enquiries – which needs to be done as early as possible –to weed out the clearly inappropriate leads.
- Poor pre-first meeting boundaries
Advisers aren’t setting out the rules of engagement from the get-go, so the client dictates the process.
- Too much “telling”
In a valiant but misguided attempt to get a prospect to see the value in the financial planning process, advisers spend way too much time “telling” prospects how great they are.
- Fact-finding that’s full of friction
Gathering all the hard data that is required to give compliant advice is a massive sticking point and a barrier to doing business.
- Strategy presentations that don’t engage the client with their solution
There’s too much focus on presenting the merely technical and not enough on the client’s emotional engagement with the strategy. No buy-in means no business.
- Dropping the ball at implementation
A less-than-stellar implementation process means advisers are missing out on an instant referral to their next on-target lead.
What can you do to fix these issues?
The key is creating a standard process for engaging with new clients. One that’s been well thought out and is repeatable with client after client.
I can hear the pushback already:
- “But I’m a free spirit dude”
- “I hate process”
- “It’ll take away my flair and creativity”
Let me explain what I mean by a standard process.
If you were booking a hotel for your next holiday, which hotel gives better service, a 5-star one or a 2-star one?
Clearly, it’s the 5-star version.
Because in a 5-star hotel, they systemise the 90%, so they can customise the 10%.
In the 2-star hotel, the couple who run the hotel do everything; cooking the meals and running up the stairs to deliver them, checking you in, cleaning the rooms. Then they try to convince you this is personal service.
Break down your sales process into its constituent parts
As you contemplate systemising your sales process, break it down into bite-sized pieces, otherwise, it can feel a little overwhelming. It will take around 20% more effort, but it will be worth it.
There are 6 areas I’d be focusing on:
Do you record precise data on each part of the sales process from first contact right through to becoming an ongoing client?
If you do, you’ll be able to tell me:
- The source of every new enquiry
- Percentage of leads that move to an initial screening call
- Percentage of screening calls that book a first meeting
- Percentage of first meetings that are held
- Percentage of first meetings that engage for a fee and receive a strategy presentation
- Percentage of strategy presentation meetings that lead to implementation
- Percentage of implementations that complete
- Percentage of implementations that become ongoing clients
- Percentage of implementations that make an immediate referral (e.g. within 30 days of becoming a client)
I can hear some of you saying, ‘But that’s a lot of work for me or my staff to do, is it actually worth the effort?’
Absolutely. With data like this, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where prospects are being lost in the process. Facts not guesswork.
Without great data, you don’t really know the truth.
Great data lets you pinpoint the real issue, so you can deal with it.
2. Pre-Meeting Boundaries
When you receive a new enquiry it’s exciting. However, don’t get over-excited before you’ve confirmed that the lead is of the right quality.
Set up an initial screening call to find out more about the prospect and their needs before you go ahead and book a first meeting. You’ll save time and disappointment, for you and the prospect, by filtering out the inappropriate enquiries right up front.
Also make sure that you’re doing meetings on your turf, which in the modern world means at your offices or on Zoom. Never at the client’s home or place of work.
And even more importantly, always see couples together, never separately.
3. First Meeting
You don’t demonstrate your value by ‘telling’. You allow the client to ‘discover for themselves’ how great you are by asking interesting questions.
The most important objective at the first meeting? To get the client emotionally engaged with their own issues.
This is not sleazeball sales stuff. Getting clients to engage emotionally is vital if you’re going to help them really dig in and make life decisions that are in line with their deeply held values. Only then can you make the financial choices and come up with the strategies to support them.
4. Discovery or Fact Find
This is the trickiest step in the process.
Remember to look closely at your data. How many people drop out here, or get stuck at this step for months, not returning information that you need to give good advice?
Your job is to remove the friction.
Technology is a great way to make the process slick and convenient for the client – and to save you time.
When it comes to ease of doing business you are being compared to Amazon, not other financial advisers. Clients just don’t want and won’t accept clunky anymore.
5. Strategy Presentation
The big question to answer here is “How do you want clients to feel after you give them your advice?”
Once you’re clear on that you can ask yourself, “How will I achieve that outcome every single time?”
There needs to be an emotional element to your strategy presentation process otherwise it all feels cold. Remember, emotion is engagement.
And lastly, can you deliver advice without creating a written report for the client? (Ooh, controversial I know).
How will you maintain the energy, excitement and momentum when product providers might be doing their best to elongate the process by weeks and months?
The key will be frequent and informative communication.
Whatever you do, don’t drop the ball here thinking you’ve made the sale. The goal of your process at the implementation stage is to win your next piece of work (an instant referral), it’s not merely to complete the business and get paid.
Get all of this right and you get referred instantly to your next on-target client.
By putting in that extra 20% of effort at every step of the new client engagement process you create a steady flow of on-target leads for you and your business.
That extra 20% of effort will save you 100% of costs down the road (time and money) that most firms are forced to spend on expensive marketing support.
Is it time to take a closer look at this most important of processes within your business?
Let me know how you go.
💡 Some useful resources:
If you’re looking to create a fit-for-purpose new client engagement process then take a look at my self-study coaching bundle called Converting New Clients. It will help you create an end-to-end sales process that’s client-focused and converts.
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If you’re an adviser in a selling role, then one of the most important skills to master is converting new clients.
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