Back in the day my client acquisition method was the Phone Book and Yellow Pages, I’m sure none of you remember those and my first day in the insurance business was pure cold calling. Hard knocks and tiring.
Then came family and friends when I was asked to “tap” up my network for referrals, this was more successful. But things became far easier when I was plopped into an estate agency branch in the High Street so I could feed from the leads provided by the guys at the front office.
Of course times have changed. No longer can we cold call nor do we want to. Our industry has accelerated to become one of the professionals and with this rise in stature, comes more advanced methods of gaining new business.
Busy financial advisers tend to work with about 4 methods nowadays:
Referrals, by far the most professional technique from clients and contacts in the industry such as accountants. This method can feed you with non-competitive and long lasting client relationships. By far my favourite.
Then comes leads either bought from the internet or provided by your office.
Finally comes contact with past clients known as orphan clients. People who haven’t heard from you or your company in some while and who may have forgotten about you.
There are very few other methods that truly work apart, of course, from a strong existing relationship with your client who continues to look to you for professional financial advice.
The Need to Call
All of these methods of attracting new clients require a further step though. You need to contact them to fix up an initial meeting. Email is only 1 dimensional and often leads to failure with the prevalence of spam traps and easy delete keys, so it leaves us to phone instead.
But picking up the phone with someone you don’t know and haven’t met can create a sense of doom with many financial advisers, so I’m going to give you some ideas on how you can do this successfully.
Just like a good decorator. We had a guy in recently to decorate and after two days slaving at work, I couldn’t see a lick of paint. He was preparing.
So what preparation do we need to do?
The first piece of preparation is to get it clear in your head as to the value you provide since you’re going to have to articulate this when, and if, you get through to your new customer. Bear in mind if it’s a lead, either bought and paid for or collected from a referral source such as an existing client or associate arrangement, they won’t know you and may not be totally aware of how you work and the value you provide. And the orphan client you’re phoning may well have forgotten totally who you are and how you now work.
The 7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Know Your Value
Ask yourself the following 7 questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I do?
- Why do I do what I do?
- How do I do what I do?
- Whom have I performed services for?
- What makes me different from other advisers?
- Why should clients do business with me?
Have a trusted friend ask you the questions in a coaching style, audio record the answers you give and transcribe these into a value proposition or elevator pitch or sound bite. It doesn’t matter what you call it, just get it clear, succinct and valuable.
Then carry out some belief change work if you still don’t believe in your value. Email me and I’ll suggest some belief change exercises for you and some assertion work. Whatever we do, you simply have to be your own number one fan.
The next piece of preparation is to get you up and motivated to make these calls especially if you have a few to do. Let me be upfront and personal on this, most financial advisers I know do not look forward to making these calls, because they invite a “no”.
You see, as a child you did everything possible to avoid the dreaded “no”. With your parents, your teachers, family… the last thing you wanted to hear was “no”, so you avoided it at all costs. That same trait continued into your grown up years and exists today.
So you have to get over it.
There’s various things you can do and there’s a time and a place for them.
The time comprises how many calls you need to make and the right time to call. Depending on how many calls you need to make will determine how long you spend but it’s known that no more than 45 minutes of calling is desirable. Beyond that and you go flat.
The key is to sit down, or stand up, in a private place to make the calls. Don’t be interrupted while making the calls, make them one after the other because you get into a routine and the time flows quickly.
How many calls should you make? Well that depends on how you work. Those that make these kind of calls for a living work with activity ratios or funnels as we used to call them. They’ve figured out that if they need 1 appointment, then normally they have to speak with at least 3 people, and to get through to 3 people they need to make 10 calls or dials. So they figure 45 minutes is enough time to get 20 calls done, which will let them get through and speak with 6 people, and they’ll make 2 appointments. Not bad for 45 minutes’ work.
That’s the time, next the place. Here’s a couple of golden rules when making these calls:
- Try and arrange calls in batches and make an easy call to start with.
- Don’t stop what you’re doing and prevent interruptions.
- Make notes directly onto the CRM you’re using rather than leaving it for later.
- Remember you’re making appointments, not selling.
- Try and get straight onto the next call after each call.
- Have a standard response to voice-mail, no tricks, just state you’ll call back another time.
- Call during standard blocks – 9 to 11am; 4 to 6pm; and 7pm to 8pm actually works.
Before we get into your call structure, a final word about voice mail and how to leave one.
I’m very busy as are you but my world consists of very long meetings which can last all day without much time to eat let alone return calls. So when I do, I usually take about 4 or 5 calls all at once. And that’s the point. Voice mail is linear, you listen to the first one, then delete, then the second and delete. Rarely do we go back and listen again.
So start your voice mail with your name and number then leave your reason for them to call back, then leave your name and number at the end because few people note it down at the beginning and aren’t likely to rewind the voice mail. Tape based voice mail machines went out in the 1990s.
The final piece of preparation is your call structure or call process. Yes, you need this, you can’t wing it. We’re going to look at the bullets of a structure that actually works and still gives you the freedom to free-wheel a little and sound human, not like some cold calling canvasser.
Here’s the steps and I’ll talk about each in turn:
- Sound bite
- Ask for appointment
The intro allows you to check the person who’s speaking and use their name a couple of times.
The sound bite is your opportunity to give your reason for calling and the value you can potentially give the customer. You need to get them interested straight-away.
If it’s a referral, say something like: “Has Bob Monkhouse mentioned my name to you recently and that I’d be calling?” or “Your accountant, Bob Monkhouse has asked me to give you a call.”
If it’s an orphan client say something like: “GBD Consultancy in the High Street have asked me to call you about the business you’ve done with them recently.”
If it’s following a letter, say something like: “I’m calling regarding the letter we sent you this week, did you receive it?”
If it’s a bought lead, say something like: “You’ve just been online and wanted a financial specialist to call.”
At this point you want to hear their reaction and now give your value or sound bite. Which of course is what you honed earlier, didn’t you.
Say something like: “GBD have recently developed a new service to help clients understand the new pensions rules and we’d like the opportunity to speak with you about them to see if we can help you retire more comfortably.” or
“GBD have designed a new service to help you mortgage or remortgage your home at vastly lower interest rates.” or
“GBD have been working with clients recently helping them to grow their investments in the current low interest environment.”
Or whatever the soundbite is that you’ve created for the call.
Again, get their reaction.
Now take control and ask for a meeting to discuss.
“I’m setting up new client meetings here in the office for next week and I have Monday evening or Saturday morning available. Which would suit?”
It’s inertia that you’re looking for to agree a meeting time. Try not to get involved in a long conversation about your service. Keep coming back to the point that it’s best if we meet face to face, it’s a complimentary initial explore meeting to see if we can be a fit. I’ve opened my client bank up to accept some new clients which is why we thought to phone you… or whatever works to secure the meeting.
Agree the time, thank them for their time and then follow up with a letter or email, whichever you use. And do remember to call them just before the allotted time to share with them how the meeting will work, to remind them to bring in various times and to confirm where to park the car. I used to take their tea order during this pre-call too.
Back in the day we would encourage learning how to overcome every objection known and had some serious techniques for swinging the customer around to your way of thinking. How times have changed, thankfully.
Try and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They vaguely recall your company or you and they’re truly rather busy. How would you like it if some pushy financial adviser was trying to get an appointment from you?
No, instead accept graciously their initial “no”; this is often a knee jerk reaction. Show empathy for their position but if you truly believe in the service and value you give your clients, repeat this value and ask for another convenient time to talk. You’ll be surprised, by accepting their initial “no” but merely repeating your value with a voice of surprise, will often win them over.
Now most people you deal with are going to be consumers, rich or poor. But some of you may be calling on small business owners or orphan clients at work so you may have to work doubly hard to actually get through to them, especially if they have good voice mail and a loyal personal assistant who has the motto “no-one gets through”.
Here’s some ideas that might work in these situations.
- Call out of hours; say before 9am and during lunch time. Often her PA is not at her desk so you’ll actually get the person you want answering the phone.
- Use the phrase: “My company has asked me to call Mike”. For example: “GDA Consulting has asked me to contact Mike Brown, is he there please?”
- Make it very casual, for example: “Hiya, Mike please, it’s Brian for him”
- Make the PA your ally. Explain that you need their help to speak with Mike and be really polite.
- Or just phone them at home or on their mobile.
Let’s wrap up this article shall we. I firmly believe that all businesses need an element of new business and new clients since there’ll always be a need. My wife keeps chickens and ducks. At last count we had over 15 of them pecking away in the field next to our house, yet each year my wife brings in some new chicks or fertilised eggs to add to her flock. I was bemused so I asked her why. Her response was that each year she’ll lose some hens. Some to illness, some to old age and some to the wily old fox. So adding news ones each spring just means she keeps the same number.
Clever really and that’s exactly why you need to keep adding new customers to your client bank. You’ll lose some through natural causes, defections and the competition maybe… so always be adding to your flock.