Should You Say “No” to a Prospect?

By Beverly Flaxington

March 18, 2014

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

We are unsure of the best follow-up approach for prospects who don’t seem ready to move their money to our firm after five meetings. Do we give up? Do we keep following up on the assumption that they would not go to that many meetings unless they are interested in eventually working with us? It is time-consuming, and we don’t know what the best course of action should be.

Mark D., Texas


Dear Mark,

You should not be getting past five meetings at all in your sales process! There are prospects who just won’t say no to a meeting, and there are prospects who would like to hear what you have to say about their financial situation or about the markets in general. Just because they attended five meetings does not mean they are qualified and interested prospects.

It’s helpful to set expectations with new prospects at the first meeting. Let them know what the process is for decision-making: “Most people are ready to make a decision whether to work with us or not by the third meeting. Let me explain how the decision-making process typically works. Is there any reason why this wouldn’t work for you and your situation?” You are not asking them for a “yes” decision, you are just asking if they can make a decision in this normal timeframe.

Then, be clear with yourselves about how much information you are willing to give in the sales process. It is important to leave information to be discussed post-sale. During the sale, inform the prospect about what you do, show off your expertise and offer some ideas about what you might do with the prospect’s portfolio, but don’t give away everything. Running multiple simulations, preparing a full-fledged report or offering options with specifics could be a colossal waste of your time. At each step, check in about what the prospect needs to make a final decision.

If you get to a third meeting without a decision, you might want to “go negative” on the prospect. Let those prospects know that you don’t think they are ready to make a decision. Tell them you will put them on a follow-up list for the future, when the timing might be better for them.

Sometimes by seeing you pull back, the prospect will decide to finally go forward. However, if not, that prospect is probably not ready to make a decision.

Add those prospects to an ongoing list – send them periodic updates, including an email every few months or a phone call once a year, to see if anything has changed. If you can find ways to stay in touch that don’t cost a lot of time, you can stay in front of them in case they decide to choose an advisor.

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