Low-Pressure Ways to Follow Up With Prospects

August 12, 2014

by Dan Richards

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For many advisors, the part of the business they hate the most is following up with prospects, asking for meetings to talk about their financial situation and discuss working together. I was reminded of this in a recent conversation with a veteran advisor – let’s call him Phil – who has done a great job of building visibility and relationships among an affluent community of prospects, but is struggling to turn those relationships into clients.

At the end of our chat, I made three suggestions to help Phil move forward with the people in his target community.

Operating in an affluent circle

Phil is in his late 50s and has worked in the investment industry his entire career. For the past decade, he’s been an active participant in an exclusive, invitation-only wine club in his community. And he’s done much more than just show up. For the past five years, Phil’s been on the executive committee and a key organizer of a number of charity events. As a result, he’s become good friends with a number of affluent professionals, business owners, corporate executives and retirees who make up the typical members of the club.

Despite that, last year Phil realized that not a single one of the people he’d met through the club had become clients.

Among the possible reasons: They might not know that he’s a financial advisor. (Phil had historically avoiding talking about the markets at club events.) They might not be aware he’s taking on new clients. They might be unsure of his interest in working with them.

As a first step, last summer Phil began informally reaching out to people he’d met at the club, either in person or by email, offering to add them to the monthly emails he sends clients highlighting articles from a list of third-party publications such as Forbes and the Economist. Phil had a good response to this offer and more than 50 club members now get his monthly emails.

Despite this, still no new clients.

Make it easy to say yes

I asked Phil if he’d done anything to follow up the initial conversations about his emails and he admitted he hadn’t. “I hate harassing people and I don’t want to jeopardize my reputation at the wine club,” he said. “And I really don’t understand why it’s necessary. These are all successful guys. They should know the drill – if they want to talk to me, they can just pick up the phone.”

In the perfect world, Phil would be right. But in the real world, you can’t rely on prospects to take the initiative. I told Phil about an accountant who came into the industry and built up a large list of prospects in two years by seeking out speaking engagements on tax and financial-planning topics — initially to any group that would have him, although over time he became more selective. At the end of his talks, he’d give away a book through a raffle. To enter, attendees filled out a ballot, where there was a box they could check to get his quarterly newsletter.

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