How To Handle An Initial Inquiry From A Prospect

August 31, 2015

by Dan Solin

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Unless the initial inquiries from prospects are handled correctly, you will not have the opportunity to turn them into clients.

But few advisors give any thought to their initial-inquiry strategy. As a consequence, they lose opportunities to gather more AUM.

Here’s a jaw-dropping case of how two attorneys failed when I made an initial inquiry, followed by my recommendations for how advisors should handle similar situations.

My recent experience

I learn a lot from my own anecdotal experiences. Whenever I am in a sales situation, I am keenly aware of how it is being handled. I am frequently shocked at how poorly trained (if trained at all) the salespeople are.

Recently, I was asked by a friend to recommend an attorney regarding an employment dispute. I didn’t know any qualified attorneys in his state, so I relied on Internet-based research.

I identified several qualified candidates. My friend asked me to interview them. Both interviews followed a remarkably similar pattern.

After I introduced myself, I explained that I wanted to see if they were interested in a referral of an employment case. They asked me to briefly describe the underlying facts, which I did. They then launched into a lecture about their hourly rates, their experience and their firms.

When they concluded, I asked each attorney this question: “Is this a case you are interested in handling?” Here are the responses I received:

From Attorney #1: “I handle mostly class actions, but if he is willing to pay my rate ($950 an hour!), it would be helpful because when I make a fee application in a class action, I could demonstrate that an individual actually paid this rate.”

From Attorney #2: “Well, it won’t be a big biller and the issues aren’t that interesting. I guess it would depend on my chemistry with the client. If he wouldn’t take up too much of my time, that would be a factor.”

You can’t make this up.

Neither firm was retained.

A better approach

The rules for handling an initial inquiry are no different than those that apply to meetings. Here’s a summary:

  • Express gratitude
  • Talk as little as possible
  • Ask as many questions as possible
  • Demonstrate empathy
  • Establish an emotional connection

Your goal in the initial inquiry is to have the prospect schedule a follow-up meeting with you. You will not reach that goal by dominating the conversation and “educating” the prospect.

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How To Handle An Initial Inquiry From A Prospect