How To Handle An Initial Inquiry From A Prospect

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How To Handle An Initial Inquiry From A Prospect

August 31, 2015

by Dan Solin

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

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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