Qualifying Made Easier

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Qualifying Made Easier

November 11, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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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,

I work for a large financial advisor and we do a lot of direct marketing. I have so many leads to follow up on that sometimes I can’t manage them all in one day. My biggest problem is that when I do follow up on leads and generate interest, only a small portion actually close and open an account. I know I am engaging well and the people seem like a good fit for us. Where do I make a mistake?

Nicole R.
Dear Nicole,

There are a number of ways we can diagnose what’s happening. It sounds like, overall, there is a lot going right though. Many people who write to me are trying to increase leads, so consider yourself fortunate that you already have leads to work on! That said, if they don’t close and turn into business for you, you probably don’t get paid. The problem is making these leads profitable.

When responding to direct mail, sometimes investors are just curious. It is really important to determine first who is just looking, wants some “free” information or hopes to get a lead or two before buying anything. Qualifying is a skill that few salespeople learn well. Every contact is not a lead, and every lead is not a qualified prospect. Here are some tips for qualifying upfront, which would help avoid the problem you raised in your question to me:

  1. Ask them, “Why now?” Find out why they are interested now as opposed to a few weeks ago or a few months from now. Is there something happening that prompted their response?
  2. Outline the process and set expectations. Tell them what should happen at each step, what the process will be and what you will expect of them at each stage. Confirm that they are in agreement about these steps. It’s not a one-way street; they have to agree to engage.
  3. Let them know common problems you have found with people making these decisions. Problems might include inertia or unavailability. Ask them, in advance how you can work together to ensure that such issues don’t get in the way of their decision-making.
  4. Let them know you are most interested in helping them make the right decision for their needs. Not everyone is a good fit for you and your firm so your goal is to get them to a decision point. Be their partner, not their pusher.
  5. Check in with them. Remind them what next steps you agreed on in your first meeting. Ask again, “Are you ready to take that step?” Confirm, confirm, confirm along the way.

You may be hesitant to use some of these tips. Some advisors don’t like “bad news” and would rather not ask. This doesn’t make the bad news go away. It just keeps it under wraps for longer. You are better off working with a short list of highly qualified prospects than a long list of people who are just hanging on!

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