If you think about it, every prospective client meeting is a job interview. As with any interview, it is important to do a little online research before the first conversation occurs. Your prospects, even referrals, are certainly doing their research on you, to get a sense of whom you are and if you could be a fit for them.
This doesn’t just apply to prospects. Knowing your existing clients is important too, and not just because financial advisors need to meet suitability and/or fiduciary standards, but also because building deeper relationships is good for client retention.
“You probably have the names of your client’s kids and pets, and some basic information about your prospective clients in your CRM, but today you can go several steps farther,” said Brian Kostick, Vice President of Practice Management at ActiFi(tm), a software and solutions company creating scalable business execution programs for the financial services industry. Kostich presented on this topic during a business-development workshop presented in partnership with Scottrade Advisor Services® in early July. “Staying on top of clients’ industries, favorite causes, and concerns will make you stand out as an advisor. Knowing what makes your prospective clients tick can help you during the sales and engagement process.”
Tips from the NYC workshop
During his opening comments, Scottrade® Advisor Services executive Brian Stimpfl said that advisors can deepen relationships with existing clients and cultivate new ones by understanding the process behind growth. Explaining the rationale behind the workshop, Stimpfl said “We want advisors to look at every step in their service model, from developing their pipeline to onboarding new clients.”
“This is a relationship business. Advisors need to cultivate relationships,” said Kostick during the marketing and prospecting portion of the workshop. To that end, he said advisors need to research potential clients, including checking social media. He also cautioned against “winging it” in meetings. “Be prepared and have set an agenda for your meetings.
In conversations, advisors need to ask good questions. The goal is to learn about the potential client rather than to sell their services. Afterward, they need to follow up with a summary letter and a call to action—something they can follow up on a few weeks later.
Reaching out is also simple, especially with all the new digital communication tools available. They enable a variety of interactions that weren’t necessarily available earlier, whether it’s a reach out with a newsletter, invitations to workshops and lunch-and learns, an offer to provide a second opinion, an email with a link to download one of your special reports, a personalized video message, and other similar types of communication. This helps keep you front-and-center as people move from lead to prospect to client. (For additional marketing tips and insights, please read Generating New Business in a Digital World.)
“Prospective client meetings deserve the same level of attention as an interview would. Before meeting with a prospect, it pays to do a quick Google search,” Kostick said. “What might you find? A press release announcing an executive position; a major charitable donation; board memberships; wedding announcements; family obituaries; and more. In less than ten minutes, you’ll have a better idea of who the person is, including the issues and causes he or she cares about most deeply.”
But don’t just stop there, go a step farther, Kostick urged. “If your prospect works at a notable company in town, look up the firm. Is it leading its industry? Is it facing special challenges? Rumored to be in play for a takeover? Now you have insight that could affect the prospect’s financial status, and can bring some real insight to your meeting.”
And use searches to build a profile of a prospect’s industry or company, especially if they are at a smaller company or are a business owner/entrepreneur. This will enable you to show in-depth understanding and knowledge of the prospect’s needs and challenges.
Also consider setting up Google News Alerts for your very best prospects and clients. As you see things about them in the local news or broadly online, simply send them congratulations, a note with a relevant piece of information and/or an invitation to meet again and discuss their situation.
The Digital Footprint, and How to Use it
Today, most Americans use social media, whether it’s LinkedIn for professional networking, Facebook for less-formal socializing, or Twitter for swapping news bites. Each platform builds their digital footprint and can serve a potential purpose for an advisor, if you know what to look for.
On LinkedIn, looking up prospects can give a view of their business life and accomplishments. In addition, you may find that you have connections in common. Just before a meeting or interaction, it also makes sense to take a quick peek at current activity on the profile, perhaps you’ll see something new on their page or notice a string of posts on a particular topic that could be telling.
Facebook provides an interesting look at what matters most to prospects, and your clients. This is where you’re most likely to get glimpses of their charitable endeavors, their family projects, their travels and their hobbies. Sometimes there’s a connection to something you might care about—and a source of a bond. Even if you are not be connected to your current / prospective client on Facebook, there is often some information visible to the general public.
You may also find that your prospects or clients use Twitter as well. Skim their Twitter feed and look for clues. What are they tweeting, commenting on and retweeting? Even though these are brief communications, they indicate what captures someone’s attention and actively triggers interaction on their part.
If this all seems daunting, you may want to consider technological help. One of the easiest ways to do this is to begin with your CRM system. Some of the more modern CRMs, such as Wealthbox, actually show information from a client or prospect’s social media feeds. Having that information at your finger-tips, and in the same place as your other information on the person, cuts out an additional step or two in the process suggested above.
In his best-selling book, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling: Web Search Secrets, Sam Richter, an award-winning author and Chief Marketing Officer for ActiFi, offers additional online search secrets, tips, tricks, and tools to find and use this type of information. The bottom-line is, preparing for meetings like they were a job interview, plus a little effort to better understand your prospects and clients via their digital footprint can make a big-time impression, while also improving your relationships (and margins).