How to support each step of the sales process
By Alana Schofield - Kohl
As a financial adviser, your business revolves around your ability to sell. But it's not just your ability to sell products that ultimately grows your business; it's how you sell yourself and the services that your firm offers. Your clients are buying you, your expertise and your recommendations, and they will evaluate your ability to handle their financial accounts based on how you portray your ability to operate your business. If you don't take yourself seriously, why should they?
Clients need professionalism. They need to see that you're established, credible and serious about how you conduct your business. There are many things you can do during each step of the sales process to showcase your professionalism and business stability. From obtaining prospects to retaining clients, a little extra work in your marketing communications efforts will reap an enormous amount of results — creating supporting collateral and strategic marketing programs alone can separate you from your competition.
Leads to prospects
No matter how you generate leads, from direct mail to advertisements to workshops, you need to give your prospects a call to action and/or a reason to contact you. Motivate them to take action. I've worked with advisers who provide self-published booklets offering free information to prospects who either attend a workshop or call in. This self-published booklet, if well done, is a credibility piece. It shows your prospects that you're an expert in your field, and specialize in the services they need.
Additionally, a website is crucial in this day and age if you're trying to attract new prospects to consider you as their financial professional. This is essentially your online resumé, and needs to be colorful, professional and functional. A website is used to explain who you are, what you do, why you're better, etc., along with the problems that you help solve.
Please note: A website is not a place to talk about products. After all, you don't sell products, but rather solve problems. Instead of saying you sell annuities, explain that you have the expertise to create an income for life.
A website should explain your services and the problems you solve, and should constantly give your prospects a call to action, such as, "Call today for a free consultation," "E-mail us to schedule a free IRA review" or "Sign up for our free newsletter."
Collecting prospect information is half the battle. How you choose to follow up is what converts the leads to prospects. Add leads to your mailing list or even generate leads from a mailing list. Ongoing efforts to make contact increase your exposure and credibility with your target prospects, as well. For example, I've worked with advisers who target specific zip codes and age demographics within their local markets. Prospects who qualify are automatically added to a monthly mailing campaign. Each month, the prospect will receive a mailing; alternating quarterly newsletters with jumbo postcards. The newsletter is full of information — general in nature — regarding financial matters the prospect needs to be aware of, and the postcard contains valuable reference information on a variety of subjects, designed to be kept for a period of time by the prospect for their future reference. Each of these methods creates awareness in the minds of your prospects and builds your brand and credibility.
Prospects to clients
Once you have a prospect in your office, impress them with your professionalism. Every prospect who walks through your front door should receive a professional credibility piece introducing your company and its capabilities. Although many prospects may review your website prior to making an appointment, you cannot assume that they all have; therefore, this piece of collateral is an important selling tool. And remember, if your prospects turn into clients, and have a piece a material that they can pass on to friends — even better!
Provide them with either a company credibility kit, or at the very least, with a professionally done corporate brochure. This information should give an overview of the company, its mission and its founding principals. Provide your prospects with information on yourself, your expertise, your education, membership affiliations, licenses, etc. If you're a member of the National Ethics Bureau, include that in your credibility kit. Provide your prospects with information on how they can perform a background check on you. This speaks volumes, as you are allowing yourself to be transparent in the eyes of the prospect. Even if they don't do any additional research, the mere fact that you're this open shows the prospect that you're credible, professional, ethical and have nothing to hide.
Additionally, if you've been nominated or received an award within the industry or your local community, showcase this as well, and be sure to add it to your bio and credibility kit. This is an amazing credibility piece, as it puts your prospects at ease when evaluating your professionalism. And last but not least, if you have any media experience or nods, both locally and within the industry, showcase this as well. In the minds of your prospects, if the media feels confident enough to use you as an expert resource, why should they think any different? Articles and/or photos of you in the paper or on a news program are sure to impress even the most cautious prospects. Do, however, be cognizant of any articles you've written for industry publications. Ask yourself if they are client-friendly. A prospect does not need to be privy to the inner workings of the industry, but to how your expertise in financial planning can benefit them. Again, add any media experience or mentions to your credibility kit and website.
Don't assume that just because a client has worked with you once, they will remain your client for the long haul. Also, don't assume you've collected all of their available assets the first time you do business with them. You need to appreciate your clients, and pay as much attention to them as you would your new prospects.
Constant communication with your current client base is essential. Offer monthly newsletters, have a client-only section on your website showcasing news that applies to them — making it exclusive will also entice your new prospects. Host client appreciation events and holiday parties. Use the prospect postcard idea to update your current clients on tax updates, law changes, invitations to client appreciation events, invitations for annual reviews, etc. Stay on your current clients' radars. Let them know you appreciate their business, and of course, that you value their referrals.
There are several important steps to the sales process, and some are often overlooked by advisers. By honing in on your abilities to run a successful financial planning practice and creating collaborating supporting materials, your business, as well as your credibility, will soar to new heights.