Client retention: what to do when they change their minds
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
After two visits — a total of six hours — advisor Marianne had gotten an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from her new “almost clients." They were a young professional couple with small children, and Marianne was to prepare a financial plan for them. The plan would specifically include some much-needed life insurance. There was no doubt the mission was going forward.
But a few days later, just before Marianne's scheduled return with her specific proposal, the couple called to tell her they had decided to hold off on doing anything. “I needed that sale,” Marianne complained to me during our coaching session. “And that’s probably why you lost it,” I responded.
Our need is the ugliest thing we can show prospective clients. If they believe that your need to make money is more important than your delivery of the service they would be hiring you to do, they’ll back away. Retaining you or buying what you have to offer has to be their idea, not yours. Even when — especially when — you need the “yes,” make sure that your prospective clients sense only your devotion to bringing them the best and most appropriate service.
Blake, an attorney in Michigan, wrote me last week about his problem getting prospective clients to engage his services. “I find out what their situation is,” he writes, “and then I explain very carefully what I’ll be doing for them. Then they ask about price. I tell them my hourly rate, which is competitive, but they say they want to think about it … and then I don’t hear from them again.”
Professionals like Blake often don’t spend enough time developing a relationship with their clients. They know their work. They know how to diagnose problems, and they know what the most likely solutions are. But they don’t know what their prospective clients really need: someone to hear them out and provide sympathy, empathy and validation. Here are some suggestions that might help you close more clients:
1. Ask more and better questions.
“Situational” questions are essential for you in order to enable you to do your work, but they have relatively low value to a prospective client who already knows his or her own situation. How does the situation make him or her feel? Why does he/she feel that way? What result would this person like to get from working with you? How will that make him/her feel better? These kinds of questions don’t necessarily add any information to your business stats, but they help you create a bond with your new client.
2. Find out what is causing them to hesitate.
If he says, “Let me think about it,” find out what he agrees with and narrow down what his concerns are. Does he have reservations about your abilities? Is he looking for a better price? It’s okay — and important — to ask these questions. If you want more clients to say yes and stick to it, start by making sure you spend the time to ask compelling questions, and base the solution you offer directly on their answers.
3. Find out if they’re committed to change before you talk about fees.
Ask if she’s receiving value from the discussion and if she has any questions for you. Ask if she’d be interested in working with someone who could alter her status quo.
Whether it’s in asking for the sale or asking for introductions, make it about them — not about your need.