Quarantines and social distancing have impacted many aspects of retail practice management but none more than prospecting for new business. Faced with the Do Not Call Registry and a growing resistance to unsolicited marketing, financial advisors had turned to social networks to discover potential clients. But now advisors aren’t attending parties or connecting at face-to-face meetings, and most business-building activities have been de-emphasized or discontinued. So how does an advisor gain an introduction to a prospective client?
John Prosperi is a Senior Managing Director at Alliance Bernstein who has provided guidance and thought leadership to thousands of Financial Advisors over 25 plus years in the industry. Sea Captain Coaching recently connected with John to find out what his Financial Advisor clients are doing to keep prospecting for new business.
What impact has COVID had on your clients’ ability to prospect for new business?
“Ironically, COVID-19 created unique opportunities for Financial Advisors to build their businesses. No one expected the massive economic impact of the pandemic, and many successful investors realized that they were largely unprepared for the financial consequences. Every market disruption provides opportunities for Financial Advisors to meet new prospects at their point of need. This disruption has proven to be another opportunity for Financial Advisors to grow their practice, however the pivot has been to prove your ability to meet their needs in a virtual environment. I believe many Advisors’ clients will continue to feel vulnerable and discontent because negative feelings tend to stick around for a long time. These clients may now be willing to consider a new financial relationship. The crisis has also caused some investors who weren’t happy with their current advisor to think about changing advisors.”
How do you think Advisors should be tailoring their sales messaging in today’s environment?
“Uniquely successful people inevitably create complicated financial lives that they don’t thoroughly understand. Through our Advisor Institute we have great insights into how Financial Advisors can build trust with prospects in a systematic, step-by-step process. This can include asking open-ended questions, such as “What has been your experience working with a financial advisor?” and “What has your experience with investing been like?” These questions allow Advisors to explore the prospect’s background and may teach them what to focus on and what to avoid. They also establish a conversational flow that leads to a natural reciprocity. After the prospect speaks and shares his or her experience, there’s a connection that allows a Financial Advisor to share related occurrences.
This offers an opportunity to share insights about what most people are missing in their financial plan. The prospects naturally apply the insight to themselves and wonder what they have neglected. In addition to listing what people have overlooked, it is important to explain the implications of doing so. This activates the prospect’s curiosity and motivates the desire to hear more.”
What advice can you share about conducting virtual meetings?
“It’s much easier to establish rapport with someone when we are close to and facing them. A face on a screen diminishes the rapport that builds from being physically near another person and makes it difficult to see changes in body language. It’s also harder to connect with someone on a screen than when they are in the room with you. Rapport between two people is a major source of influencing decisions and can be significantly diminished in a virtual encounter. Because our normal social cues are reduced as part of social distancing, the focus should be on the message. The quality and structure of the information and visuals becomes more important. Many Advisors unconsciously rely on their experience to empower their sales skills and be spontaneous, but when the message and visuals are central, these skills need to be fine-tuned.”
How can Advisors leverage digital tools and platforms to support their sales efforts?
“Financial Advisors websites are a crucial asset right now when it comes to finding and connecting with prospective clients. Everyone is online right now, so the possibility that more people will be looking at their websites is extremely high. Advisors’ sites should be up to date and convey the image desired for the business. Being active on social media was important before COVID-19, but now, it is even more vital. Prospective clients are vetting prospective Financial Advisors online. Savvy Advisors should work to increase their online visibility. LinkedIn is the platform I advise my clients to spend most of their time and energy on. Besides just connecting with prospective clients, Financial Advisors should also be interacting with them. A great way to do this is by being active in LinkedIn groups. These groups provide a great opportunity to jump in on conversations, add value, and build relationships with prospects.
What do you think Advisors should be focusing on in 2021?
What has not changed is the crucial need for Financial Advisors to understand the “trust equation” and how to build trust systematically with prospects and referral sources. Part of that equation is exhibiting your professional competency over time. To the extent that you can provide examples of how you have solved financial complexity issues for others, with prospects who are struggling with the same issues, you will gain more clients. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t still provide great advice and guidance. Advisors can help clients and prospect during times like these by helping them stay focused on the big picture, offering insights into how current conditions affect their plans by modeling scenarios specific to their situation, bringing specific ideas and strategies to them based on their unique situation and partnering with them to navigate the ever-changing economic and market landscape.”