Whenever I ask advisors what they need to become more successful, one answer always shows up on their list: I want more leads!
I’ve never met a salesperson who didn’t claim to close “at least 90 percent” of leads. How salespeople determine a “lead” may frustrate their managers. And how they calculate their percentage might make a mathematician (like me) laugh. All kidding aside, it really doesn’t matter whether advisors sell 20 percent, 50 percent or 90 percent of their leads. Sales go up when activity increases.
Activity has been the mantra for decades. Whether you learned to “smile and dial” or “dial for dollars,” you were taught to get on the phone, set appointments and “get out there!” But although activity is valuable, increasing efficient activity should be your goal.
Figuring out what activity is efficient is important. But for now, let’s focus on how to increase activity immediately.
You’re Sitting On A Pile Of Gold
The answer to where your next 20 sales will come from is easy: from your existing clients. You only have to ask them the right questions and they will tell you what to do next.
At a recent sales training I taught to 250 advisors, I asked how many of them surveyed their clients annually. Not a single person raised a hand.
When I asked how many thought it might be a good idea to survey clients annually, “the wave” rippled through the crowd.
We all spend too much time looking for the next client (presumably someone we’ve never met) and not enough time cultivating the ones who already appreciate our service. If you don’t believe the value that’s hiding right under your nose with your strongest relationships, read about what one advisor was able to do.
Paul Talks To John, George And Even Ringo
Paul has about 20 years of experience. He has regularly been a $100,000-$250,000 producer in the Midwest. He has insurance and securities licenses and he offers fee-based plans as well as products. Big income swings come from big cases every few years, but he hasn’t been able to break through to the next income level.
Paul spent a lot of time doing annual reviews with his clients. He invested time taking meetings and he conducted seminars to bring in new clients. As he added more clients, the service took more time — leaving less time for new business development. He was stuck.
Three months ago, Paul enrolled in my advanced course. He followed the instructions even though they included activities that pulled him out of his comfort zone — also known as a rut. He sent out my 20-question survey to 25 clients. All but six of them responded to the survey right away, and three-quarters of them were happy to discuss their answers with Paul.
The most interesting conversations happened with John, George and Ringo.
ohn’s survey answers told Paul that he would be more successful at introducing himself in person, over coffee, than by sending an email. John then asked Paul for some dates when John could buy Paul a cup of coffee and introduce him to the others. As I write this, Paul has already met one new client who has engaged him for financial planning and he has two more coffee dates set up.
Paul always assumed the clients wanted the least intrusive interactions, so he requested email introductions to new referrals. What his clients really wanted to do was to show off their rock star advisor in person. Paul never would have known this if he hadn’t asked.
When George spoke with Paul, he told him that he had been thinking about one of the items mentioned in the survey. George had $50,000 sitting in the bank doing nothing. He asked if Paul could help him invest the funds. He did help George, and earned $1,800 in the process. George thanked Paul, and then introduced him to his business partner.
Ringo wasn’t even a client, but Paul surveyed him anyway. Paul went to high school with Ringo and hadn’t spoken to him in 20 years. He sent the survey with the note, “I’ve always admired your business sense. I’d value your opinion on what other people worry about financially.” After catching up on lost decades, Ringo told Paul that his father had just died and his estate was a mess. Ringo needed to get his own affairs in order.
Guess who Ringo asked to help him with his financial planning and life insurance?
The Law Of Unintended Consequences
When Paul started following my recommendations, he was hoping to increase his sales numbers. Paul simply wanted to make more money.
Within 60 days, he had earned a few thousand dollars, had a couple of new clients engage him for financial planning, and was working on insurance quotes for a few more. The financial return on investment was significant. But something much more valuable took place.
When Paul started asking his clients what they thought of him, what they liked about him, and what they wished he did differently, the feedback made him feel really good about himself. He also received some constructive criticism that helped him build stronger connections with clients and referral sources — and within a few weeks these were already bearing fruit.
Paul said, “I feel like I stopped ‘selling,’ and I started having real conversations. I stopped measuring my days by commissions and started counting valuable and enjoyable conversations. I started to enjoy my job for the first time in years.”
Your Turn For A Turnaround
How much more effective would you be if you had less stress and had more positive interactions in your day? This can all happen if you change the way you communicate with your clients, prospects and centers of influence.
When you listen to what they say, you will be able to do more business with them, fix things that aren’t working (so you preserve and improve the relationship), and sell more. Most importantly, it won’t feel like selling.
If you do nothing else this year, send a survey to your existing clients, prospects and key strategic relationships. Ask them:
What do you like about me and my work?
What do you value most about me, and why did you decide to hire me in the first place?
What do you wish I did differently?
What are your biggest challenges for the upcoming year, and who do you need to meet to help tackle them?
After you ask the questions – in your own words, of course – the key is what to do with the answers. When you receive their answers, act upon them. You are sitting on a gold mine and you don’t even know it.