Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, July 24, 2017
I tell clients the process of converting a prospect is akin to a first date. Here’s what I mean.
Inappropriate first-date conduct
Here’s what would be considered off-putting on a first date:
- Asking the other person to bring information with them;
- Bringing a companion with you;
- Taking notes;
- Asking personal questions, like how much income they earn, their net worth or information about their taxes.
- Jumping to the “end game” inappropriately by asking questions like “Do you think we are a good fit?”
Appropriate first-date conduct
Acceptable first-date conduct is quite different. An article in Marie Claire gave first-date tips for men. It extolled the virtues of “making an effort to look nice” and being “engaging intelligent and funny.” It described a great date as being “so amazing I feel lucky to be in her presence”.
There’s no end of dating advice for women. One article cautioned against bragging or showing off. Women are encouraged to be good listeners and to “ask the other person questions about himself and really listen to the answers.” When a guy tells a story about himself, women are told not to “butt in and tell a similar story about YOURSELF.”
Finally, there’s this advice: “Keep the first date innocent and light.”
Advice for both genders includes not talking about anything “too serious,” smiling a lot, and not trying to “force the situation.”
Inappropriate conduct when meeting with prospects
Inappropriate first-date conduct is common when advisors meet with prospects.
Advisors often bring colleagues with them.
I’ve never met an advisor who didn’t take notes in the initial meeting (or designate a colleague to do so).
Advisors frequently ask prospects to bring sensitive financial information with them.
Many advisors jump to the “end game” by directing the conversation to the history of their firm, investing, finances and related subjects.
Few advisors prioritize listening. They dominate the conversation with stories about themselves, their firm and their expertise. Almost no advisors keep the meeting innocent and light.
Appropriate conduct when meeting with prospects
To maximize the possibility of converting a prospect into a client, engage in conduct that would be appropriate on a first date.
Select your wardrobe with care. You want to look successful, trustworthy, relatable and professional. If you don’t know how to dress to elicit those feelings, consult with the personal shopper at a high-end department store for guidance.
Advisors of both genders are often reluctant to invest in their wardrobe. There’s compelling evidence that what we wear “influences all kinds of impressions about us.” Advisors should budget yearly for clothes, just like they do for other marketing activities.
Go to the meeting alone. It’s difficult to make an emotional connection when you add another person to the mix.
Don’t take notes. The goal of the first meeting is just to get to know the other person. Notes are a crutch. They impede communication.
Ask questions. Nice, easy questions you would ask on a first date. Don’t make the mistake of probing for personal information. Your only goal is to get to know the other person.
Let the prospect control the direction of the conversation. At some point, the prospect will ask questions. That’s the time to provide short, pithy answers. Not before.
Enjoy the meeting. Inject humor. Keep it light. Make it a pleasurable experience.
If you follow this advice, chances are you will get a second date.