You call a prospect for the first time, and their first instinct is to roll their eyes and hang up. Whether the prospect is cold or even a referral, calling out of the blue often has that affect on people. No one likes being caught off guard and asked to have a conversation they are unprepared to have. Prospecting is arguably the worst part of our jobs, but necessary if we want more clients and a thriving practice.
When was the last time you received a call from a salesperson and thought to yourself, “I am so thrilled they called me right now. I can’t wait to have a 30-minute in-depth conversation with them”. Anyone....Anyone...Bueller?
It’s a challenge to deliver a sales pitch to someone who has never heard of you or your offerings. Rest assured, improving your phone skills will propel your career to a whole new level. When you get good, you will stand out in stark contrast to your competitors. Most advisors never even practice, and you know what they say about practice. (NO—practice does not make perfect; practice makes progress and that’s the goal.) Just like any skill, phone skills need to be honed, practiced, and improved upon over time.
Here are a dozen phone strategies that will transform you into a linguistic champion and—just maybe—the highest-paid advisor at your firm.
Strategy 1: Embrace Rejection
Rejection is a necessary part of all prospecting, so why even be surprised when it happens? A top advisor I know often brags about getting more “no’s” than any other advisor and insists that’s why he's number one in sales every year. Not only is he rejected the most, but he wears that distinction like a badge of honor. He literally failed his way to success.
No one closes all of their prospects, so how do we get over our fear of rejection?
Create a “funniest rejection” Slack channel where you and your colleagues can share your experiences. What better way to beat rejection than by taking away rejection's power over you?
If someone says no to your proposal, ask "why not?" Explain to them you’re always wanting to learn and improve your skills. Ask them to tell you why they think you can’t help them. Don’t try to resell them at this point. This is for your education only.
Role play with colleagues and have them throw out every possible rejection you could ever get. You will be surprised how few there are. Most rejections are variations of the same handful of objections. Practice mastering them.
Strategy 2: Stop Wasting Your Time on Unqualified Prospects
The reason advisors don’t get rid of unqualified leads is because they aren’t doing enough prospecting to fill their pipeline with qualified leads. Thus, they're stuck spinning their wheels talking to the wrong people over and over. Fill your pipeline with qualified prospects and finally purge your pipeline of unqualified prospects. Not only will you acquire more clients, but you will reduce the number of unpleasant calls. Who knows, you may even begin enjoying your prospecting calls.
- Fill your pipeline with Planswell households —they've already shown interest in financial planning by taking the time to create a financial plan.
Strategy 3: Finding the Right Time to Call
No one wants to waste their time calling back the same prospect over and over. Yet, if you’re calling them at the wrong times, that’s what will happen. By tracking when prospects are more likely to answer the phone, you can focus your efforts for a better results.
What days and times are prospects most likely to answer the phone? Numerous studies show Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to have a conversation on the first dial. The worst times to call are on Friday afternoons (people are checked out) and Monday mornings (they are at their busiest).
Most people work from roughly 8 am to 6 pm, with a midday break for lunch. People are more likely to answer the phone when they’re not fully engaged in work tasks. Calling during lunch or near the end of the workday will improve your odds of connecting. Even those working from home nowadays tend to keep to a structured schedule.
If you’re trying to reach them at home, Sunday afternoon was hands-down the best time for me as an advisor. I found this was the time people were winding down their weekend and preparing for the start of a new workweek. Not only are they more likely to be home, they may be more relaxed and more accepting of your call.
Planswell households come to you instantaneously when they complete their online discovery. THAT is the best time to call them, insomniacs aside. The sooner you call them, the higher the connection rate and the interest level. They're at peak curiosity at the moment and everything is still fresh in their minds.
Strategy 4: Don’t Perform Like a Robot
Calling prospects for the first time is a performance. You need to be able to get in the zone just like actors do. Actors use scripts, yet don’t come across as robotic. B-movie stars aside, actors inject inflection into their scripts and come across as being natural and genuine. That’s exactly what you need to do.
Know your introduction and value proposition cold. If you have a ‘WHY”, this will be extremely valuable on your first call.
Ask open-ended questions to encourage your prospect to open up. When this occurs, you need to listen and not just wait for your turn to talk again.
Again, be prepared to handle common objections. You know they’re coming, so be ready. It’s like taking an exam where you already know the questions in advance. Yet, most advisors won’t even bother to prepare. Practice handling objections like, “I’m not interested", “Just send me an email”, and “I don’t have money/time”.
NEVER call off the cuff. You are in control of the sales process so be fully prepared before you make that initial call.
Strategy 5: Early and Often
Research shows you may need to call a prospect eight times before you get through. Of course, don't make all eight calls on the same day—ha! I have met advisors who practice the one-and-done method, which is not effective in the least. Keep in mind, this is likely your prospect's first interaction with you, and they know nothing of you or your offer. Help them get to know you. Be prepared to show and offer value.
- Connect with the prospect by asking open-ended questions about something they love, such as kids, sports, or hobbies, and share generously about yourself in return.
Strategy 6: Tonality
It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. Your tone will make a big difference in the success of your calls. Your tone should exude confidence and enthusiasm. If you are speaking in monotone, your prospect will not be enthusiastic about the conversation either. Keep a cheerful and inviting tone and your prospect will be more likely to continue conversing with you.
- Smile when you dial. It will come through in your tone of voice.
Strategy 7: Prepare
Before you go into your call, do a bit of research on your prospect. With tools such as LinkedIn available to us, there’s no reason to go into a call blind. Armed with the financial information they inputted into their Planswell plan and a quick social media search, you should be able to stack the odds in your favor for starting a meaningful conversation.
- Don't creep them out by reciting everything you know about them. Simply use this information to steer the conversation into safe places that may elicit a positive reaction. "I wanted to catch you before the Vikes game. Are you a fan?"
Strategy 8: Less Selling, More Educating
Make sure your prospect learns something from you on every single call. You need to provide value from the get-go. Too many of us believe we will show our prospects value AFTER they become clients. That’s backwards thinking. The value we provide is upfront, including in the initial prospect call.
Each call is an opportunity for you to learn too. Give the prospect the opportunity to talk. You want to learn more about them, including their problems and their needs. Carefully listen to the answers to your open-ended questions. The better the question, the more they will talk.
- Learn something about your approach from every conversation you have with a prospect, good or bad. Write it down and create a list of ways to improve.
Strategy 9: Keep the Conversation Going
Once your prospect answers the phone, you have five seconds to earn five minutes. Successful calls are twice as long as unsuccessful calls. This may seem like common sense, but the longer you can get your prospect to talk, the greater the likelihood of moving them through to the next stage of your process. The advantage you have is that you already know the objections you’re going to hear and you’ve practiced your rebuttals. With practice, you should be able to master the skill of keeping the conversation going, even if the conversation is not about finance. The more interaction, the better. A strong sign that a call is going well is the rate of back-and-forth between you and your prospect.
Calls that include collaborative language are generally more likely to result in a follow-up opportunity. Use words such as “we”, “us”, and “our” instead of words like “I” or “my”.
Strategy 10: The Close
You built rapport. You exuded confidence and sounded authentic throughout your call. You did everything like a champion and now it’s time to see if your efforts will pay off. Yes, it’s time to ask for the meeting.
By now, you should have connected on a personal level, answered all questions, and demonstrated value. What better way to prove how awesome you are than by having a formal meeting? This is where many advisors fall flat because they’re not confident enough to ask for the meeting.
See my tip below for an extraordinarily easy way to get the meeting. If you did your job properly, the meeting will be booked, you will thank them for their time, and you will tell them you look forward to speaking with them again.
Simply ask, “Do you have your calendar handy?” That’s it. Simple and effective.
Strategy 11: Learn to Leave Effective Voicemails
As you know by now, it’s rare when a prospect picks up the phone on the first call. On average, calls from an unknown number get forwarded to voicemail 90% of the time. So, it’s essential to master the art of leaving an effective voicemail message.
I realize that's easier said than done. Planswell's training on leaving messages that get returned is some of the most popular content in the partners-only AdvisorHQ. It's too comprehensive to rehash it all here, but I will stress a few points...
You should not attempt to sell in your voicemail messages. The goal is simply to pique their interest enough to call you back.
Learn and use Planswell's recommended voicemail scripting. It works.
Keep your voice messages short and sweet. Under twenty seconds is ideal.
Be upbeat, friendly, and energetic in your tone.
Include your prospect’s name and your name.
Strategy 12: Persistence and the Value Tree
Persistence is a core trait of any successful financial advisor. One technique I taught new advisors was how to define a “win”. Too many advisors push for the meeting and if they don’t get it, they chalk up the call as a loss. The key to keeping a positive attitude for your calls is setting up opportunities for multiple types of wins.
When asking for a meeting, there are two possible outcome: yes (a win) or no (a fail). If we use a hypothetical close ratio of 10% for booked meetings, 90% of your calls will be considered a fail. A 90% fail rate could make it challenging to stay positive and to keep smiling and dialing.
No meeting, no problem. “I empathize with your situation. We just met and you need more time to absorb what we discussed. I’m going to invite you to an upcoming webinar where you can see the type of value I provide to my clients." This time, the ration is 25% yes, 75% no.
No webinar, no problem. “It’s too bad you can’t make the webinar. I will keep you in mind for future webinars. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to join my email group. In addition to getting good information, you can simply reply any time you have questions." This is an easy commitment, so the ratio is 75% yes, 25% no.
If none of these get your prospect to act, you can always ask for permission to follow up in a few months. Let's say the ratio for this one is 90% yes, 10% no.
By providing the prospect with multiple ways to say yes, you can go from a 90% fail rate to a 90% win rate while moving more prospects through your sales process.
Gamify your dialing by keeping meticulous stats and trying to beat your "top score."
Your job as a financial advisor has never been more important. With so much fear due to society’s ills, you need to fully understand the gravity of the situation. There are so many people waiting for you. There are millions of people who need exactly what you’re offering. When you call, your presence needs to be commanding. When you show up with your knowledge and expertise, you are going to disrupt how they think. You have the power to replace their fears with hope. It’s up to you to be brave when you pick up the phone.