As a financial advisor, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of engaging with past prospects. Let’s face it, unless you have a well-defined niche market, everyone you interact with is a potential client. It’s tempting to look forward and focus on the latest opportunity, ignoring contacts from the past.
There's something inherently valuable about continuing a relationship with a past prospect. For starters, you will create a fruitful pipeline by being top of mind when the prospect is ready for your services.
For us, it’s more than the services we provide. It can often be about the clients’ timing in life and their readiness to accept us. Here is a fact that you may not want to hear: financial planning is VERY important but it’s RARELY urgent. Your prospects know they need to save for their retirement. But in their minds, they can start saving “next month”. They know they need life insurance to protect their families, but they’re healthy today and will get around to addressing it after the summer. They know they need to start an education plan for their kids, but their kids are young so they will delay it.
Important, but not urgent. Once you accept this fact, you will be able to better interact with your prospects, both old and new. You can't just keep emailing your former leads asking them if they're ready now. There's an art to reconnecting with people or better yet, staying connected while not coming across as pushy or salesy. Your goal should be to keep yourself top of mind so that when they’re ready, you are the first person who comes to mind.
Why leads stall in the first place
If you made an initial connection with a prospect but never made it to the fact-finding meeting, consider whether you came across as empathetic to your prospect’s needs. Did you share a valuable insight that proved your value? Did you show them your problem-solving capabilities? Did you share a success story where you helped a similar client?
When communicating with your prospects, make sure they have an opportunity to express their needs before explaining how you can solve their problem. Acknowledge the frustrations they have with their current situation.
If you completed a fact-finding session but nothing transpired further, consider whether you clearly established their needs or “hot buttons”, not the needs you decided were important. Sometimes, as financial advisors, we must provide clients with what they want before we can provide them with what they need.
If you gave a presentation but the prospect didn’t become a client, consider whether your presentation was focused on your products or on their needs. Were all of the decision makers present? Did you confuse your prospect with too much information? Analysis paralysis is a real thing. Was your presence commanding and confident?
Here are my 10 tips for re-engaging old prospects:
1. Follow on social media
Your prospects will often post updates or changes to their lives on their social media accounts. If they just gave birth to a child, this is a life-changing moment where they could be ready to discuss an education plan or a life insurance policy. If they just got a promotion at work, they could be ready to discuss changes to their retirement plan. Milestones are often when people begin to think about their futures, including significant birthdays such as turning 40, 50 or 60. When these occur, you will want to be top of mind.
CAUTION: There is an art to being genuine while interacting with your prospects. It’s easy to come across as creepy if you are being too pushy. Example: You find out your prospects just had a baby because they posted pictures of their bundle of joy on Instagram. You could respond with:
Fail: “I just saw that you had a baby. Did you know that most people fail to properly fund their kid’s college fund? I’m going to call you this afternoon to book a meeting for us to meet”.
Pass: “Congratulations on the new addition to your family. You must be so excited to welcome little Jessica into your lives.”
You could leave it right there, or if you want to add value, you could send them a book on parenting or even an article you find online. They already know what you do. They are overwhelmed right now, but your opportunity is to follow up in a couple of weeks to see how they are doing. You want to be top of mind so when they’re ready to have that discussion, you will be the first person they call.
2. Let them know you're thinking of them
Keep detailed notes on each prospect. Both for their planning needs as well as what they enjoy doing in their spare time. Read through your old conversations for insight, and add personal touches to your communication such as, "I thought of you because" to make the email stand out. From there, they are more likely to re-engage.
For example, if you know that they love the [insert sports team here], ask them how they feel about the upcoming season. Even if you know nothing about their sports team, a quick internet search will provide you with enough details to come across as somewhat knowledgeable. Or, if they love to read, you can ask them about a book that was recently published or on the best sellers list. This strategy is great because most people have multiple interests. If you ask the right questions and keep good notes, there should be no shortage of topics to discuss and keep you top of mind.
I used to send two personal or “fun” emails for every financial services email. There is no perfect mix as everyone is different, but I found that a 2-to-1 ratio worked for me.
3. Send cards, but not the traditional kind
I discovered a few years into my practice that sending holiday cards was a waste of my time and money. People get seasonal cards from anyone and everyone during the holidays, so standing out is going to be impossible. I can honestly say that of the thousands of holiday cards I sent over the years, not once did a client or prospect acknowledge receiving the card.
The key is to stand out in the eyes of your prospect. Birthday cards, or better yet—birthday cards for their kids, will get their attention. Wedding anniversaries, or even a specialty card you print on your own, will get more attention. Imagine a prospect who loves coffee (who doesn’t?) getting a greeting card from you stating, “I know you only drink coffee on days that end in “Y”, so please enjoy your next one on me” along with a $5 gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Do you think you might get a call or text acknowledging your efforts? For me it was about a 75% response rate.
4. Provide ongoing value
An easy way to stay in touch and still provide value is to send them relevant information or articles they may find valuable or interesting. An eBook, checklist, guide, or an invitation to a free webinar are all examples of value that you can add which cost you nothing. Add them to your newsletter. Update them on the latest federal and provincial/state budgets. Inform them of government grants relevant to them.
5. Ask for a referral
This may seem like an odd request. But people connect with other people. Old prospects can be the best referral sources if relationships are genuine. A prospect who understood your value may not have been in a position to execute on your recommendations. Maybe the timing simply wasn’t right. However, they may know others with similar problems and might introduce you if asked appropriately. Staying in touch and delivering value puts you in the right place at the right time.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Communicate with them as people, not as prospects. While it seems like common sense, caring about people is the basis for all authentic relationships. If the relationship is genuine, it will be less about reconnecting as it is about catching up with friends. Send content they care about such as a charity or a cause they are passionate about. Discuss what’s changed with them. Change is a constant in life and people love to talk about themselves. For more ideas, check out our blog 25 No-Cost Ways to Show Clients You Care.
7. Host a webinar or event and invite your old leads
You’ve already done the work to put on a webinar for clients. Whether you deliver your presentation to 10 or 100 people, your level of effort will be the same. Don’t get caught up creating original content. You likely have access to more content than you could ever deliver in your lifetime from your company. The internet is a great source for content also.
If you’re suffering from “fear of personal speaking”, there is a good solution. Invite them to someone else’s webinar (not a competitor) and join them. You can plan to connect immediately after the presentation to answer their questions. You’ll get the advantage of a webinar without having to go through the effort of creating and delivering the webinar.
8. Use the Planswell referral link
Each Planswell partner has access to a unique referral link where they can invite their prospects to create their very own financial plan in 3 minutes. This is a tremendous opportunity and a no-brainer in my book. If you have 100 stale leads, what better way to reconnect with them than by offering a financial plan for free? It’s valuable to them and easy for you.
The beauty of this strategy is that once the prospects complete their plans, the Planswell partner is notified immediately. You now have the perfect reason to have a dialogue about their finances. Their financial situation will be fresh on their minds and they will no doubt have questions.
Even when assuming a meager 20% response rate, Planswell partners would reignite 20 qualified leads for every 100 old prospects. This strategy alone could be a game-changer for so many financial professionals.
9. Mix up the way you communicate
Some people prefer text over email and some still prefer a good, old-fashioned phone call. You will never know what anyone’s preferred mode of communication is until you ask. So, in the meantime, if you’ve already sent 3 identical emails to your prospect with no response, it’s unlikely a fourth email will warrant a different response. Try using a subject line starting with “How to” or a “list of 3 things” or that is “time sensitive”. Of course, the content of your email should reflect the subject line.
Better yet, pick up the phone and give them a call. Prepare to leave a message beforehand. I’ve seen so many advisors get caught flat-footed when the voicemail kicks in and they’re not sure what to say. They stumble through an awkward voice message only to hang up the phone wishing they left no message at all.
Your message should convey that you’re busy too but you have value to add. Your message should be short, concise and suggest an action to be taken. “I look forward to hearing back from you”. “Please respond to the email I sent you.”
10. Send coffee or wine to their home
I currently have a couple of advisors testing out this strategy. I’m anxiously awaiting the results because I suspect this is a winner. With the pandemic still weighing on people’s minds, it may not be an option to meet in person. Why not bring the drinks to your prospect’s home and have the meeting through video chat?
Imagine your prospect opening a package delivered to their home and discovering a bottle of their favorite wine along with an invitation to connect with you through video. The idea is for them to be drinking the wine in the comfort of their home while you are sharing a drink with them from your home. With so many delivery services today, you can do the same with coffee, food, or pretty much anything. Talk about standing out from the crowd. If someone sent me a bottle of Prisoner Cabernet Sauvignon, I would without a doubt listen to what they had to say.
An Important Reminder
I will leave you with an important reminder: your role as a financial professional is vitally important. It’s easy to lose sight of this as we go about our jobs every day, but please understand that becoming successful is your obligation and your duty. People are depending on you to take them out of the reality of where they are today so they can make an imaginative leap into the future to see what their life could be like working with you. There are people who will leave your presence feeling better about themselves and their future.
Stop keeping yourself a secret and go out there and tell the world how you can make a definitive difference in their lives. When you provide world-class service, when you create a customer service experience so good it can’t be ignored, people will gravitate to you. You will create a reputation and you will be like a magnet, attracting your ideal clients. Put in the work because the results are so worth the effort.