As a financial planner looking to grow your business, you must “sell” the idea of financial planning to clients. While ‘sales’ is often seen as a sub-activity for the financial planning profession, it’s one that should be taken very seriously.
A professional sales process, while keeping a client’s best interests at heart, can not only help you to acquire more clients but also build strong relationships with them. And in my view, a robust client acquisition strategy involves five main steps, as detailed below:
Step 1: Ask the right questions
The one thing you need to get to the bottom of when you meet with a potential new client is to understand what financial difficulties they’re facing. The reason you need to know this is because you’ll be more impactful with your financial planning advice is you speak to the client’s problems.
Here are some questions you can use to get your prospective client to open up to you:
What causes you frustration when thinking about your daily financial life?
How well do you and your partner/spouse talk about money?
How did you feel the last time you sought financial advice from a professional? Did you leave feeling confident that their interests were aligned with yours?
How do you make financial decisions?
And the most important one – what is your biggest financial challenge today?
Likewise, without a proper financial plan in place, what’s to keep the average investor from making poor decisions that could end up diverting them from wherever their there is?
You might learn that the client is facing debt problems, or they’re worried they’ll run out of money in retirement. They might have trouble saving or wish their spouse/partner would help with financial decision-making. Or simply that they don’t know whom to trust.
The initial answers they supply are likely to be manifestations of more significant, complex problems. However, those answers will give you an ‘in’ so you can continue the conversation and dig deeper to discover what motivates the client.
Step 2: Cultivate empathy
Before anyone allows you to invest their money, or help them plan for the future, you need to start building trust – and being empathetic will help.
So how should you cultivate empathy? The first step is to really listen to what the client is saying. Use body language that shows you’re listening (eye contact, lean in a little, and nod).
Be warm and open when you talk to the client. Repeat what they say in your own words to show that you hear them and understand. Don’t judge; validate the client’s emotions instead. By conveying empathy, you can strengthen the bond between you and your client.
Step 3: Show authority
For a prospective client to hire you to plan their financial life, you must help them to build confidence in you in advance of the solution you’ll be offering them. You can do that by showing authority, in the form of competence and experience.
Displaying competence proves to the client that you know what you’re doing and that you have the technical skills and knowledge needed to help the client live a better financial life.
This is the point in your meeting where you’ll say that you know how you can solve the client’s financial problems while reiterating the client’s true motivations for seeking financial advice.
Imagine that you’re explaining a problem you’re facing to someone in a one-to-one conversation. They are actively listening to you, and you feel that they genuinely care about your issue. That person then maintains eye contact and says, “I understand how this makes you feel. I know how to solve this. We can build a plan that will help us address this problem together so you can live a better life.”
How would you feel at that moment? The chances are that you’d feel relieved, instantly happier and hopeful that your problem can be solved. That’s precisely how you want your potential clients to feel after they have shared with you the financial challenges that they’re facing.
Step 4: Defuse the drama
Your intention should be to make the client feel empowered that whatever issue they’re experiencing, it can be resolved. Part of that involves defusing the drama around the problem. Do this by using words of affirmation and conviction that there is a solution to that problem.
When delivering your solution, you should do it in such a way that the client feels reassured that you are the person that can help diminish the drama around their problem. You could say something like, “We’re in a better position already. We’ve addressed the crux of the problem and that was an important first step that we’ve now taken to solve the issue. Now let’s build a plan that involves…”
Step 5: Close the deal
After delivering your proposal, you need to close the deal. That is, get the client to agree to the next step in the financial planning process. So that you don’t sound too pushy or ‘salesy’, your close needs to come across naturally. Although it seems contradictory, it actually pays to rehearse the close, so that it appears natural.
Your close will be specific to you, but you should aim to encourage the potential client to commit to a series of steps where you can together create a financial life plan that will deliver real value for the client.
Building a robust client acquisition strategy
During that first meeting, your goal should be to discover the obstacles that are stopping the potential client from realising their financial goals. You can do this by asking the right questions, cultivating empathy and showing authority through competence and by drawing on your experience.
When delivering your solution, aim to defuse the drama around the client’s problem, to make them feel empowered and to earn their trust in you being the right person to help them achieve their goals.
A crucial part of this process is closing the deal. The potential client may be ready and willing to work with you, but you must suggest this to get their commitment.
Finally, you should do all the above with genuine care for the potential client. Be the financial professional they respect and trust, and your business will flourish.
Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP® is a partner at Holland Hahn & Wills LLP, a financial planning practice based in Kingston upon Thames. He specialises in working with successful professionals age 50+ helping them reduce taxes, invest smarter and retire on their terms.
This article was originally published by the Journal of Financial Planning, as part of their NexGen magazine. You can keep up with all future updates by clicking here.
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