by Tony Vidler
If you polled 100 advisers with this simple question I would wager that more than half would answer:
“getting enough new business prospects to meet my business objectives”.
Prospecting has always been one of the toughest challenges, and there is an aspect of prospecting which remains challenging today. It isn’t the parts about finding prospects or even qualifyting them though. It is engaging with them while they decide they are ready.
In times past an adviser would spend a couple of days a week ringing random strangers to sell them on the idea of meetng and having chat. Or perhaps spend even more time wandering the streets interrupting business owners and their staff while they were trying to work….it was hard graft right? In a good week we’d talk to well over 50 strangers and secure the opportunity to sit down and talk meaningfully with half a dozen perhaps. If we were good, and lucky.
Finding likely future clients today is dead easy. Spend an hour trawling LinkedIn and you’ll find a dozen ideal prospects. Run a campaign on Facebook and you’ll get your name and offer in front of 5,000 at a time…and if it is a good enough offer you’ll be overwhelmed if just 1% respond to it. Build your own digital platform and build an audience that engages with it voluntarily though and your prospecting problems are solved forever. Today you can easily talk to literally thousands per week, who engage with you because THEY want to. You can do so in a way that doesn’t pressure people…you can add value to their lives while doing so, and build credibility and trust.
Digital marketing has changed the dynamics of the the professional services business. Marketing skills are now far more important than personal sales skills when it comes to creating a volume of qualified prospects. Personal sales skills and the soft skills of managing human behaviour are incredibly important as the most important thing an adviser can do for a client when they eventually engage is to persuade them to take the right course of action.
Having the ability to market yourself and your business is far more important than personal sales skills however when it comes to creating opportunities for your business. The key drivers for this change are:
1. Consumers can access technical, or product, information in abundance from their phones. And they do.
2. Consumers are empowered by this information that is freely available to them, and also by the levels of privacy and disclosure requirements placed upon professionals (which are generally reasonable I would stress). So they are qualifying the adviser more than the adviser is qualifying them now.
3. Even if consumers are not actively looking for advice or particularly aware of the need for advice, they are constantly bombarded with offers of it. Consumers are literally exposed to thousands of marketing messages daily, and a jolly good proportion of those messages are from a bank, insurance company, wealth manager, adviser….there are a lot of folk clamouring for attention….it is sensory overload.
4. Consumers now expect technical competency, convenience, and reputational integrity to be evidenced and established before considering engaging an adviser. An advisers credentials by themself are not enough to get the the gig most of the time now.
5. The engagement process, or sales cycle if you prefer, is slowing down dramatically. It takes longer to get a good client onboard than ever before. More choice and more information requires more processing time and consideration, and that lengthens the engagement process.
Despite all this human beings are essentially the same. A fundamental truth that sits at the heart of why consumers choose a particular adviser is that they tend to take advice from people they feel they know and trust. Achieving that takes time and communication….there is no substitute for that. Ensuring that you do so over the timeframe that the consumer wants is easy if you do it digitally.
You can have your own digital platform broadcasting internationally if you wish, to whatever market segment you want to work with.
Your website and perhaps a blog will sit at the heart of it. Email remains the greatest tool for moving digital engagement from passive to active…Social media is the means for creating the audience of engaged prospects. Use it to provide useful information that establishes credibility and technical competency. It is a method of demonstrating your reputational integrity at the same time…what you say; the style and manner in which you say it; your levels of discretion and sound judgment; how you are perceived or listened to by others in the same target market….these are all things that can be positively and firmly established in the minds of thousands of prospects for your business – without you having to make a single phone call.
To use these mass networking techniques well though requires a marketers mindset which is substantially different to a salespersons mindset. The difference in “market approach” is as stark as comparing a crop farmer with a big game hunter; the two look at the environment very differently and have very different perceptions of patience and reward. One seeks to expand yield from the use of the land over time while the other hunts and extracts resources from the environment to the point of scarcity.
Advisers who can master some marketing skills and apply them will find that prospecting ceases to be a challenge. Advisers who rely entirely upon sales skills will find themselves facing increasingly wary prospects with even greater privacy barriers and lengthier engagement timeframes.
Invest in digital and build an audience that chooses to engage with you. Prospecting will never be easier….