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The Holy Grail Of Lead Generation: Converting A Prospect To A Client

By Bob Wilgus

Throughout my entire 22-year career in financial services, the single most persistent challenge advisors face is conversion, the concept of consistently getting new prospects to agree to that first real appointment. Here are two effective conversion techniques that I have seen work for advisors who are committed to investing in their marketing and lead generation to build their book of business.

Technique #1: Converting a seminar attendee to a first appointment

Seminars, if marketed correctly, are the best way to put you in front of new prospects consistently. But for this technique to work, I must make the following critical assumptions:

  • You’re holding your seminar at a local restaurant
  • The room is not set up classroom style
  • You or a staff member has personally welcomed each attendee to the seminar
  • Your presentation is not about a specific product
  • You know your presentation cold
  • Your presentation does not exceed 45 minutes!

OK, you’re coming to the end of your presentation and your attendees are waiting for a “high-pressure” pitch for appointments. Trust me, they know it’s coming, so it’s critical to address the issue and relieve their growing anxiety. Here’s a great way to bring up the topic of meeting with you: Add a PowerPoint slide with the following bullets to your presentation:

Let’s Get Together

  • What will happen at our meeting?
  • How long will we be meeting?
  • Should I bring anything?
  • Is this a sales presentation?
  • Where will we meet?
  • Then what?

While this slide is up on the screen, it is important to acknowledge that your attendees may be anxious about meeting you for an initial appointment, that their anxiety is normal and that there really will be no pressure to buy anything at your first get-together. Answer each question based on your “first appointment process” – but be sure to keep your answers simple and honest. Remember that a first appointment should be an hour or less and your prospects should not bring any financial documents or their checkbook to the meeting.

Then, click to the next slide, which contains the following:

Three Things That Can Happen After Our Meeting

  1. We mutually agree to start working together to create a strategy that meets your needs, dreams and desires.
  2. We agree to work together but your schedule doesn’t allow time to start the planning process right now, so we set a date and time to meet in the near future.
  3. It’s clear that we aren’t a match, so we start throwing things and make a mad dash for the nearest exit!

By showing these slides, you diffuse anxiety and make it easier for your seminar attendees to say yes!

Now that you’ve covered your “first appointment” process, tell your attendees how they can set their appointment during the dinner break or before they leave. Each advisor has a different technique, but most top producers include a simple appointment form (included in the registration packet given to the attendees when they arrived). You, or your staff, can go from table to table to pick up the forms and discuss appointment-scheduling options.

Fall-back appointment

Even if you’ve done everything right, some prospects still won’t be ready to meet at your office. This is the perfect time to offer a telephone consultation. Simply acknowledge that you understand their decision and then say, “Many of my current clients weren’t able to meet with me right away, but they were able to schedule a phone consultation. When is a good time to reach you by phone?”

Some final thoughts on seminar appointment setting

There are three primary goals you must achieve during your seminar that will increase your conversion percentage: know, like and trust. At the end of your 45-minute presentation, all of your attendees will know you, most should like you and many will trust you. If you’re not converting more than 50 percent of the buying units at your seminars, one of these three goals is not being met and you need to review and revise your seminar content, your presentation and your speaking skills. Always remember: The number of appointments you set is the true measure of how well you generate the know, like and trust factors in the minds of your clients.

So what do you do with the attendees who don’t sign up for an appointment?  Simple.  Follow up with them consistently.  Many of these prospects need some time and reassurance that you are not just trying to sell them something before they make that decision to meet with you privately.  If you don’t follow up with them, you will never meet with them.


Technique #2: Converting “First Meeting” Prospects

(This technique also works well with prospects generated from your website, social media, radio, TV or online video marketing.)

So, you’re in your office or at a local restaurant waiting to have your first meeting with a potential client. This meeting may be the result of a referral or a relationship created through your social media or digital marketing channels. You’re wondering what you can do or say to motivate the prospect to agree to a full consultation at your office. This scenario is being replayed hundreds of times every day in every state; it’s what I’ve come to call the “First Blind Date.”

In many ways, meeting a potential client for the first time is very similar to the dynamics at play during your first foray into the dating world.

“First Blind Date” Goals

  1. Build rapport. From handshake to handshake, the first and most important goal is to build rapport with your prospect. Deborah Tannen, New York Times best-selling author and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, defined rapport as a way of establishing connections, and sharing similarities and matching experiences. Rapport is more about the personal and social and less about your industry designations. Discovering a prospect’s hobbies, favorite teams, their children’s schools and even their feelings about some local news story will serve you well in developing rapport. Properly in place, rapport will make the next few goals easier to achieve. Improperly done, it makes for a very short and unproductive meeting, resulting in a lost prospect.
  2. Listen more and talk less. When prospects reach out to you, they are sending a clear signal to you regarding a need or concern about their financial or retirement plans. Give prospects the opportunity to voice those concerns. After your initial rapport-building, transition the conversation by saying something like, “First, I want to thank you for agreeing to meet. I noticed you found me by [insert how they responded here]. What concerns do you have regarding your financial and retirement plans that motivated you to reach out to me?” Then be quiet and listen! In fact, during this entire meeting, you should do 90 percent of the listening and 10 percent of the talking! Make mental notes (don’t write them down) and maintain eye contact.  When your prospect has finished his thought, say something like, “Most of my clients have shared very similar concerns in my initial meetings” and continue to explore his concerns by asking open-ended questions.
  3. Present your UVP (Unique Value Proposition). After your prospect has shared his or her thoughts, questions and concerns, you then can differentiate yourself from other financial advisors. This is not the time to bash your prospect’s current advisor; instead, it’s your opportunity to present yourself as a sharper, more professional advisor and to share what you do best. For example, say, “My core philosophy, when it comes to retirement income planning, isn’t to make my clients more money, but rather to help insure they don’t lose the money they’ve saved.” Depending on the prospect’s primary reason to meet, you need to have a UVP for every aspect of your practice (i.e.: investing, life insurance, retirement planning, estate planning, health insurance, Social Security, etc.).
  4. Set the next appointment. After your prospect has shared his or her issues, questions and concerns and you’ve presented your UVP, segue to the next meeting. Tell your prospect what to expect at “our next meeting,” describe some possible outcomes and then close with, “What days and times work best for you to get together?”

Final thoughts on converting prospects to appointments

The maxim that “people buy from people” remains a universal truth. You are not a commodity, so don’t present yourself as one. Be real. Be honest. Be passionate.

Whether you’re meeting with a prospect at your dinner seminar or for a first-time lunch meeting, at the end of your time together, if you’ve instilled in your prospects the “know, like and trust” factor, you’ll convert more prospects to clients.

Bob Wilgus is director/marketing communications with RME360. He works with insurance companies, broker/dealers and financial advisors to help maximize their prospecting and lead generation efforts. Bob may be contacted at



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