With the first quarter of 2012 nearly over, ask yourself: Have you taken the time to set your sales goals for the year? Only by setting goals and planning your success can you build the road to helping your practice explode.
But how? I know many advisors who search long and hard for the answer. Many attend sales training seminars, read books on closing clients, or even play CDs, (or should I say podcasts) on sales strategies while commuting to the office. I will admit that I even have listened to old Amway recordings (do you remember cassette tapes?) on the way to work for motivation, but I am digressing…
I’ve found that the best way to reach success in my business is to learn from other advisors. Here are a few strategies I’ve implemented in my practice that may help your practice grow this year. The tips involve mining for gold, silver or whatever drives you, so put on your work pants, get out your tools and let’s get mining.
Mine "old prospects"
What is an old prospect? Not someone you unsuccessfully tried to close three or more times with your best sales skills, using the best tips gleaned from the best of your tapes. Those leads are dead, so move on.
An old prospect is a person who you mentioned an idea to, perhaps presented an insurance policy quote to, and for some reason that is unclear, they did not move forward. They perhaps did not see the importance of the transaction at the time but did not outright say no. They had other priorities at the time of the discussion. The first quarter is a great time to re-introduce yourself to those prospects. It’s been our experience that during this critical first quarter, prospects want to turn over a new leaf and put their life in order. This often includes preparing for the unforeseen through insurance or making a change to their financial plan. By reaching out to them now, you can help them with this new beginning.
Here’s a possible beginning to the conversation: "Good evening, Mrs. Smith. I am calling because we met several months ago to discuss a few matters of importance to you, and due to your circumstances at the time, you asked me to give you a call in the New Year." At this point, you can ask them how they are doing and re-visit the problems that they needed help in solving. It could be a little embarrassing if Mrs. Smith responds, "I thought you forgot about me!" So, if you think this could be the case, write a personal letter and ask for an appointment to reconnect on the topic.
Mine your book
This can be done in two ways: first, mining the families of clients; and second, mining your client’s professional staff such as a tax advisor and attorney.
When mining the families of clients, it is in our experience that this approach works best when you already have the husband and wife as clients. But what about their children or uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters and cousins? OK, you can leave second cousins out for now. Send a letter to your clients telling them that you are currently in a growth phase and open to new clients (I hope they know that already!), and ask them if they know of any family members who can use your help. If you are asking them in person, be sure to mention uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters and cousins, one at a time, and pause to see their response. If you get a reaction, get a piece of paper and get the details. Ask your client if he or she can call the family members in advance of your call to introduce you, and let them know that you will be giving them a call to follow up. You won’t know until you ask.
When mining the professional staff of clients, send a letter to clients asking them to update you on anyone else who may be giving them advice, such as an accountant or lawyer. If you don’t get a response, have someone from your office follow up with a call to the client to request the professional’s information in order to update your records. Then draft a letter of introduction to the professional and follow up with a call. You can discuss your common client and learn more about what they specialize in. If the chemistry is good between you and the professional, let them know that you believe they are a fit for client referrals from you, and let them know that you would be open to taking referrals as well.
"It’s been our experience that during this critical first quarter, prospects want to turn over a new leaf and put their life in order."
Mine your community
What are you doing to mine your community? Clients-to-be are interested in working with local people that they know and trust to assist them with their savings, insurance and investments. Prospects, especially seniors, like to know they can visit your local office to address their questions, that a person is available to take their call (not an answering service), and that you truly care about them.
This process starts with getting in front of them. Pull out the Yellow Pages or find the Community Directory and highlight the organizations in your area that you think you would like to form a relationship with and eventually present to. Groups to consider include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks, the International Order of Foresters, the Chamber of Commerce, the public library, or even the county’s Office of the Aging. The options are plentiful.
Once you’ve picked your ideal membership groups, put together a 10-minute presentation on a timely topic like "Protecting Your Hard-earned Assets in Volatile Times." Then approach various local organizations and civic association leaders to let them know that you can speak eloquently about this topic at a moment’s notice, and would be glad to do so at their weekly/monthly meetings. If you get a "no," call them again at a later date—organizations always have turnover.
Mining your community works best when you have a public relations strategy. Are you in the local paper? Have you written an article or book? Get the word out about yourself and your reputation for all to see. If you don’t have one in place, find someone who specializes in public relations to help you. Using PR is a great way to help give yourself credibility and put your name in front of your community.
These are three quick initiatives to get you in front of more people than you ever imagined in the coming year. With the presentation and sales skills that you have already developed, getting in front of people is the best way to help your business burst at the seams in 2012.
Craig J. Ferrantino is founder and principal of Craig James Financial Services, LLC, in Melville, N.Y.