The Practice Doctor is IN
by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant
In a recent seminar with advisors around the country, I was asked to address the tried-and-true prospecting method of holding a client event and asking clients to "bring a friend." There were some success stories discussed, but the majority of advisors in attendance reported having trouble getting their clients to bring someone to the event.
What follows are some of the questions that were asked and what I had to say in response.
How can advisors create events that will result in clients bringing friends and prospects along?
Too often advisors will get client appreciation events and prospecting confused. Events are either to show appreciation (no sales involved) or to be introduced to prospects, not a hybrid of the two. Appreciation events are just that: "I value you as a person and as a client. Let's enjoy this time together." Prospecting events are: "I value you as a person and a client, and I'd like to meet people you feel would also respond well to me and my services. Let's enjoy this time together and get to know your friends." The advisor should also craft appreciation-only events to appeal to a client and his or her friends. Here are some examples from my files:
- Tom in Wisconsin is a hunter and invites clients and friends to his annual deer hunt camp.
- Mackenzie in Oregon has veterinarian clients who she invites to expert study groups she attends with friends who also happen to be vets.
- Steve in Virginia takes clients and friends to sporting events at the University of Richmond.
- A firm in New Jersey has a box for Devils hockey games that advisors and clients can rotate using.
So the secret is to be sure both clients and friends will find the event enjoyable and/or rewarding in some way, professionally or personally.
Why don't more clients bring guests?
Ed, an advisor in Virginia, has had little luck in getting clients to bring guests to events. He thinks that he put too much pressure on the client to identify quality people. "One of the people my client wanted to bring told him, 'No, I'm happy with my guy; so don't waste your time.' My client felt pressure to find another person to bring and ultimately backed out completely."
A client may be afraid an advisor will "pitch" the person he brings along too aggressively. This fear can only be diminished by already having a good relationship in place; a client needs to be fully aware that the advisor builds her practice by introductions and word-of-mouth—not by applying hard sales tactics. As appropriate, an advisor should suggest specific people to be asked to the event, in order to avoid leaving it open-ended and allowing the client to decide who to bring.
How should advisors measure an event's success? For example, one measure might be: 10 percent of clients brought guests and 5 percent of those guests requested more information.
This a tough one, since seeds planted today might not take root for years. There are many stories of prospects who have been cultivated over time, reaching out to the advisor when a life event occurs and spurs them into action. A good introduction from an event should be placed into a CRM and contacted regularly. Bob in California has this often happen with his seminar process. My gauge of success is to track how many qualified prospects came from an event and are placed in the CRM. Tracking those over time should result in 50 percent becoming clients within two years.
What makes a successful event?
Good post-event word of mouth within an advisor's target market and top tier clients. Posting photos of the event can be good follow-up.
Have any other good advice on "bring a guest" events? Send them along!
The Doctor is OUT
© 2015 Al Depman
Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is MitchAnthony.com's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool, the key component of The Business Practice Check-Up™, has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and is the author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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