Before embarking on a road trip, you need to know a few important facts – not only your point of origin and your desired destination but also a detailed map of the route you want to take. Your prospects go on a similar journey on their way to finding financial services. Their point of origin is the realization that they need sound financial advice from a professional. Their destination is opening an account at your office and transferring their assets to you.
Just like a road trip is made easier when the route is laid out with precise turn-by-turn directions, your financial practice will benefit from a road map (also called a "sales funnel") that outlines the exact activities you do to help prospects turn into clients. It doesn't matter if this is your first year of business as a financial advisor or if you're on the home stretch and looking to finish well, you'll gain some surprising insight into your business when you go through this sales funnel exercise and the questions that follow.
3 Steps to create your sales funnel
On a blank sheet of paper, create the following 3 lists, which correspond to the 3 stages of your sales funnel:
Stage 1: Contact-generating activities: Start at the top of the page and list the activities you do to meet people – your contact-generating (or lead-generating) activities. The goal of this stage is to capture some information about a lead (such as their name and contact information) so you can follow up later. This might include networking and marketing activities in which you gather names and contact information. It might entail any print or broadcast advertising that you or your firm does, public seminars you offer, a landing page on your website that invites people to know more about you, your cold calling, and any networking activities where you are meeting new people and handing out your business card. A lot of online marketing falls into this category as well.
Stage 2: Relationship-building activities: Then, in the middle of your page, list the activities you do to build relationships with your leads, to learn more about them and to qualify them as prospects. Here, you are connecting with people whose contact information you collected from your contact-generating activities, or from referrals, and you are now building a relationship and rapport with them. This might include follow-up phone calls and letters, newsletters, invitation-only seminars, and so on. Some marketing, like certain social media marketing, can be used for relationship-building activities. Some professionals use credibility-enhancing activities like educational materials, brochures, a book, or a series of videos to help them build a relationship with their contacts, and other professionals who prefer face-to-face relationship-building activities might meet these prospects for coffee or participate at networking events such as a Chamber of Commerce event.
Stage 3: Closing/selling activities: And near the bottom of your page, list the activities you do to actively persuade these prospects to become clients. This might include consultative meetings or some other sales presentation. For example, you might offer to review your prospect's portfolio and give them a second opinion, or you might uncover a specific problem that they need solved and offer to put together a plan to help them, or you might offer to help them with some of their assets so that you prove yourself to handle more of their portfolio.
This exercise should help you understand how your client-generating activities all work together: Once you have a new lead, what do you do to turn them into a prospect? And once they're a prospect, what do you do to get them to open an account with you?
Note: These aren't always clear-cut activities. The speed that someone moves through your sales funnel is partly determined by the urgency that they feel about how you can help them! Some leads turn to prospects quickly and can even become clients at the end of a relationship-building meeting. But not all prospective clients feel that sense of urgency so professionals should think about building a sequence of relationship-building activities.
Analyze your sales funnel
This is the roadmap that all of your prospective clients use on their journey toward becoming your clients as they move from lead to prospect to client. Look at the sales funnel you've just created and answer these questions:
- Reason to advance: Why should your prospective clients even go on the journey to end up at your office? Some professionals try to rush the process, attempting to jump people from the first stage of their sales funnel to the last stage (without any relationship-building in between). So, what would the impact be if you adjusted your message – instead of convincing leads to become clients, how might you invite them to move from the first stage into the second stage, where you build a relationship with them, and then how might you move those people from the second stage to the third stage where they become clients?
- Clarity and purpose: Do you have a clear and purposeful sales funnel? Once a prospect has started the journey, what can they expect next? Are you proactive in immediately moving them to that next stage or are you waiting for them to take action first? When you meet someone for the first time, what is your process for capturing information about them and following-up? How can you make this process faster for them and easier for you?
- Time and energy investment: Are there too many activities (or too many time-consuming activities) in one stage, and are these activities stealing your time and energy away from better activities? Are there too few activities in another stage, and do you need to bolster this part of your sales funnel with additional effort?
- The very best activities: Do your sales funnel activities resonate with your niche market? (For example: Will you really build credibility on social media with your niche market if they aren't active users of social media?) Which activities were the most influential in bringing your favorite clients into your office? And, which activities were most influential in bringing your least favorite clients into your office? How can you increase the activities that tend to generate the best clients?
- Tracking: How do you keep track of who is in each of the three stages of your sales funnel? How do you ensure that no prospective client falls through the cracks? (Another advantage of paying attention to the number of people in each stage: You can forecast your new client sign-ups more accurately). What are the ratios as people move from one stage to the next, and how can you improve your skills to improve those ratios?
- Plug the holes: Not everyone will become clients. Some leads will exit before you can build a relationship with them; some prospects that you're building a relationship with will simply say "no" to your offer of becoming their financial advisor. So, do you know which stage is losing the most of your prospective clients and do you know why? Do you have a way to connect with them periodically just in case something changes for them?
- Skill up: If you want to grow the number of clients you have, but you don't know exactly where to focus, look at the answers to some of the questions above and decide which sales funnel activities are the most effective at bringing in the best clients (while also being effective uses of your time). And, look at the places in your sales funnel where you tend to lose people. Then invest some time in developing your skills in those areas.
Schedule time regularly to review your sales funnel and explore other ways to find new leads, build relationships with them, and invite them to become clients. By now, you should have a clear roadmap for your practice – one that will empower you to lead more of your prospective clients on a journey that culminates with them sitting in your office and opening an account with you.
Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC.