Mapping Out the Client Acquisition Timeline
New clients are the lifeblood of a financial advisory practice, without which it could go into cardiac arrest. For newer financial advisors, acquiring new clients can’t happen fast enough. However, if obtaining clients was easy, anyone could be a successful financial advisor. Starting out, it’s an uphill battle that only the most determined can eventually win.
It also helps to have a systematic process for capturing leads, nurturing them through the sales funnel, and converting them into prospects, out of which a certain percentage become clients. That’s all laid out on a timeline that can vary significantly depending on the type of lead, where it came from, and how effective your process is for cultivating the lead. It could take anywhere from one month to a year for a lead to complete the journey through the funnel to becoming a new client.
Prepare for a three-stage journey
Think of that journey in three stages: The top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom. Your objective is to move everyone inside your funnel through the three stages as efficiently as possible, building a deeper relationship along the way. Done right, a certain percentage who started at the top of the funnel will come out at the bottom as a client.
#1. Top of the funnel
Unless a person comes to you immediately as a prospect—such as a referral or someone with whom you have a relationship—everyone is a lead. They might be a seminar attendee, a respondent to a direct mail piece, someone who connected with you on LinkedIn, someone who liked one of your social media posts, someone who downloaded a free report from your website, or a person you met at an event. You might know enough about them to know they have some level of interest, but they don’t know enough about you.
Your only objective at this stage is to continue to feed the top of the funnel. This should be a relentless, ongoing activity.
#2. Middle of the funnel
The middle stage is where you continue to nurture your leads to convert them into prospects. They become prospects when you know more about their interests or concerns, and they’ve expressed interest in learning more about you and your services.
That happens when you encourage all your leads to opt into your email newsletter, which is their opportunity to learn more about you and vice versa. You send them engaging content with calls to action to learn more about your services. Your email marketing program tracks who’s opening your emails and whether they’re clicking through to your website, blog, or social media. It will track which content interests them and their level of engagement with your content.
Important tip: Make sure your website is of high quality with plenty of information about you, your services, and your process. Also, make sure your blog is refreshed frequently with new and compelling content.
The middle stage is where your leads are likely to respond to various prospecting offers, such as attending an educational webinar or downloading a free report from your website. These activities require the lead to register, providing more contact information with the opportunity to engage more directly with them. How you interact with them at this point can keep the engagement moving forward or stop it in its tracks. Until they’ve expressed interest in speaking with you, keep your interactions to emails.
This is a continuous process that can last for weeks or months depending on how quickly and deeply they become engaged.
#3. Bottom of the funnel
Having narrowed down your leads’ interests and tracking their engagement, you can more accurately determine when someone is ready to be contacted. Sometimes they will reach out to you, but, more often, you will need to make the first move.
It’s important to remember that, even at this stage, people don’t want to hear from a salesperson. They might, however, be open to learning more about how your process and expertise can help bring clarity and resolution to their needs. This requires you to do more listening than talking. It might initially take place over the phone or a video call. But the goal is to get them in for a face-to-face meeting.
You can expect this part of the engagement to take place over two to three meetings, during which you use your relationship and communication skills to build rapport and trust as you learn more about your prospect’s interests and needs. Once they trust you and understand the value you bring, they will.
You can expect that at least one in three prospects who meet with you in this stage will come out of the bottom of the funnel as a client. The others may need more time or perhaps are not a good fit.
Mapping out the client acquisition timeline
Working the process backward, you can see that it could take two or three quality prospects to generate a new client, and it could take as many as ten to fifteen leads to develop a solid prospect. If you maintain your focus on adding a sufficient number of new leads to the top of your funnel, over time, you can shorten the timeline for acquiring new clients.
Generally, the journey through the sales funnel can be expected to last several weeks at a minimum to several months. But remember, you’ll also bring people into your funnel as prospects, such as a referral or someone with whom you’ve already developed a good relationship, which will shorten the timeline significantly.