Is that Prospect really a Prospective Client YET?

Oddly, many financial advisers do not quite get what a prospect is.

They often think of it is a name with a phone number.  But is that enough for a prospect to really be a “prospective client”?   Knowing their name and how to contact them?

Somewhere on the path to professionalism some of the most basic business-building skills – which includes sales & marketing nouse – seems to have been bypassed for many.  And they wonder why prospecting is so difficult…perhaps because they are not actually prospecting at all. They are merely collecting strangers names and hoping that those strangers qualify themselves as clients.

And “qualifying” is the critical bit that turns a suspect into an actual prospect.

I am not saying that neweer or younger advisers are stupid here – quite the opposite.  They just haven’t been taught this.

Many of the newer advisers coming into the business are very bright – perhaps more so than some of us older folk have ever been.  They are technically far more adept early in their careers than people like myself ever were.  As far as the basics are concerned for being able to learn quickly and to perform their jobs well, they are generally very capable indeed.

But so many do not know how to prospect.  Or what prospecting actually is.  Somebody needs to be teaching them how to do this if they want to to build a business and prosper in the profession.

If one runs a business, presumably with the objective of generating a profit, then inevitably someone somewhere has to be selling something.  Let’s just accept that as a reality and not get side-tracked by the whole “is selling professional?” nonsense.

The words “prospect” or “prospecting” actually tend to refer to quite a few different parts of the client acquisition process, and this in part leads to the lack of understanding in how to do it well. So we need to break it down in order to understand where people might be having a “prospecting problem”.

It may be that “prospecting” refers to:

  • generating leads, or opportunites
  • qualifying those leads
  • sorting and prioritizing the leads
  • managing leads information
  • arranging, and actually meeting, leads for the first time.

There is quite a bit more to prospecting than getting a name and phone number then.

The primary elelement that many do not understand is this:  

Nobody is a prospect until you have qualified them.  Until then, they are merely a Suspect.

Your marketing efforts create opportunities, or suspected potential clients.  At the initial data point they are no more than a suspect who may with further investigation, qualification and communication become a prospect.  It is the qualification process that helps you determine whether they are indeed somebody suitable for your business, and whether your area of expertise can address their primary needs, and that you are dealing with potential clients who will value what you deliver.  

For example:

  • Suitability: Do they have a need that they cannot fix themselves?
  • Do they have a want?  Do they really want an outcome or are they actually just happy drifters?
  • Do you have the likely solutions to their needs or wants?
  • Do they have the money?  There is no point generating hordes of people who cannot afford to work with you (though SOME Pro Bono work is a good thing for a professional to do!)
  • Do they have the authority to make a decision?
  • Do you know what their primary motivator is?

This is a basic list of qualification criteria to make the point. When we know these sorts of things we can definitely move someone from being a person whom we suspect might fit the bill as a client to one whom we know is a good match for us, and we for them.

Once you you have qualified someone as a prospect then it is well worth investing your time and limited resources in engaging with them personally and patiently until they fully engage and become a client.  But the massive step between gathering a suspects contact details (perhaps coupled with a favourable introduction) and having that supect become a genuine prospect is all about having an engagement process which enables the qualification of that person as being a good fit for you, as much as you being a good fit for them.

Related: Are Financial Advisors Overlooking The Obvious?