Prospecting is the lifeblood of any small business. Nobody knows that better than us financial professionals. And it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and demeaning experience. When done well, prospecting is much more than selling—it’s about qualifying potential clients and building relationships.
Here are nine common networking tools that can be tweaked for better results.
Download a visual representation of the nine ways to generate leads here.
1. Web site
Unless your site consistently turns up in search results, it ends up being a resource only for the few who know about it. Generating leads through your Web site can be easier thanks to a number of free and inexpensive online applications. Consider integrating a newsletter feature into your Web site. Every request to receive the newsletter translates into valuable contact information you can use to spread your message. Constant Contact is a popular and easy-to-use e-mail marketing solution.
Another great way to generate leads through your Web site is to offer complimentary financial reviews using an automated online appointment scheduler. Time Trade (www.timetrade.com) allows you to specify available meeting times synchronizing with your Google Calendar. If a time slot is available, your prospect can book that time, with both parties receiving meeting confirmations.
2. Social media
For the most part, many of the popular social media sites are free. That said, one paid feature that is worth a second or third look is a Business LinkedIn Account. Nothing spells power more than the ability to send InMails to third-party members; customize searches; and drill down to see if groups have your targeted demographic, or are present in your geographic location. Just these few features make an upgrade from the basic plan worthwhile.
3. Print and Web media
Are you seen as a leading expert in your field? Magazines and newspapers are always looking for volunteers to contribute articles. If you can open yourself up to a team of experts critiquing your work, there could be possible leads lurking.
The important thing in being seen as an expert is to rise above making mere sales pitches, and share relevant knowledge. If you don’t feel you can contribute a whole article, you could begin by writing a short personal blog, or maybe even commenting on other people’s blogs or tweets.
Anti-spamming laws are making it increasingly difficult to communicate with leads and prospects. Even spam filters on e-mail accounts force us to look at other alternatives to get our message out.
There are many free services available to help you get around spam filters on e-mail accounts. Visible Gains (www.visiblegains.com) is one such service that allows you to e-mail your prospects a link that redirects them to a personal Web page where they can read or download the information you want to share with them. What’s more, you get an e-mail notification every time the page is viewed or the message forwarded.
Read: How to fire clients
Picking up the phone is still the quickest way to gather information. But if you’re painfully phone-shy, hiring a lead generator to make your calls could help. Find a firm that has experience working with financial professionals.
This avenue can be very effective when you’re putting together an event and are targeting businesses. By combining the push communication method — when you consistently send information to your prospects so you’re always top of mind — with telephone calls, you can drastically increase your number of yeses.
An example of this strategy may be sending out a weekly or monthly message about an event.You can then follow up with a telephone call to your prospects. First ask them if they have received your message; secondly, confirm their interest. This follow-up strategy is essential to the entire push strategy process working.
6. Communication campaigns
Whether you initiate an e-mail, telephone or direct-approach campaign, it’s important that your message gets to your intended market. You also need to have a strategy that allows you to gather contact information from respondents. The use of surveys both in an online or face-to-face setting may be the strategy needed.
An online survey is a very cost-effective way to gather information that can be used to help your business thrive. At times, the use of an incentive may be necessary for a participant to complete the survey, but the information gathered may be priceless. This form of information gathering should be used to capture as much information about your prospects so that you can best target your strategy to them.
Market surveys may not be used as often, but they too can act as a source to collect pertinent information about a prospect.
The key to this or any other survey method is to keep things short and simple, but relevant enough to give you the information that you want.
In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini shares the principle of reciprocation: People feel obligated to return a favour when we first give them something.
By the same token, you’ll find it much easier to ask for referrals if you first provide value to your clients by offering a service and/or solution that meets their needs. Another way to make prospects who are referred to you feel comfortable is to explain at the very outset how you’re compensated — and that referrals help you build your business.
Events can serve as a means to gather specific information about your attendees in a non-threatening way. Event registrations and feedback forms can be a great way to generate leads seamlessly. But the difficult part is getting people to attend. The Web site Eventbrite can be a great resource when promoting your event. The free site lets you post events or search and attend other events that could lead to prospecting opportunities.
9. Direct campaigns
Having a direct marketing campaign requires that you be consistent with your delivery. This form of lead generation may take longer, but it does allow you to trickle information to prospective clients and give them or yourself a reason to make personal contact. If cost is an issue, try some door knocking or mall walking for leads.
The final step: Follow through
Once you’ve made a prospect interested in you, you need to formulate a strategy that helps convert curiosity into a meeting and a sale.
This may require you to offer something in order to receive. You could either offer an hour of your time for a complimentary financial assessment, or better still use a financial software tool called the Razor (find it at www.fpadvantage.com).
In less than 20 minutes, Razor gives you an accurate picture of your prospects’ situation, leaving you 40 minutes to talk them through a discovery process, which in my experience consistently leads to a sale.
Tyrone Matheson, FMA, is a Business and Personal Development Coach and CEO of Inside Out Training, a firm dedicated to helping individuals, organizations and their teams achieve their full potential.