You’ve been approached to pitch for the opportunity to advise a really great prospective client, maybe a wealthy individual with a lot of assets to manage or a pension scheme for a local company. However you also know that another adviser has been given the same opportunity….
So what do you do? One route obviously is to go in “as cheap as chips”, provide your advice for free and cut your transaction price to a level that just about makes it worth your while. Yes, you’ll win some clients this way, but not the ones you really want. Because every future conversation will result in a haggle over your price – no surprise really as you started it!
The alternative is to beat the socks off your competitors and demonstrate to the prospective client that you’re the only game in town for them to consider. Your challenge is to have demonstrated this by the end of your first meeting (your pitch) with them. Here are 5 ways you might achieve this;
Know the customer better than your competitor
Today there are so many ways to learn lots of really valuable information about your prospect before you meet them. This can give you a real edge, enabling you to anticipate questions or issues and to chat knowledgeably about areas of interest to them. At the very least, it shows your interest in them and their business.
Starting with their company website, you can learn about their business, getting a sense of their markets, their size and what is important to them. The prospect that you’re about to meet might feature in the “About Us” section so check this out too.
Check out their social media profiles. In particular LinkedIn may give you very rich information about the person. You can learn a lot about the person professionally, as well as their interests etc. You can also see if you have connections in common – this can be useful for the social chitchat at the start of the meeting.
Focus on their objectives and outcomes, not yours!
At the meeting, your initial goal needs to be to connect with the person and build trust before you can get into problem solving. To do this, you need to find out what their problem or challenge is and fully understand what their actual objectives and goals are. What will success look like for them? What will they consider a good result?
Your questioning style is very important here. The key is to use lots of Open questions; “what is your biggest challenge”, “why is that challenge so significant for you”, “how have you addressed this so far”, “when are you expecting a result” etc. Questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no!
This initial stage is all about getting the client talking. Once they are talking, their issues will become clear and then you can start to think about demonstrating how you can address the actual challenges that they are facing!
Hopefully at the same time, your competitor will dive in and start setting out their credentials and their approach to solving the client’s problem – quite probably not the right problem at all!
Then demonstrate your credentials
Once the client’s problem is clear to you, now is the time to set out why you are the answer to their prayers! This is a critical step – after this the client will decide who he is appointing to look after his affairs!
First of all, you can demonstrate your professional approach easily and effectively by walking your client through your planning and advice approach. This will give the client comfort that you are a professional with a robust approach, helping to build that all-important trust. I believe that this is best delivered using a short presentation on an iPad or similar device.
Case studies (anonymous) are another effective way to demonstrate your credentials. They allow you to showcase innovative approaches that you might have used in the past. They also demonstrate your experience in dealing with challenges similar to that posed by the prospective client.
Finally testimonials are a great endorsement of your capabilities. I always encourage financial advisers to seek permission to use the full name of the person giving the testimonial, as it gives it credibility – does “John T, Dublin 6” really exist?
Hopefully your competitor has just been having a chat with the prospect, saying how good they are but not really backing it up at all…
Practice – it’s not easy!
These last two areas of questioning the prospect effectively and then demonstrating your credentials are not easy. Road test them on your staff, friends and family. Get people to critically appraise your approach. Like all similar tasks, it’s going to take a few goes before you get it spot on. The last thing you want is to be trying it out for the first time on the best prospect you’ve had in a long time!
Start delivering value long before your pitch
This point should probably have been made at the start but I kept it to the end as not all advisers are in a position to deliver it at the moment. Providing ongoing content to clients is so important, deepening the relationship, demonstrating expertise and adding value. This might be in the form of an email newsletter or other such communication. If you do this, add your prospect to the list as soon as the first contact is made (get any necessary permission to do) and start sharing your content with them straightaway.
This will immediately set you apart from your competitor, giving the prospect a taste of what they can expect from you – a valuable, professional, robust approach to all that you do!
At this stage, hopefully you see the other guy’s white flag!