Three-Question Survey You Must Send to All Prospects
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
Hundreds of prospect meetings, down the drain – and all because I neglected doing this one simple thing. Here is a three-question prospecting survey that you must send out before every meeting with a new lead.
Having no clue = loss of control
Stop what you’re doing and check your calendar right now.
Literally, just open your calendar.
Did you do it?
How many meetings do you have scheduled where you have absolutely no specific agenda?
Is it half? Probably more than that.
I don’t use 20-slide long PowerPoint decks, and I have an equally strong distaste for going into a meeting with a complete blank sheet of paper. How can you be in control of a situation when you have absolutely no clue what the other person’s intentions are?
First meetings are the most fragile moments in the entire relationship. The more you can understand about the person prior to the meeting, the lower the risk of failure. Plus, taking the time to be prepared signals a higher level of professionalism.
Send a survey to prospects before you meet
Everyone has their guard up in the first meeting, especially if it’s an internet lead. I’m sure a lot of you are going to send me hate mail over this, but I’m used to getting those messages and I find them humorous.
You must send a questionnaire to a prospect before the first meeting.
They may not fill it out – in which case, what have you learned? Every time a prospect dodges one of these questionnaires (which isn’t often) I usually end up not closing the prospect. Or if they sign on, they’re lousy, prima donna clients. Whenever someone disses my questionnaire, I know in advance that they’re not taking me that seriously – and it changes my entire approach to the meeting.
Make it easy for them to respond
Having four kids, it seems like everywhere I go, somebody’s giving me paperwork to fill out. Being an expert at filling out forms, here are my tips for maximizing the chances that the person actually responds.
Don’t send a clunky PDF file
They’d have to use Acrobat DC, and many people don’t have it. Or, they’d have to print it out and scan it back, which is very cumbersome.
If you send it over email, put the questions in the body of the email, not as an attachment, so they can just respond to the email. Or use apps like PrecisionFP, Google Forms, or Jotform to send a survey link that can respond to.
Don’t give them a laundry list of questions
They’re not applying for college, and they’re not on the witness stand testifying before the judge and jury. This is an intro meeting, and they should be the ones leading the discussion. Three questions at most!
Don’t ask questions that are none of your business (yet)
You ask these prying questions, so don’t act like you don’t:
- What’s your net worth?
- What’s your income?
- How old are you?
- What’s your marital status?
It’s too direct and off-putting before the person trusts you.
Use an attention-getting subject line
Make sure the email has an action oriented subject line. Giving it a vague one will cause it to be overlooked. In the subject line, state the deadline for them to respond back.
Now before you whine at me about how this is going to cause you to have endless meetings with unqualified people, let me stop you right there.
Your account minimums should be on your website, front and center on the home page so they can’t miss it. It’s your own fault for not having the courage to set boundaries upfront. If they show up and they’re not qualified, don’t blame them; it’s because you didn’t do the work you should have.
Now who wants to send me hate mail?
Go ahead and let me have it!
Leave these schlocky questions out of it!
Remember that the goal of the first meeting is to understand what the prospect values, and why they are coming to you.
- It’s not to find out how much money they have (although if you conduct the meeting right, you’ll find out)
- It’s not to impress them with your knowledge of capital gains taxation issues
- It’s not to discuss your views on the stocks in their portfolio
- It’s not to get them to “sign up”
- It’s not to get a second meeting
- It’s not to get them to agree to fork over their financial statements
- It’s not to understand their risk tolerance
And you wonder why you all get used and abused for free information. Did you set yourself up for that by treating someone like a client before they made any sort of commitment to you whatsoever?
Just a leeeeetle bit.
Cool it with the schlock questions, will you?
As for the three questions you should ask, I’m not going to tell you the actual words to use, because that’s reserved for people on my membership. However, here are some general guidelines for the three questions.
Three things to ask in your prospect questionnaire
- Find out why they are coming to you at this point in time.
You want to get at what the triggers were that led them to come in now, and why those circumstances weren’t enough to prompt them to do so earlier. If this question elicits a “ho hum” response from them, they’re probably just shopping around with no urgency, and/or have no serious intention of working with you.
- Find out why they want to work with a professional third party instead of doing it themselves or getting a friend to
Before you actually meet them, you need to gauge how serious they are about actually hiring a professional. Their response will also tell you if they have an existing advisor or not, and maybe even why they’re unhappy.
- Ask them to describe what their strongest professional relationship is, and why.
This is important if you want to avoid disaster. You’ll get a sense of how they work. If they tell you that they love their accountant because she emails them five times a day during tax season, and you’re more of a weekly check-in type person, it’s a sign of incompatibility.
It’s always better to get people to talk about specific experiences they’ve had. Even if they omit some details, it will tell you more than speaking in abstractions.
If you really listen to people when they talk about their experiences, they basically tell you what their values are.
I’ll give you the words for this one.
“Do you have a need for any accommodations during this meeting?”
People will be floored that you asked this. You don’t know if any of the participants are visually or hearing impaired, have sensory processing issues, have food allergies, have a back injury, etc. You’d want to know this to create an environment that is as comfortable for them as possible.
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.