Recently, I’ve tried to focus these blog posts on addressing simple, singular solutions to common issues facing advice businesses.
In this case though, it’s a little different. What I want to share can solve a bunch of new client engagement issues.
It’s something that has come up in a few conversations with program members recently, and leads me to believe many of you reading may also like to be able to improve.
Let me start by giving you the full list of areas this can help your business:
- Improved conversion rates
- Reduced fee sensitivity
- Greater likelihood of a client converting to become an ongoing client
- Increased likelihood of the client making a decisions sooner
- Easier communication of your value proposition and alignment with what the client values
- Clearer scope of advice
- Easier for your team to follow up and get the information I need
- Reduced number of meetings ahead of delivery advice
And all this is achieved simply by the way that you finish an initial meeting with a potential client…
or, as we call it, the quality of your Clear Close.
Well, that’s not strictly true in all honestly. How you finish your meeting is not the panacea.
A good rule of thumb when diagnosing issues with a process or approach is to look upstream.
Don’t look at the point where the issue is happening. Go way back to the first point that something began to go off track – usually not the end of the meeting, right?
However, assuming you have a:
- First Contact call protocol that allows you to take control of the discussion from the word go
- Strongly structured (also consistently followed) way of Start Framing the initial meeting discussion upfront, and
- a Goals Framework that helps you understand not just the client’s goals but also where they are starting from, then…
…it’s true enough to be useful.
So, let’s proceed with three questions to consider.
First question: Are you switching mode?
Getting to the heart of the client’s goals and objectives for me is a non-negotiable part of a good advice discussion.
Humans are hard-wired to anchor themselves to specific outcomes, benefits or results. When you’re able to have an initial discussion about these deeply felt aspirations and desires, it provides a much stronger basis for the value of advice than some comparison of returns against an arbitrary index fund benchmark.
However, goal discussions aren’t the best way to invite clients to take action (unless they already have a pre-existing drive to do so, which isn’t the majority, let’s be honest).
The improvement here is to recognise that the key part of the clear close approach lies in making a switch from diagnosing the issues to painting a picture of the solution.
The important part to lay on the table is that this isn’t about trying to deliver the advice. It is about being able to go from “Tell me what you want to achieve…” to “Here’s what I see as the biggest issues and the solutions I’d consider can help” as part of the same meeting.
That switch alone will get you from “Send me a proposal” to “How do you work?” in a flash, as well as reducing fee sensitivity in a flash.
Second Question: Do you lay out the proposition well enough?
One of the real benefits of adopting this approach that I see from coaching clients is in the way they’re able to outline their value proposition.
There’s nothing worse than trying to tell a client all about your firm, the way that you work blah blah blah when…
…. all they really want to do is understand whether you can help solve their issues.
When you get the close right, it reverses this.
Clients are the ones asking to be told what you do, how you work and everything else that brings them to a decision. They control the forward motion and, in doing so, you exert no pressure to commit (which would otherwise usually cause the opposite outcome).
It’s also where you can invite the decision on ongoing service early in the process.
Recently I had a client ask for help to solve the issue of clients not taking up the offer of ongoing service when presented in the SOA.
This is a golden example of looking to solve an issue late in the process when the cause is much earlier. It wasn’t ever about what was in the SOA.
The close of the initial meeting is where you can:
- position the value you provide working with clients on an ongoing basis
- make it clear that that’s when you do your best work, and
- create the space for a discussion – without any pressure – about whether they see you working together that way.
This is where the commitment to consider engaging on an ongoing is most easily and effectively made.
Third Question: What do you ask at the very end?
At the end of most appointments lies a statement that goes something like, “So that’s it. Have you got any questions?” followed by, “Let me know when you’ve made a decision”
If the response is, “No questions. We’ll come back to you” then you’re staring at a major issue.
If it’s your goal for clients to make a decision to engage you within 2 days of you laying out for them their goals (which it should be, for their benefit) and it’s not happening, there are usually two things to address:
- Buyer Reluctance
Solving the first – procrastination – is about having a system that means it’s simple to either a) ask them where they’d like to go from here or b) booking a time to speak within 2 working days.
Addressing the second – buyer reluctance – is about recognising even when clients don’t ask questions, there are often unanswered concerns floating around unsaid that might stop them from taking action, whether with you or not.
If you’d like to reduce turn-around times, improve the return of information from clients and ensure total engagement and ultimately convert better, what you ask when the meeting is finished is vital
There’s more to closing an initial meeting than meets the eye.
Whether you call it a sales process or a consultation, the initial meeting is about allowing you to connect with what a prospective client wants to achieve, and positioning you as someone to help them do so sooner, more easily or with less stress.
Closing isn’t easy, but it’s also not especially hard either.
It’s something you can become very good at simply through practice, rather than because of some innate ability only some have.
I could honestly spend hours working through the nuances of it all, and something I often find myself revisiting with clients year after year and still seeing ongoing improvements.
If you’d like to be part of improving an area of your skill set that can have a broad range of benefits email me back at firstname.lastname@example.org