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Why your free first appointments don’t work (and what will instead)

If you’ve been working on advice for more than ten minutes, you’ll have probably been taught to offer a free first meeting.

I won’t beat around the bush on this.

No one wants your free first appointment.

If you genuinely don’t agree, go create a Facebook advert offering “free first appointment with a financial planner”.

Let me know the results. I’d be delighted to be wrong. It would make my job a lot, lot easier.

I’m comfortable though betting free first appointments aren’t scaling anyone’s lead generation.

There’s a second problem.

According to the most recent sample assessed in the 2017 Investment Trends report, over 50% of advice leads never make it past the first appointment.

As in they are so unimpressed by their initial experience, they don’t come back.

This is serious stuff.

If less than 15% of Australians are getting advice, only 6% of the rest are seeking it, AND over 50% of the newbies are so unimpressed by the experience they don’t come back, we have multiple problems going on here.

One is a marketing problem; why most people aren’t interested in the offer.

The second is an experience problem; the reason the experience isn’t (statistically) converting leads into advice advocates any better than a coin toss.

Cheese & Whiskers

The reason is best explained by a wise gentleman from the US called Dean Jackson.

He calls the problem “Cheese and Whiskers”

Prospects, according to Dean, are like mice.

Mice want two things in life; free cheese and to avoid cats.

In the human context, cheese is all the awesome stuff. Happiness. Freedom. Wealth. Security. The best for ourselves, our friends and our families.

Cats are the bad stuff. Hardship. Suffering. Sacrifice. Being tricked into paying for things we later realise didn’t add value. Being faced with the real truth about our situation. Having to make choices.

What most advisers don’t realise is; we’re cats.

So, when you offer your amazing “Free First Appointment To Get Clear On Your Lifetime Goals”, you want to know what most prospects hear?

“How about a meeting with a cat, yeah?”

To get people in a room with you, you need to offer something of value.

Something they value.

The foundation of delivering this value lies in understanding that, in most cases, your prospect and you have very different goals from this process.

You want a meeting with a potential client.

They want information.

You’re eager to add value.

They’re wary of what strings this “value” is attached to.

You need to gather data.

They would rather just get a solution.

You want to create rapport, start to build a relationship and educate them about what they need.

They probably have enough friends, but do need a problem solved (and it isn’t “get holistic advice”).

Play The Long Game

Most advice firms play far too short a game, particularly when it comes to the online world.

It’s like watching some besuited Wall Street type bowl into a night club, attempt to take home six “targets” in minutes and wonder why they’re going home early courtesy of the bouncer.

If you want to create a consistent stream of prospects who know who you are, know what you do and now want to talk about what you can do for them, stop offering free first appointments.

Start offering free cheese.

Some ideas on how to get a foot into the property market.

A simple “bucket” system for saving more money.

A plan to set their kids up for life and some guidelines on the cost of private education.

A means of saving more tax.

An example of a before and after investment strategy that will halve the fees paid.

A detailed breakdown of living costs in retirement to complement the ABS data.

An hour and a half of your time to ask anything they want about the topic of their choice.

A downloadable guide on how to save 20% of their income without feeling like they’re sacrificing anything.

A simple checklist template for finding out whether their current adviser is actually looking after them.

A simple questionnaire that will give them a Wealth Fitness score out of 200 compared to other Australians.

A letter template to send to their fund so they can get a straight answer about how their money is being managed (or mismanaged)

A case study of three people who went from no plan, to retired and travelling the world in five years, including details of what their trips cost item-by-item.

Clarity around where they are at and what they need to think about now to get what they want, without any jargon or salesmanship.

The Appointment v2.0

They have a demand for information.

Fulfil that demand, without strings or catches.

That will lead to demand for more if you do it consistently.

Which ultimately, if you decide they’re the right fit, leads to an appointment.

And, when you get to the appointment stage, this is going to change too.

You’re only going to meet with those you can best help. “Anyone with a heartbeat” is no longer a growth strategy.

You’re going to add value before you get meet, diagnosing some of their issues by going deep and getting their buy-in fast.

You’re going to set some boundaries and establish yourself as the authority in the room from the start, not the friendly guy/ girl in the suit or the person who is there to do whatever they say they need.

This strategy session will be structured in a way that is mutually beneficial, leaving them with more than just a signed file note, terms of engagement and a handshake.

Definitely more than just a list of lifestyle goals and objectives and a glossy brochure.

You’ll leave them with a deep and emotional realisation about what they need to do (at a strategic level) to get off the financial path they are on, and onto the financial path they want to get on.

Finally, you’re going to give them a way forward, explaining what you’ll do for them at the end of the appointment there and then, not two weeks later in a document that really should have been part of the conversation.

Outline their biggest problems as you see them.

The 2-4 strategies you’d be considering if you were in their shoes.

Who your firm is built for and why.

Explain to them how you and your firm think about wealth creation in words that make sense to them.

Talk them through the process you apply (and not the ASIC one)

Finally, you’ll outline how you get paid.

Then you’ll invite a decision, and not let them fall back into procrastination again because you have a practiced way of politely drawing out their concerns and objections.

Get this right and not only will you find yourself dealing with clients who you inspired to get advice (instead of you just being in the right place when they came to the conclusion all by themselves), you’ll find yourself able to consistently roll back the fog for each and every client you meet.

85% of Australians are there, ready and waiting for leadership out of the epidemic of financial obesity that qualifies for consumerism in a post-GFC society.

They’re looking for relatable financial leadership to light the way.

If that’s not us, who else is going to do it?

PS. I’ve been asked a few times lately about whether you should charge for a first appointment.

Specifically, I hear variants on…

“I charge $390 for a first meeting. If they aren’t willing to pay that, they’re obviously not serious”

Firstly, congrats on your confidence in what you do. Too many advisers out there aren’t strong enough in understanding their value.

You’re obviously not one of them.

However, understand two things.

1. Your assumption that not willing to pay = not serious about advice is flawed. There are many, many clients out there who, for numerous reasons, won’t pay for something until they understand the value of it. Many of them will become great clients, though for someone else if the cost barrier stands between you and a meeting.

2. You’ve now set the expectation that your “product” – the thing they’re paying for – is this first appointment thingy. Let’s hope your process can add more than $390 worth of perceived value, because if it ends up being a quasi-sales appointment or, even worst, a chance for you to ask for a bunch of detailed information without helping them get clear on the “what next?”, I know how I’d feel. Probably a bit like the 50%+ of financial planning prospects who, according to Investment Trends 2017, don’t get past the first appointment.

In short, if you have an awesome value-add session that can add value, fire away.

If not, tread carefully before activating your new income stream.

Personally, I won’t enter into a financial arrangement with anyone until I first know I can solve their problems and there is a fit. Anything else to me is just inviting trouble.

For more strategies and helpful tips visit our Blog.

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