Prospecting Outside the Box
Prospecting for clients is a business necessity…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
“When I first started,” said Ann Laufman, president and CEO of ALA Financial Group, LLC in Houston, Texas, in an interview, “I did this thing with a lottery ticket. I stapled it to a letter that said ‘If this is what you’re counting on for your retirement, I hope you win. If you don’t, let’s talk.’”
Laufman, who has helped to forge a space for successful women advisors in a traditionally male-dominated field, can credit at least some of her success to her unusual prospecting techniques. After all, between a lottery ticket and a form letter, which are you more likely to remember?
Finding creative, unexpected ways to reach out to prospects can feel daunting, or even downright awkward. But pushing past your discomfort can open up the potential to find new clients in some unlikely places – places, perhaps, where other advisors fear to tread.
Don’t Count on the Lottery
Following up with prospects is key, which is why Laufman’s lottery campaign didn’t end with delivery.
“I’d canvass office parks and hand out lottery tickets and letters to business owners,” she said, “and then I’d call them up later to see if they’d won.”
Reminding clients that they shouldn’t count on the lottery is something that Laufman herself takes to heart, noting that you must be proactive in constantly seeking out meetings and opportunities to grow your business.
“If you think you can make it and only have three appointments a week, you’re crazy. You have to have at least 15. If you aren’t getting enough appointments, you need to be networking.”
Networking is just a fancy word for making business connections with other people, and you don’t need to limit your networking efforts to industry conferences. You can be in a smaller space.
Like, for example, an elevator.
Switch Up Your Elevator Speech…Literally
You’ve probably got your elevator speech nailed. But when was the last time you asked an elevator full of people if they needed what you’re selling?
“I was on an elevator once,” Laufman said. “And I said, ‘My company is having a contest for selling life insurance, and I need to sell two more policies. Does anyone on this elevator need life insurance?’”
One person said yes, he did, and became her client then and there.
Networking…at the Bowling Alley
Laufman recommends that networking, like prospecting, can and should go beyond the typical professional settings and involve things you enjoy.
“If you’re into bowling,” she said, “join a bowling league. And then start conversations with other members.” While it might seem weird to ask your bowling friends if they want to buy life insurance, Laufman counters that people in general might be more receptive to the idea than you expect.
“People want to buy life insurance,” she said, “but they won’t seek you out. You have to let them know what you do, and you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone.”
Getting out of your comfort zone is, according to Laufman, essential. “You’ve got to treat it like a business. If you’re not willing to get out there, to get out of your comfort zone and drum up leads, you shouldn’t be doing this job.”
Forging a Space for Women Advisors
Expanding your range with a few memorable prospecting techniques can make you stand out in a crowd of the “same-old same-old,” but your network shouldn’t involve just your clients. It’s also critical to network with your peers.
With that in mind, Laufman started a women’s group at her agency for female advisors to mentor and support each other. “Women like to support each other,” she said. “They compete, but at the same time they bring everyone up.”
That network of women, in turn, set up some mentoring events for women business owners in the area. Those sessions posed a unique challenge, Laufman said, because some of the female business owners she worked with were making incredible decisions every day within their company, but were hesitant to make financial decisions without a man present. Helping those women get a grip on their finances was empowering for them and a good move for Laufman’s own business and reputation as well.
“There weren’t many women producers when I came in to the business,” Laufman said, “but last year in our agency, the top five producers were all women. And it’s easy to recruit women now because it’s all women at the top!”
Laufman acknowledged that women trying to establish themselves as advisors can have it tough, but she argues that in her experience it’s often because of a woman’s own self-doubt and not a reflection of her actual abilities or intelligence.
She gives, as an example, herself. With an eye toward the business owner market, Laufman became a Certified Financial Planner® professional and found in the process that she knew more than she thought she did.
“There wasn’t anything they introduced,” she said, “that I didn’t already have some knowledge on. It gave me the confidence to realize that I do know more than a lot of people do, and that revelation spurred my productivity more than anything. For the first time, I didn’t doubt myself. I didn’t assume everyone else knew more than I did and could do a better job than I did. I realized I did have a lot to offer clients.”
Laufman’s current business is structured primarily around providing financial advice and planning to people who are about to retire, or newly retired.
“Lots of people need help,” Laufman said, “and I know I can help them. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world when you know that what you’ve done has made a difference in somebody’s life. You can do the right thing for your clients and make a good living, but you have to be out there meeting people.”
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