Advanced Free Consultations for Advisors

OK, so we’ve established that Traditional Free Consultations Suck. And we learned they don’t make sense as a TOFU tool. But they are effective as a MOFU tool to increase conversion rates.

Even though they can work, you’re paying a pretty high overhead for these consultations: your time, money and resources all for ONE potential new client.

Once upon a time, there was no other way. But that was before the internet.

Thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, we now have a plethora of FREE tools which we can use to interact with groups of people, digitally. Sure, you lose some of the personal touch that only a face-to-face meetings can deliver, but why not save your charm for a HOT relationship, rather than a cold one.

Based on the maturity of the relationship with potential new client, I propose three styles of free financial consultations:

1. Ice-Cold – New Relationship

This one’s pretty simple: Hold regular online “office hours” for anyone with questions about their finances or about your business. Set a date, time and make the sign up as simple as possible. Get only the most critical bits of contact information (email, name, and maybe one more thing) in the sign-up process – the less you ask the higher the conversion rate generally. Signup can be as simple as them RSVPing by sending you an email or via a sign-up page on your website.

To host your chat you can use a service like Formspring or even use your Facebook wall to create an open conversation. Or, if you want a private chat, use a service like HipChat or Campfire to host a free private chat room for your prospects.  Now you’ve got the chance to deepen the relationship with a number of people at the same time in a very low pressure environment for prospective clients.

I’m not going to go through all of the possible ways to run your chat, but be sure to keep it personal (hint: don’t sound like an advisor-robot) and make it easy for your new prospect to follow-up with you (hint: give them options – email, phone, Twitter, LinkedIn).

2 – Lukewarm – Weak Relationship

The key to advancing a lukewarm relationship is making the conversation more specific to them. One great way to do that is to create conversations around a topic, category or common problem. This is essentially like moving a seminar online but making it interactive. For example, maybe you have a group of middle age couples who are worried about balancing college costs and saving for retirement.

Using a service like JoinMe or GoToMeeting, you can deliver a presentation by sharing your screen with your prospects, speak and/or chat over it and even allow them to ask questions. A fantastic benefit of this is you can record the presentation and put it up as a video on your website and your YouTube channel. You can also share your Keynote, Powerpoint or Prezi presentations by uploading them to Slideshare. At this point, you should already have the prospects contact information as well as some insight into their needs, so this one’s all in the execution!

3 – Hot – Strengthening Relationship

This is the best time to offer that free, face-to-face consultation – except it shouldn’t be a “consultation,” it should be a conversation.

If your prospective client is busy or tech-savvy, offer a Skype session or other video chat. Video chatting is really a much better experience than a phone call because you get to look each other in the eye and pick up those facial clues that are lost over the phone. It also has the benefit of positioning you as an advisor that “gets it” and can guide them in the more complex, tech-intensive future. Use the power of this more intimate technology to get to know them personally to learn about their hopes and dreams. And use the time to begin the collaboration to reach those dreams. Become a co-conspirator in their future.

Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of becoming your own Chief Selling Officer. The days of the hard sell are over. We’ve entered the age of the customer – where customers generally know what they need and aggressively resist the push of traditional selling.

The Call to Action

Make sure, that no matter which tactic you’re using to connect with people, you’ve got a next step: A call to action. For an online chat it could be signing up for another more specific online seminar or a one-on-one Skype session. For a Skype session it may be setting up the first step to beginning a formal planning or evaluation process. The key is that your call to action must be a clear and a logical next step from how they’ve just engaged with you.

The bottom line is that by using new technology and thinking clearly about how much openness is comfortable for a prospective client, you can dramatically increase your reach and improve your prospecting results.

DJ DJ is a freelance writer, hopeful photographer, and social media has-been. He writes to financial advisors about lifehacks, science, technology, business and marketing for Blueleaf, a software that helps create dramatically simpler, more scalable financial advisory businesses. You can find DJ across the web (about.me/djswitz) or you can just follow him on Twitter (@djswitz)!