You’ve just nailed your latest appointment. Your newest clients-in-waiting are on board. They see the value of the advice you’re providing. They’re clear on the costs and the process. Their financial problems are on the verge of being dealt with. All that remains is a spot of data gather, a few applications, a little bit elbow grease and they’re on the way.
Days pass. You call. No response. An email. Same result. Another phone call goes to voicemail with no call back. Soon enough, weeks have passed and the client remains lodged in your pipeline like a barnacle on a boat.
You’ve been caught in the Procrastination Zone.
Procrastination is yet another one of those issues that holds back not just advice businesses, but also clients. In many ways, it’s a bit like paying bills. Many of us naturally hold off until the last minute before paying them, regardless of the fact we could do so earlier. Often we run the risk of missing the due date, incurring late fees in the process.
The same can be true of advice, the difference being that waiting too long to implement the right advice can mean missing the opportunity altogether.
From working with advice businesses, I’ve found that getting on the front foot in addressing client procrastination is a good habit to adopt. It helps create better engagement, demonstrating to the client a mastery of “getting it done” and a deeper commitment to making sure they take real action that is in their best interests.
So, what practical steps can you take to help clients avoid putting off key decisions until tomorrow?
1. Never end a meeting without asking “What do I need to explain better?” In making a decision to engage your services, there are two factors that influence a person’s decision. One is known as buyer acceptance, the other is buyer reluctance. Buyer acceptance is achieved by the client accepting the upside of what you have to offer and your ability to deliver. Buyer reluctance is about the client rationalising all the reasons that may exist that would stop them from engaging. Of the two, the latter is more powerful. If you don’t address all those reasons in the clients head as to why they shouldn’t pay your fees, take your advice and send back the information you ask for, there’s a good chance they’ll fall into procrastination. The solution is to make sure you are extracting via questioning all the things they don’t really understand about what you’re proposing but won’t admit until skilfully prompted.
2. Follow up within 24-48 hours. Client enthusiasm for acting is never greater than the moment they walk out of meeting with you. Every moment that passes reduces their likelihood of acting. If you want to find the root cause of the reason why a client has been stuck in pipeline limbo for the past six months, it usually lies in what is done within the first 24-48 hours after meeting. A summary email, identifying specifically defined action items for both your business AND the client is a great way of turning a discussion into action.
3. Ask for a preferred communication medium. Some people live on email. Others never set foot near a computer but carry a smartphone with them everywhere. Many hate texting but will gladly answer a call. Some will answer a call but only at certain times. By taking time to inquire what might be the best way to get in contact, not only do you maximise your chances of choosing the right medium, but you also prime the client to expect contact.
4. Ask for permission. We all have the greatest of intentions. I don’t purposefully ignore my accountants email asking me to get back some piece of information they need. In fact, I appreciate his persistence, but I end up feeling guilty about not coming back to him and so the procrastination cycle continues. A simple solution is to ask, “Do I have your permission to keep following you up?” By asking permission it transforms incessant pestering into a service provided with the purpose of achieving a commonly agreed objective.
5. Talk about the effort required. Behind the scenes of your business, a lot of stuff goes on that clients have absolutely no idea about. Sometimes they may even think that it’s so simple that they can leave you to your own devices with no need for their input. This is a perception that can be addressed head on by talking to the client about the level of input required at each stage of the process. If there is clear understanding that you need a significant amount of their input early on, but not so much later on, it puts the emphasis on the need for them to act promptly when needed.
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