One of the common questions we at BEI are asked is, “How do I engage clients who object to the services I offer?” While most of the advisors who ask this question ask it in terms of their Exit Planning practices, we find that our answer is applicable to those advisors’ core practices in addition to their Exit Planning practices. Let’s unpack this question by first looking at a specific example.
The Exit Planning market is booming, with nearly 80% of owners saying they want to exit their businesses within the next 10 years. With just a mere 17% of owners claiming to have a written Exit Plan, the opportunities for profit seem nearly endless. But sometimes, even the best Exit Planners struggle to overcome objections owners offer regarding Exit Planning. Given owners’ stated desires to exit their businesses, why would any of them reject help, and what can you do if you face these objections?
Picture this: You are about to meet with a baby-boomer business owner for the first time. After exchanging pleasantries, you ask, “Have you given thought to one day leaving your business?” “Of course,” the owner replies. “I want to be out in five years.” You reply, “That’s great! Tell me about your plans to exit.”
Instead of a list of actions the owner has taken and plans to take, you’re met with silence. As you wait, the owner fills the silence with one of several responses:
Experienced Exit Planners have faced the futility of rebutting what owners believe are good reasons for not starting to plan. Owners’ reasons to avoid or postpone planning are especially frustrating when they come from longtime clients whom we know we can help. So, what can you do?
Holding Your Horses on Storming the Castle
How do you respond to these all-too-common objections? Quote statistics? Appeal to logic? Fill clients with fear?
We’ve found that these approaches are a waste of everyone’s time. . .at least initially. Often, owners’ responses are not based on sound, thoughtful reflection or facts. Instead, they respond from a set of beliefs they have about their businesses and the demands of the marketplace in which they will sell or transfer their companies.
Each of these objections fall under one umbrella: Most owners don’t think they need to plan right now, and who are you to tell them otherwise? In the face of this objection, many advisors give up.
How can we encourage owners to begin planning without attacking their core beliefs, or pitching them on products and solutions to problems they’re certain they don’t have?
Books Over Bombs: Education Is Key
Staying in front of your clients with useful and interesting education is the best way to cultivate a client base and overcome objections, whether regarding Exit Planning or your core services.
In our experience, the most time- and cost-effective means to reach owners is to provide continual education to them and their advisors. For example, most owners resist Exit Planning because they don’t understand it. They don’t know what Exit Planning is or how it can benefit them, but they are pretty darn sure that it will cost a lot of money and take a lot of their time. (Yes, it will cost money and time, but not as much as they expect.)
Rather than storming the castles of their misunderstanding and misplaced beliefs, we suggest another, more successful approach: Provide owners with information, stories of successful plans, descriptions of your planning process, and examples in which planning created value over time.
To build an interested client base, consistently provide valuable information without asking business owners to hire you: Educate rather than attack.
Two decades of experience have taught us that successful Exit Planning practices are not simply or exclusively the result of an expertise in Exit Planning tools and techniques. To be successful, it’s vital to overcome owners’ reluctance to move forward with planning (of any type). Educating owners about how Exit Planning (or your core service) applies to their unique situations is key to overcoming their reluctance to begin planning.
Related: Exit Planning: Talk vs. Action
What Can You Do for Your Clients?
Successful planners know that before you can preach to the choir, there must be a choir to preach to. Assembling choir members takes time and consistent effort, and assembling the choir is the first thing advisors neglect when they get busy. So how can you assemble a choir to preach to without taking away from your work?
One of the most successful methods of staying in front of your clients is by implementing marketing principles that high-growth firms share . A major part of these strategies is incorporating automated or passive marketing strategies that keep you in front of clients with interesting information without inundating them with things they don’t want. One of the methods BEI Members use is the automated newsletter.
BEI Members send Exit Planning content in the form of educational newsletters to existing and prospective clients—generally 250 or more owners and advisors—at least twice each month with little or no effort. When a client is ready for or curious about Exit Planning, that client has all of the necessary information to contact the advisor who sent the newsletter—who, in the client’s mind, is an Exit Planning thought leader—and begin a discussion about how that advisor can help. In fact, one of our Members recently noted that a client his firm had been prospecting for years agreed to meet with his firm in part because of how much he loved the newsletters he received.
To reiterate: The key to creating interest is educating clients on how your services—whether core, Exit Planning, or otherwise—apply to their situations. When you’re ready, BEI will be there with the educational tools you need to teach and market to your clients in one fell swoop.
To preach to the choir you need to teach the choir why your preaching is important, and education, in our experience, is the best way to do that.