Fly fishing is a favourite pastime of mine, whenever I get the chance. I once learned from a fishing guide that fly fishing techniques are similar to sales prospecting: you look for clues on the water indicating where fish may be feeding, instead of just casting blindly and hoping for the best.
I learned that by wearing polaroids and walking slowly and carefully along the banks of the river, watching the insects and bugs that fall into the water, I’m able to observe any changes on the surface that may indicate a fish is feeding. I then select a fly that matches the types of bugs the fish are feeding on.
I cast the fly to present it just in front of the fish to entice it, and when it takes the fly, I quickly react to ensure that it’s firmly hooked. I don’t have a high strike rate; however, I do enjoy enough success to keep me coming back.
Spot opportunities early
The top financial services professionals that I’ve observed and worked with have the ability to spot opportunities before anyone else does. They are patient and use a variety of tools to attract the attention of a prospective client, convert them into a solid lead for their sales pipeline, and over time convert a percentage of those leads into clients.
Did you know that their success is often at the expense of another professional who has failed to convert their top account into a 100% client?
When you fail to convert your top accounts into 100% clients, you are leaving the door open for your competitors. It only takes a trigger such as the client winning a new contract, change of management or a new strategic initiative to generate interest and a lead.
Several years ago I was involved in the pursuit of a major account worth over $5 million in annual premiums. The company holding the account had held it for over seven years. In my efforts to attain this account, I formally visited with the client at least once a year and entertained them a couple of times at sporting events during the year.
This was an ideal target for us; we carefully observed the environment and built relationships internally whilst keeping a watchful eye out for a trigger. Then a new CEO was appointed and brought in a new team. This presented the trigger for us to reach out to the new team. It turned out that the holding firm had not converted this major account into a 100% client, and we discovered a few areas where the client had additional needs. It took almost 18 months, but in the end we won the account.
We were successful because the previous firm left the door slightly ajar by not converting this major account into a 100% client.
Don’t leave yourself exposed
Protect your top accounts from being stolen by your competitors. You can start by identifying your top 20% accounts and creating a plan to convert them into 100% clients. If they are already 100% clients, create a retention plan by thinking like a trapper and attacking your accounts: identify areas where you could be doing better and build on the things that you’re doing well.
One good win can change everything
Whether you’re targeting a competitor’s top account or protecting one of your own, focus on becoming a good trapper: put on the polaroids, quietly observe the indicators (the changes taking place in their world), and approach with your best ideas to start the relationship-building process.
It only takes a few good wins to have a great year and one or two good losses to change the dynamics of your business.
Clifton Warren is the principal consultant at Corporate Eye Consulting, a firm focused on helping financial services firms with growth solutions. Learn more at www.corporateeye.com.au
© Clifton Warren 2015, All rights reserved