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Seminar Selling

Success entails the use of a client-driven approach.

By Karl Lueders

Seminars continue to be some of the most effective tools you can use to gain new prospects. Two producers explain their approach to the fine art of seminar selling.

Spend a little extra on your best clients.
I host three events every year—one with my church when I talk about charitable remainder trusts and two with my best clients.

My client events are a women-only Victorian tea party with my older clients at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, and a men-only event at a nice golf course in the Denver area. The tea party usually takes place at the end of the year, and we talk about gifting to either a charity or to families. I ask my guests to invite a friend who’s not a client, and we just have a good old time, having tea and getting to know each other. I talk for about 20 minutes on the topic at hand, and answer questions for about 10 minutes. Last year, my guests attended the party with their granddaughters, which worked out very well because it got the ladies to think about how setting up an IRA for a 10-year-old could turn that 10-year-old into a millionaire down the road.

This year’s golf tournament was at Arrowhead, one of Denver’s top 10 public courses, and the invitation was for one guest and a friend. At the 19th hole, where I joined the group, I chatted briefly and someone talked about identity theft. The golf wasn’t free, but the speaker was. The FBI is very cooperative about sending a representative to discuss things like identity theft, and the event went over very well.

I tell my guests to ask their friends—my clients—about the type of service they get, and that I will call them the next day. This approach gets people excited. It’s expensive, but these are your best clients. And if you can turn one or two of the 15 guests into new clients, it’s worth it.

Use a client-driven approach with your seminars.
I used to perform magic tricks in my seminars when I first started, but after a while, I realized that I was just taking time away from what prospects wanted to hear. And since we only do about five seminars a year, it behooves us to keep to the schedule.

But even though I’ve been conducting seminars for 10 years, I still find them to be the most effective prospecting tool. Even in Eau Claire, Wis., where we’re not drawing from the biggest population pool, I find that my mailers, which total about 4,500 per seminar, still attract 40 to 60 people to each seminar. I’m also focusing on the 55-and-older age group, so it’s definitely targeted. But many people don’t really respond to a mailer unless they’ve seen it eight to 10 times. So we stay consistent with our message.

The old approach of acquiring prospects consisted of writing a preapproach letter, following up on the phone, setting up a factfinding appointment and a presentation, and perhaps scheduling another meeting to close the deal. This is very advisor-driven.

If you compare hosting a seminar to this method, you’ll find that with seminars, the client leads are generally warmer because the prospects attend the seminar on their own, as opposed to having someone coax them.

Our seminar invitation provokes thought among our target group members. It does not have any earth-shattering revelations, but we “bulletpoint” certain topics and ask questions that people nearing retirement are probably asking themselves anyway. If the prospect feels he can learn from our seminar, he will accept our invitation for a nice dinner and two hours of education.

At the end of the seminar, we tell our guests that if they’d like a free consultation, they should sign up before they leave because we’re not going to bother them with follow-up phone calls. We tell them to come to the seminar with their financial information but leave their checkbooks at home for the factfinding meeting. If they like what they hear, they come back for a presentation. The difference is that our approach is more client-driven, which results in better relationships with our clients.

Karl Lueders is a frequent contributor to Advisor Today.

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