Cheese and whiskers: understand your prospects to convert them

5 mins read  
Date: 03 October 2016

Understanding what your prospects actually value in your service offering is key to turning them into clients, according to Audere Coaching & Consulting founder Stewart Bell.

Bell said that onboarding is one of the most difficult challenges for financial advisers, and that relying on referral partners alone would invariably prevent “making the leap from small business to leveraged business,” during one of netwealth’s monthly educational webinars for financial advisers.

Bell has spent over 10 years coaching over 300 professional services businesses - including financial advice practices, accountants, risk specialists and mortgage brokers - to help them stand out from their competitors and improve efficiency. Prior to his consulting career, he held multiple roles at AMP at NAB.

Cheese and whiskers

To explain the issue, Bell referred to real estate and internet marketing coach Dean Jackson, who came up with the so-called "cheese and whiskers theory." The premise is that prospective clients are the "mice" who are essentially motivated by two things: finding cheese and avoiding cats (whiskers).

“In the human condition, cheese is good stuff: happiness, wealth, security, love – all that awesome stuff. Cats are the bad stuff: hassle, expense, and potentially, sometimes being told, or being exposed to, the uncomfortable truth. Here is the thing, though: what we don't realise is that, to prospects, we are cats,” Bell explained.

He said that most clients would rather do "anything possible" to avoid having to deal with financial advisers; they would try any means available to get access to an adviser's "information" before actually sitting down with a professional, because they feel like they're being sold to rather than talked to.

To remedy this, Bell suggested turning meetings with prospects into conversations, because “that is better than any marketing brochure. It’s about telling someone what you do, asking them questions, finding out what their problems are and working out where you can help and articulating that back to them in a way that makes them realize, ‘You know what? We can work together.’”

Know your audience

Of course, Bell conceded that this isn’t exactly a “fast process,” especially if that in-depth engagement is used with every prospect. Therefore, he continued, advisers need to understand the difference between delivering a message and selling their service.

"If you have to sell your proposition to every client that comes through the door, you are going to have to bring in armies of salespeople to make it happen," he said, noting this was not exactly feasible for small businesses. The solution was to work on building something people want rather than "something that needs to be sold."

And the key to that? Understanding what people actually want.

Bell added:  “Very few people wake up in the morning and go, ‘Hey, I want to get my lifestyle objectives in order today,’ or, ‘I want to achieve security.’ Some do, but the majority don't. What they do is wake up in the morning and realize, ‘I have a need. I have a problem in my life right now that I need to get sorted. I need to get the best rated mortgage, or someone at my work just dropped dead and it’s motivated me to make sure my family is protected.’

“These are problems that you can market. You can go out and say, ‘Do you have this problem and would you like to solve it? Would you like this outcome? Let me tell you a bit about our system for solving it.’”


Making a process

After working out what clients are looking for, Bell said the next step was to make the delivery of that message as efficient as possible. He outlined a five-step process: it begins with making the public aware of the service - via referrals and direct advertising. After that, prospects need to be engaged with a "lead maker" or "valuable": some piece of content, such as a checklist or ebook, which illustrates how an adviser's service might be relevant to them.

The third step is a "converting situation," which could take the form of a "time-economical" webinar or seminar that addresses multiple listeners: a "catalyst" for prospects to realise an adviser has a solution to a specific problem they're having. After that, they join the sales process with the adviser, and ultimately, as the fifth step, become an ongoing client.

Ultimately, Bell said that “being a great advisor isn't enough anymore.”  He argued that “most people aren’t looking for an adviser: they are looking to solve problems.” In other words, advisers need to understand their clients’ cheese and whiskers – their real goals, desires and concerns – before they can sell their services.