When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, financial advisors almost overnight faced business disruption. Gone were in-person lunches, seminars, and almost every common business development practice.
While the new virtual environment could be scary, those who embraced it found advantages and scale they had not imagined.
Charles Jensen, Senior Vice President, Inland Securities Corporation, works closely with financial professionals and specializes in cultivating new relationships. He shared his experiences and tips so you can avoid missteps and thrive with virtual prospecting practices that are here to stay.
The new reality of business development
Talking face-to-face with potential clients makes it possible to analyze body language, make eye contact, and hear voice inflections that are sometimes lost when they come through a computer screen. But few alternatives existed when COVID-19 forced most of the country to stay home.
“My initial fear was that I was no longer having in-person meetings. I'm used to having 50 or so people on average in a room,” Jensen said. “I have a microphone. I can see eye contact. I can see smiles. I get laughter. I get all this feedback. Then I go into the virtual world and I'm looking into a camera screen in an office by myself.”
Slowly he started feeling more comfortable in front of the computer. He even created a studio atmosphere that showed him in the best possible light. That lead to more attendees showing up.
Most financial professionals already have content to make a similar leap. The market update they currently email out can be customized for a virtual presentation. Financial professionals also have a network of experts they can tap. They can invite guest speakers such as asset manager wholesalers who are likely seasoned presenters with professionally developed value add programs on trending topics such as behavioral finance or 1031 exchanges.
“We started with about 10 people, it then turned into 20, which turned into 30,” Jensen said. “We've had as many as 193 people on one meeting. The feedback I was getting was this is so convenient. I could just turn on my computer screen, have you run everything and not even have to leave the comfort of my home.”
Setting up your online office
You wouldn’t conduct a meeting at a restaurant without scrutinizing the stage, lighting, and seating, testing the microphone noise level, and running through your presentation. Virtual events require the same attention to detail.
Jensen, through trial and error, came up with a supply list that combines professionalism with comfort without breaking the bank.
- RingCentral, Zoom, or other virtual meeting platform for small business, which offers technical support, registration, and larger attendee limits
- Noise cancellation headset or some form of AirPods
- Ring light kit or enhanced lighting
- Have your computer screen on top of a stool or something that can swivel so it can move in different directions if you have props as part of your presentation
- Green screen to include unique backgrounds and eliminate you morphing into the screen
The good news is that those joining your meeting will likely have used a virtual meeting platform with friends or family during the pandemic and will be comfortable with the technology. The quality of your presentation will also impress.
Practice, record, reflect, and improve
Think back to how many seminars and meetings it took to hit your stride. Conducting online meetings and presentations requires different skills and few of us are pros right out of the gate.
“I practiced with a few people on my team, maybe 20 times before I even touched a client,” Jensen said. “This is a way of multiplying me. I can only be in one place at a time, but with my virtual meeting platform, I can be in multiple places and touch more people than I've touched in my lifetime.”
This is the new reality
When the pandemic is over and big group seminars are again possible, virtual meetings won’t end.
Jensen found it easier asking for referrals to his online meetings and less pressure to attend. Individuals send colleagues and friends links to register for online presentations where the price of admission is only your contact information.
“If it's an event at a restaurant and there's food and money involved, I think people are nervous or feel pressure to attend because they feel like they owe you something,” Jensen said. “But in the virtual world, people seem more open to talk and more willing to have a conversation because all they are doing is clicking a link. It’s just time and they’re not leaving the house.”
If that first meeting is informative and productive, it often leads to follow-up meetings, and the built-in trust established can be invaluable in gaining new business.