5 step stall-breaker for the financial advisor sales funnel

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In this blog-podcast I am going to be talking about 5 steps to use to get that stalled prospect that just will not budge in your financial advisor sales funnel to become a client. Or a least to move them to the next step in the sales funnel. Stay tuned, folks!  

For those of new to my blog/podcast, I am Sara Grillo. Pleased to meet you!

For those of you who are new to my blog/podcast, my name is Sara. I am a CFA® charterholder and I used to be a financial advisor. I have a weekly newsletter in which I talk about financial advisor lead generation topics which is best described as “fun and irreverent.” So please subscribe!

Sara Grillo, CFA is a highly fun and slightly crazy marketing consultant based in NYC.
I am an insightful and fun marketing consultant for financial advisors.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • What is a sales stall?
  • Why do deals stall?
  • What goes through the prospect’s mind in a sales stall
  • How stalls originate
  • What to do at the point of sales stall origination
  • The 5 step process for getting a stalled prospect to move to the next step in your financial advisor sales funnel

What is a sales stall and how does it impact a financial advisor’s sales funnel?

The silence between two people is very powerful if you view it that way. It is very telling in some ways about what the truth is that people feel inside, but will not say.

-Sara Grillo, CFA

A sales stall is a breakdown in communication between two people. The prospect has shut down and cut you off, and they may or may not even be conscious that they have done it.

Why do sales stalls happen?

There are all kinds of reasons that deals stall.

  • Perhaps there has been a personal circumstance in the prospect’s life
  • Maybe they weren’t that serious and were just using you for information to begin with, or were just looking to see what else is out there
  • It also happens quite a lot that you met with them, but failed to understand their needs and they walked out of the meeting feeling like you cared more about their money than them.
  • Sometimes prospects just see things a certain way for emotional reasons. For example, how many times have you heard someone say, “I’m interested but I don’t want to do anything in these crazy times (pandemic).” What they are really saying is that the value proposition wasn’t strong enough to allow them to overcome their fears about the future.
  • Did something weird happen in the meeting, like your Zoom line went down and it was hard to recover after that point? We’ve all been there. People are understanding however sometimes it can make you look just ever so slightly like you don’t have it all together.

Lemme tell you a quick story on that.

I remember two winters ago I was preg with my fourth child. I had this monster sinus infection that lasted from the end of January until the baby was born in March. I didn’t take antibiotics because it’s debatable but I just felt like it wouldn’t be the best thing for the baby.

Here’s a pic of me preggos way back when, with my man, Antonio.

Anyways, continuing the story, I literally had a sinus infection for the better part of two months. During this time, I was doing some prospect follow up calls and there was someone who had expressed interest. I was leaving a voicemail for this one prospect and in the middle of the it I was overcome. I had a choking fit for 20 seconds, could not complete the message, and had to hang up the phone.

Well, suffice to say I never heard back from the guy, no matter what I did. The deal stalled permanently after that. The point of my story is that some of the time the stall is going to be attributable to things you can control (how you conduct the meeting, the questions you ask, etc), and other times to things you can’t control (e.g. a merger or acquisition).

But either way, a sales stall can really mess up a financial advisor’s sales funnel. They need to be overcome and there is a process for doing that which I will get into later on in this blog.

A sales stall can really mess up a financial advisor’s sales funnel.

-Sara Grillo, CFA

What goes through the prospect’s mind in a sales stall

So here’s a time when I stalled out on someone trying to sell me something. As you know, I have an autistic child. This is something I regard as freaking awesome and wouldn’t change for the world, by the way.  I’ve talked about our amazing journey with this beautiful gift and you can listen to the positive pills here.  

One of the psychologists that helped us with the diagnosis process had recommended a few behavioral therapists to help me manage my son’s behavioral tendencies. I guess I was operating under the premise that they were all child therapists specializing in autism and related conditions. So I emailed a bunch of them, thinking that this is going to be therapy for my child. Not for me, but actually for my son.

One of them did the good old bait-and-switch and it made me stall out pronto. By the way financial advisors, don’t do this move! You’re just going to get stalled out. And that is exactly what happened.

Listen to what happened, okay?

One therapist in particular was not a child psychologist at all, but rather a psychotherapist for adults. And she still felt it was cool to take up my time and lead me to believe that I needed her therapy anyways. She was very clever with the semantics of it and tried to sell me on the idea that talking to her would help me manage his condition better indirectly.

The end result, long story short, was that I kinda half bought it. I let myself get talked into it, and agreed to an appointment without giving her my insurance information. However shortly after I got off the phone the truth hit me which was that I had called this woman thinking she could help me manage my son’s meltdowns and instead I got sold therapy on managing the stress of having a child with autism. Useful, but not what I was originally looking for.

I emailed her a few hours later to cancel the appointment.

And that, my friends, is how sales sales are created! There is some fundamental misunderstanding that happens and it is usually due to the salesperson not understanding what the prospect needs, wants, or desires to know more about.

How do sales stalls originate?

In the previous example with the psychotherapist, when she said, “And now I’ll need your insurance information”, I responded with, “I’ll send it to you later.”

That’s significant.

You know you’re gonna get stalled out when someone says something like that. If she had been the therapist I had been looking for right then and there. That’s the key thing you have to understand about a stall. Let me write this with emphasis.

A sales stall begins before you end the meeting.

-Sara Grillo, CFA

A stall begins before you end the meeting. It doesn’t creep up after the meeting, as is commonly believed. In the therapist example, in the midst of her and I talking, here’s what was going through my mind. I’m thinking about the kind of stuff she’s going to want to talk about with me: My relationship with my own parents, my relationship with Antonio, how I handle stress.

And then the stall begins!

Because then I am thinking:

I don’t really want to talk about this with you. I want you to tell me what to do when my son has a meltdown because he keeps asking me to buy him Frosted Mini-Wheats at the grocery store and he keeps saying it over and over again and I just don’t know what to do. I need you to teach me how to help him calm himself down. I don’t to sit here and smoke a pipe with you (figuratively) and talk about how when I was little somebody showed up late to pick me up from school or something and for the rest of my life I’m bent out of shape whenever somebody does something I don’t like. Or whatever other psychoanalysis mumbo jumbo you want to tell me…this adult psychoanalysis stuff is just not for me.

So I get off the phone with this stall in mind. And then a few days later when she emailed me to confirm the meeting, the stall was in full effect because I said the line that so many of us hear so often:

“You know what – this is just a busy time in life. I’ll get back to you at a better time when I’m ready to move forward.”

Here are the signs a stall is beginning:

  • Any time someone refuses to provide specific information
  • Any time there is a shift in tone
  • Any time there is a shift in cadence

If she had been paying attention, she could have detected the stall before it happened. You’ve got to be like a detective and pay attention to these little cues that people are giving you. If you sense a stall is beginning in the meeting, address it in the meeting. It’s three times as hard to fix it after the meeting is over and you may not even get a chance to get back in front of them.

Maybe she could have said something like:

  • Would you be able to give me some feedback as to why it is that you are hesitant to provide me with your insurance information even though you have expressed interest in moving forward?
  • You know what, I’m appreciating the conversation here, Sara, but I’m just not getting the sense that this is 100% a certain thing in your mind. Could you tell me about what’s holding you back?
  • Is there a certain thing holding you back? Because normally when people will not commit to a date it is a signal that they have not completely committed to spending time with me and I would rather know if that is the case than have you here on my calendar.

All are respectable ways of addressing a sales stall when it begins.

The financial advisor sales funnel and sales stalls

Imagine that in your meeting, you are sitting at a table with puzzle pieces strewn across it. These pieces represent information about you and about them. You and the prospect have to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that makes sense for you, so that the in the end the solved puzzle is recognizable to you and also the prospect.

You have to create a puzzle that depicts a scene of both of you, one that you are both happy with. Throughout this process, you put a piece into the puzzle, and then they put a piece in. You put a piece in, and they put a piece in. you put a piece in, and they put a piece in. Taking turns one after the other putting piece into the puzzle, and the final piece is the agreement they sign to become your client.

When there aren’t enough emotional pieces in place, when there isn’t enough information in place in the puzzle, the prospect doesn’t know where the final piece goes. There are so many pieces missing that they can’t even see where the final piece fits. If there are so many gaps in the puzzle that the final piece could go in the right hand corner, in the middle, in the upper left, in the lower left hand corner. If it’s not clear to them where the final pieces fits and they can’t see it easily. If it’s not natural, then you are not going to close the deal.

Why does this analogy matter? I thought we were talking about sales here not puzzles! It relates to step #1 in overcoming sales stalls in the financial advisor sales funnel.

5 steps for overcoming sales stalls in your financial advisor sales funnel

#1 Examine the puzzle

Look at the puzzle and see which pieces are missing from the prospect’s point of view. ee the deal from the prospect’s point of view. You can try making a list of all the information the client has about you. Which pieces did they put into the puzzle? How many pieces are missing? Which pieces are missing, if you were looking at it as they see it?

Maybe there are too many gaps in the puzzle and that is why they can’t figure out where the final piece should go. Or maybe it is because they simply are not seated at the table anymore.

Looking at things this way can help you see why they can’t put the final piece into the puzzle. Without this information you can not overcome the stall.

#2 Research where they are in the financial advisor sales funnel process

Do the research on the prospect’s history with you since the stall started. Can you gauge the level of interest? You have to research and interpret where they are in this puzzle game.

See if they are checking your newsletter, liking your SM updates, etc. Are they ignoring all of your emails? What, if any, contact have you had since the first meeting and what was their response? It’s possible that they have exited the deal and not even told you about it.

When you are doing this, consider how the prospect is used to communicating with you. Some prospects, for example, are just not going to respond to voicemails. I always hear from financial advisors who say, oh I left a voicemail and they didn’t call me back. I actually get mad when people call me on my phone unsolicited. The only people that I actually answer when they call are my parents, my brother, my client, Antonio, my kids’ school and the pediatrician. Period.

The point is that it might not be a stall if you are communicating with them the wrong way.

#3 Come up with a two sentence stall breaker

This is a make up conversation. Anyone who has a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend knows what it’s like to make up from a fight. This is along the same lines.

No writing books here; they won’t read it. This is not a love letter. Two sentences only.

Do you know what it’s like when you have a fight with your man and your woman, and it gets to the point where emotions are pretty flatlined – on both sides. When the both of you are burnt out of the fight. It’s at the point where both of you just don’t even have the energy to fight anymore or even fully communicate. And the fight becomes silence.

And then you say something humble that allows you to make up. That’s kinda what you are going for here. Once I was having this fight with Antonio and he was sitting there shut down, and instead of trying to fight and go back over it I just said to him, “Do you want to tell me what’s on your mind?”

And that was enough to solve the issue.

As you know I have four children and sometimes children can become non communicative. And so sometimes I’ll just look at them and say, “What’s going on?” That always works.

The point I am trying to make here is that instead of trying to pitch, promote, fix, or carry on with your agenda it is probably best to find out what is on theirs.

Other examples:

  • Send them an emoji message. “Is this deal still alive or am I in the dark?” (emoji of person scratching their chin)
  • “Okay so what should I put on the list of ways that the proposal I sent you wasn’t up to your expectations?”
  • “I know that in our last conversation, what I was trying to talk about with you wasn’t 100% what you wanted to hear. So if we ever get the chance to talk again, I wouldn’t talk I would just listen.” (This is if you really messed up and misread them during the first meeting and they went completely cold).
  • “I know that in our last conversation, I was trying to talk about a bunch of technical stuff and when I thought about it, that’s probably the last thing you want to hear right now. If I would have done it differently, I would have listened a heck of a lot more.

Don’t add more to the conversation. Add less and focus on quality.

Just say something intuitive that shows you have some idea about the fact that things between the two of you are not working. Because at least you are calling it out in the open. Kind of as if you are contrite. As if you messed up and you want to know what you need to do differently. People respect that. it’s rare, humble, and mature.

If you did the work in step #1 you really should have a sense of what the cause of the stall is.

#4 Wait two weeks

I have heard from so many clients who say “This deal is in a stall. I reached out and the person did not respond back.”

I say, “How long ago?”

“Four hours ago.”


I have so many clients whose minds work like a Pentium and they think so quickly. But at the same time you must understand that people have their lives and not every deal is stalled because the person didn’t get back to you right away. After two weeks it may be a true stall but it depends on who you are talking to. What is their normal response time?

Two weeks will make you not appear overly eager or irritate them.

#5 Try two more times

Try two more ultra creative reach outs that are not the same as what you did before.

I hear people say all the time, “I emailed and the prospect is ignoring my emails. What should I email them next week?”

So why are you still emailing? As if that is the only way to communicate with someone. Don’t continue to communicate in a fashion that they are ignoring. Don’t continue to communicate with them about something that they are ignoring.


  • Send them a book
  • Send them a telegram
  • Drop off something at their house
  • Make a personalized video message

The silence between two people is very powerful if you view it that way. It is very telling in some ways about what the truth is that people will not say. It sounds so common sense but when you get silence you should be thinking to yourself, what should I be doing differently this time? And it should be drastically different.  

After two creative reach outs, close the case for about six months. Keep them on your marketing lists but leave them alone for a bit.

Sara’s upshot

What’d ya think? Was this helpful?

If yes…

Learn what to say to prospects on social media messenger apps without sounding like a washing machine salesperson. This e-book contains 47 financial advisor LinkedIn messages, sequences, and scripts, and they are all two sentences or less.

This is a book about financial advisor LinkedIn messages which contains scripts you can use to get new prospects.

You could also consider my financial advisor social media membership which teaches financial advisors how to get new clients and leads from LinkedIn.

The Sara Grillo membership is a social media program for financial advisors - but only the cool ones.

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll at least join my weekly newsletter about financial advisor lead generation.

See you in the next one!

-Sara G

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