These days, it's often seen as a sign of enlightenment when an advisor says she spends as much or more time listening to prospective clients than she does talking to them. But such a strategy can be taken too far, says Terry Sjodin, author of New Sales Speak: The 9 Biggest Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, and a keynote speaker at Datalynx's recent annual conference, being held in Denver from February 21 to 24. Taking a consultative approach to attracting new business doesn't mean you don't have to speak, and speak persuasively, when the time is right, she says.
"Do you know what your 'David Letterman Top 10' list is for why a prospect should work with you? You should be able to list them off, rapid-fire, right now," Sjodin told conference attendees, noting that even if you're not selling products, you're nevertheless still selling: your services, your reputation, and yourself. Advisors can't simply meander, unprepared, through an initial interview with a prospect: Just as a champion debater must distill her case into a series of concise points, "you have to tighten up your arguments, and be persuasive: You have to talk in sound bites."
Moreover, watch that body language when you're speaking before a group, she cautions. "Public speaking causes an adrenaline rush, and that extra energy sometimes comes out in strange and incredible ways," such as fidgeting, fiddling with a pen or necktie, or doing what she calls "the penguin": standing with your arms at your sides, but being unable to stop from gesturing with your hands. "You won't even know you're doing this stuff, so you have to see it on tape," she says. "Make a commitment, every year, to videotape one of your presentations. You'll be surprised at what you see." Indeed, a participant in one of her workshops found that he often spoke with a pen in one hand, and often stuck the pen in his ear while he was presenting.
As for one-on-one presentations, Sjodin recommends finding out at least something about the prospect before the meeting. When a prospect's secretary told her he liked bass fishing, she promptly went home and watched a TV show about the sport over the weekend. At the Monday morning meeting, she and the prospect had an immediate topic of conversation, the prospect gave her 25 extra minutes to make her case, and he has been a faithful client ever since.