From the May 2006 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

May 1, 2006

Reading Your Mind

This month's cover story looks at two couples and asks the age-old question that has vexed businesspeople since the sale of the first cave-

improvement products: how do you lure the customer. Although there is no clear answer, the Iannotti and Newland families interviewed for this story offer some ideas, as do their advisors. The main thrust of their response seems to be the need for the advisor to "connect" with the client.

I'm always amazed when I call a company seeking some kind of solution to my problem and the recorded message asks me to wait till I'm put on the phone with a "sales associate." The company's objective may be sales, but a customer is not usually looking for the opportunity to be sold to. If a prospect is cautious in dealing with a sales associate over a $5 widget, how much more apprehensive is a person when the sum in question represents his entire life savings.

In the mind of every consumer, the person with whom he is doing business wants to separate him from his money. You can't control the mind of your prospect, but in order to dispel those not so distant doubts you need to work on your mind.

A long established marketing principle is that first impressions are formed in a matter of seconds, or in a "blink" as Malcolm Gladwell puts it. You can't even ask folks if they'd like a cup of coffee in that little time, so clearly it's not what you say that forms the crucial first impression but something much subtler. A prospect can somehow read an advisor's hunger to sell in an instant. The best way to keep the prospect from reading this off-putting message is not to have it top of mind in the first place.

As a consumer myself, of course, the kind of person I want to do business with knows his stuff and cares about helping people. If you have investment expertise, are passionate about financial planning, and see that knowledge and passion as the special gift you have been given to share with others, I am sure that will get across.

Paradoxically, your success in business is probably proportionate to your lack of self-interest. You know you're good at what you do and that if one prospect doesn't pan out, another will. You just want to engage people out of a sincere desire to help. Our cover asks, "How do you get clients like the Iannottis?" By having the knowledge and desire to help the Iannottis -- real people that you genuinely want to connect with.

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With this issue it is our pleasure to launch our comprehensive redesign of Research. I could go into detail about the new way in which we have organized and presented information, but I will refrain from doing so in complete confidence that it already has made a positive and powerful impression. Hats off to our design wizards Peter Tucker and Caryl Gorska.

Gil Weinreich, Editor, gweinreich@highlinemedia.com

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