From the August 2010 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

August 1, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

Bob Burg, co-author of Go-Givers Sell More, argues that everyone wins when the advisor re-frames sales as a process of giving rather than getting.

Bob Burg started out broadcasting the news on radio and television. But it is the information he has imparted for 18 years now as a corporate speaker that likely has had the most impact with audiences. Indeed, whose ears wouldn't perk up to learn "Five Laws of Stratospheric Success"?

Those five principles -- including "The Law of Value" and "The Law of Influence" -- are discussed in the newsman-turned-top-salesman's newest book, Go-Givers Sell More (Portfolio 2010). The five rules were first revealed in Burg's bestseller, The Go-Giver (Portfolio 2007), a business parable. His new book relates specifically to the selling process. Both works were co-authored with John David Mann, an entrepreneur and business writer.

Speaking for firms such as General Electric, Ash Brokerage, Wachovia and New York Life Insurance Company, Burg's message is clear: Sales success is achieved by shifting focus from getting to giving, from "you" to the client or prospect. That is, the way to cultivate a trusting relationship is by concentrating on creating value.

Burg, 52, whose 1994 book Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales remains a training manual for major sales organizations worldwide, left television -- an Oklahoma ABC affiliate -- for sales when he was in his 20s.

Selling solar-energy water heaters to homeowners, he did fabulously well but not until he began studying the systems of successful salespeople.

In Go-Givers Sell More, Burg and Mann once again turn conventional wisdom upside-down, stating, for example, "You can't make a sale. But you can create an environment where the other person likes, trusts, respects you and believes that you have an answer to their need."

Research recently chatted with Burg by phone at his home-base in Jupiter, Fla.

Is now a good time to be a go-giver?

Especially now. This difficult time is when you need to be a go-giver because it will be the difference maker.

Is the whole point to be a go-giver instead of a go-getter?

Absolutely not. Being a go-getter is great: Go-getters are people of action who get things done. It's: Don't be a go-taker. That's the opposite of a go-giver. It's a person who feels almost entitled to take, take, take without having added value to the relationship.

Why is creating value for others so important?

Your true worth is governed by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. Price is a dollar figure; value is the relative worth or desirability of a thing: What is it about this service that brings so much value that someone will not only exchange their hard-earned money for it but be glad they did?

How does that apply to financial advisors?

When a fee-based advisor, say, delivers so much more than what they're charging, they make the client feel good knowing that they're receiving a really good service. That's the goal -- to make the other person feel they're getting a great return for the price they're paying. And, in this case, the advisor is making a nice profit. So everybody wins!

You write that the linchpin to a salesperson's economic future is knowing how to establish rapport. Why is that necessary in financial services?

The advisor who can't establish rapport could be the best advisor in the world technically, but they probably aren't going to be doing a lot of business. Rapport is the key that determines if people will do business with you and refer business to you because they like and trust you.

Trust is the most important aspect. Because of the financial crisis, right now we're living in a "low-trust society." So advisors are, in a sense, on the spot not only to be trustworthy -- the baseline -- but to communicate that trustworthiness.

Should questions an advisor asks to establish rapport double as questions to elicit information about the client's lifestyle and goals?

With rapport, we're not typically talking about informational prospecting-type questions that you ask to best know how to serve the client. Rapport-building questions are "feel good" questions -- because that's the idea. They make the person feel good about themselves, about you, about the conversation: "How did you get started in the so-and-so business? What do you enjoy most about what you do?"

You say the No.1 misconception is: Being good at sales means being skilled at making presentations. But aren't effective presentations essential to successful selling?

Sales skills and product knowledge are very important, of course. You've got to have those just to be in the game. What separates the best producers from everyone else is their laser focus on serving the other person. This is where authenticity comes in. They genuinely feel that their mission is to provide value to the other person.

How does that translate into sales?

Clients and prospects respect the focus on serving. So chances are much more likely that you're going to do business. Money is simply an echo of value, the thunder to value's lightning.

Why do you say the secret to the perfect sales pitch is to have no pitch?

There's no place for the word "pitch" in sales. Leave it out of your mind and your vocabulary. If you think about pitching a prospect, again, it's all about you -- not the other person. Go-givers don't pitch, they serve; and that's how they engage the prospect or client.

What's an example of "engaging" another person?

If at a party someone asks "What do you do?" -- instead of saying "I'm a financial advisor," you could say, "I help people create and manage wealth."

And then the other guy might say, "Well, can you help me do that too?"

Exactly.

You advise: Forget about "making" a sale. Please explain.

If you think of "making" the sale, you're pushing your wants, needs and desires on someone else. But if you're truly focused on the other person, it's a whole different ballgame. If you're thinking: "How can I best provide the kind of value this person would desire," now you're focused on them. That shift makes all the difference.

You write of the importance of empathy and that the real secret of great communicators is listening. How can an FA develop empathy?

By first being aware of its importance. An advisor is in a position where people need to know, like and trust them. It's a matter of focusing on being empathetic and asking yourself: "How does this person feel? How would I feel if I were in their shoes?"

You stress that it's best to under-promise and over-deliver. Why?

I think it was [motivational speaker] Zig Ziglar who said, "Deliver on what you promise -- and then some." The "and then some" can be a lot! The person who does that consistently develops the reputation of being an asset of value.

Talk more about seeing things from the other person's viewpoint. You say that dealing with objections is often when the sale happens.

Lots of times when an advisor hears an objection, they'll think that the person isn't interested. But what they're really saying is, "I don't understand the value in this enough to go ahead with a 'yes' decision." If we look at an objection as a request for more information, then we're focused on them, not us.

What do you mean by "turning into the skid"?

It's being there with the client or prospect, not being against them. Turn into the skid instead of resisting. To answer the objection is not the issue. It's: How is this person going to feel about the way you're answering? Will they feel you're upset about the objection because you want to make a sale, or will they feel that your job is to provide value to them?

You advise not to think of "closing" the sale but to instead zero in on "opening" it? What's the idea there?

You still have to ask for the order -- we're talking about the real world. But it's not a matter of fancy closes. If you're looking to "close" a sale, your focus is on you. But if your focus is on opening the relationship, buying becomes a natural part of the process.

Why the emphasis on process?

When I started out, my sales began to accelerate once I learned a system. A system is the process of predictably achieving the goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles. The key is predictability.

Why is follow-through a must?

Follow-up is sending a note; follow-through means you're following through in your dedication to providing enough value over time and making sure you do what it takes to win that person's trust. Follow-through means you don't meet someone once and think, "Well, maybe they'll call me."

How come you don't advise people to step out of their comfort zone?

Often by jumping outside your comfort zone, you put yourself in a position where you might be so uncomfortable that you won't take action. Instead of trying to do something completely foreign, just stretch that comfort zone and build confidence by having a series of small successes.

How did you come up with that concept?

My dad managed the Miami Beach gym for fight trainer Angelo Dundee. Part of Angelo's genius was the way he'd bring a fighter along by helping him build on his small successes [with relatively easy opponents]. With every fight, he'd get a little more confidence, until he was ready for a big-time fight, a bigger pay-day. It's the same here.

People you're acquainted with only vaguely can be good prospects, you state. How so?

Some years ago, a study found that everyone knows 250 people naturally. But because you know a lot of the same people, many good referrals aren't necessarily going to come from them. So look to your "fuzzy market": If you develop a relationship with a weak tie -- someone out of your natural sphere of influence where there isn't a lot of cross-over -- and make a real solid know-like-trust connection, a whole new world of 250 [additional] people opens up.

You like the idea of complimenting the competition when talking with prospects and clients. Why is that good?

When you compliment a competitor, you're oozing credibility. People who aren't confident in themselves or who aren't successful don't do that. If financial advisors are, in general, so competitive that they usually don't compliment their competitors, just think of the one who does. They stand out.

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