March 11, 2013

Sales Paradox: The Way to Get Is to Give

A bestselling author says there’s still endless opportunity for advisors who can establish trust

A common complaint of financial advisors, even those who are confident in their products and processes, is the tepid level of sales nowadays.

Perhaps that’s par for the course in a still-weak economy, but in the view of one bestselling author, there is ample space even in today’s straightened business environment to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Bob BurgBob Burg’s Go-Giver series of books shot up to the top of the business book bestseller lists with the novel-seeming idea that it is giving rather than taking that drives success. Go ahead and be a go-getter—in the sense of taking actions—Burg (left) tells financial advisors in an interview with AdvisorOne—“Just don’t be a go-taker.”

A taker is someone who is looking out for his own self-interest, which to many seems like Capitalism 101. But that’s not how Burg, who calls himself a staunch supporter of free enterprise, sees it.

“So many people think selling is about convincing people to buy what they don’t want or need," Burg says. "But it is about finding out what someone does want or need and helping them get it. It’s not taking advantage; it’s bringing them advantage.”

The Jupiter, Fla.-based conference-circuit speaker and author cites ancient wisdom supporting this idea, namely that the word from which “sell” originates in Old English, “sellan,” actually meant “to give.”

That idea is the heart of Burg’s business parable, The Go Giver, which has now been translated into 21 languages and has sold more than 250,000 copies. The author has created a new video summarizing the lessons that his fictional character Joe learns from his mentors about the “five laws governing stratospheric success.”

Its counterintuitive essence is that you don’t make a sale; rather, you create an environment in which the prospect or client likes, trusts and respects you, and believes you can provide what he or she needs.

“When I’m in the selling process, what I am giving is time, attention, counsel, education, empathy and value,” Burg says. “And to the degree that you can communicate these effectively, that’s the degree you’re going to have a client.”

In this view, “money is an echo of value,” something that naturally follows the advisor who is providing value to clients, putting their interests first.  

"[Prospects and clients] can sense that the interest is in them, not in the fee or commission. You have to switch from an 'I' focus or 'me' focus to an 'others' focus."

Burg eschews the archetypical model of sales as simply a numbers game.

“To a certain point, anything is [a numbers game]. Make a thousand calls and you’re going to get somebody as a client. But is that really what you’re looking to do?” he asks.

“You want quantity and quality,” he adds. “Quality and quantity are both important, but focus on the quality and you’ll have an even greater quantity of quality,” he says, emphasizing, though, that quantitative efforts cannot be ignored. “You’ve still got to work the business.”

Inaction on the part of advisors is “probably based on fear,” Burg says, something that can be dispelled with confidence and the right tools, which the Go-Giver principles aim to provide.

Take influence, for example, the third of his five Go-Giver principles and the one Burg views as its “how-to” backbone.

The principle is that our influence is determined by how abundantly a person places other people's interests first, but the practical result is what Burg calls an “endless referral system.”

How does it work?

“You find ways to establish value to [prospects and clients], not even having anything to do with your business,” Burg says. “It’s showing genuine concern. You ask, ‘How can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good contact for you?’ You’re putting their interest first rather than leading with yourself. You become asset of value to them.”

But because you’re actively engaged in trying to be of help, it is only natural that helping you in turn through referrals is uppermost in the client’s mind, he says.

So, assiduously working to put the client’s interest first in essence communicates trustworthiness in a marketplace in which trust, because of its absence, is purchased at a premium.

Says Burg: “The good news is that an advisor who can establish their trustworthiness is nine steps ahead in a 10-step game.”

One reason why is that meeting people through referrals and introductions removes much of the difficulty of establishing trust.

“It’s much easier to set the appointment because you’re going in on borrowed influence,” he says, adding that fees become less of an issue because the client understands through the referrer that you are providing value, are competent and have character.

Moreover, he says, “they’re more ready to introduce you, refer you to others, because that’s how they met you!”

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