Recently, in one of my workshops, a participant named Jerry related an interesting story about the difficulties of selling with information. He had done a research interview with an old college buddy who had done extremely well for himself financially, and he was delighted when the friend told him, “Jerry, I think I’m at the point in my life where I could really use your help.”
Jerry gathered his friend’s financial information and developed a very professional and detailed financial plan. He worked hard, because this was likely to be the biggest account he had ever opened. When he went back to present the plan, the two men went over everything in great detail. Jerry had listened carefully and was now offering him exactly what he had asked for. At the end, Jerry asked, “How does this all sound to you?” His friend said, “Wow, this is an overwhelming amount of information. I need to take this home and think about it.”
Immediately Jerry knew he had blown his big chance. What went wrong?
Too Much Information
As Jerry was telling his story, I thought back to the late 1980′s when I ran marketing for a financial planning firm in Phoenix. The principal in the office had invested a substantial amount of money in a computer network and Leonard Financial Planning Software. The basic attitude in the office was, “Darn it, we’ve invested a lot of money in this technology and you are going to have a comprehensive financial plan whether you want one or not!”
Our plans were literally an inch and a half thick, took weeks of intensive labor to develop, and completely bored clients out of their minds. In many cases, the plans simply overwhelmed them with data so that they became confused and were unable to make any decision at all. Rather than helping to open accounts, the plans became yet another obstacle.
There seems to be a debate in our industry between doing a comprehensive financial plan or doing little or no planning at all. I am a firm believer in the financial and investment planning process. I believe the question is not “To plan or not to plan?” but “What level of planning is appropriate?” When it comes to presenting the plan to clients, the answer is: “Less is more.”
The best way is to start with a clear explanation of how you help your clients. It’s not about data at all. Here’s how you might explain to your clients and prospects what business you are really in: “Mr. Client, I see my job as much more than just analyzing investments, writing plans, and providing investment and insurance products to people. Really, my job is to help my clients clarify their vision of the ideal life. Then, I develop written strategies that have the highest probability of making their goals and dreams come true. Finally, I help them implement the plan over time and take corrective measures as needed. I do all of this using a proven investment process that will help my clients achieve their goals with the lowest risk possible.”
This repositions your role. It’s not about getting the highest returns, it’s about clarifying their vision, developing a written plan, and then helping them implement the plan with the lowest risk possible. That translates to the highest probability of actually achieving success.
This process lets your prospects’ and clients’ visions, dreams, and goals drive your planning process–not your software, background, or current hot product. This is what I call visionary selling, as opposed to traditional information-oriented selling.
The bottom line is this: If you have an elegant process for helping your clients clarify what they really want in their life, and you develop a written strategy that makes sense to your prospects, you get almost no objections and there will be no need for them to “think about it.” In other words, if you listen to them and give them what they truly want and need, there is there is no resistance and they will want to start working with you right now.
Five Levels of Cognizance
In working with prospects and clients, it’s important to understand that the human mind works on five levels. These are called levels of cognizance. The five levels are data, information, knowledge, wisdom, and insight.
Data is “just the facts, ma’am.” For instance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index is at 10,521. Without any context, this information is meaningless.
The next level of cognizance is information. This is data with context. So if you know where the index is now and you realize that in 1982, it was around 1,000, that gives you some sense of comparison.
The third level is knowledge. This is information enhanced by practical experience. So if you had invested money, say, back in 1981, and your money has grown substantially, you would have a better understanding of how financial indexes work and how you might use them to compare different asset classes and make informed decisions.
The fourth level is wisdom. Wisdom is practical application of knowledge with predictable outcomes. Wisdom is something that can only be gained by working for many years in a specific field. This is why experienced investors are much more conservative than new investors. New investors have a lot of data, but no wisdom.
Insight is the highest level of cognizance. Insight is a personal understanding of what you should do with the wisdom, knowledge, information, and data that you have. It’s a clear vision of what actions to take to get what you want.