Putting your prospects and yourself in a clear frame of mind

By Joseph J. Lukacs

It?s easy to close a sale when you?ve put your prospects in a relaxed, clear frame of mind. But you can?t do that unless you feel that way yourself. Here are 10 steps to follow to achieve both.

Step 1: Be prepared in writing. Write down your agenda before meeting your prospect so you won?t forget anything important.

How well you interview your prospect will determine your success, so bring a mental “toolbox” of questions. They should include: “What is your investment experience? What is most important to you in a financial advisor? How can I best serve you? How often should we get together? What are your greatest fears regarding your finances and investments?”

Bring a list of references and all the paperwork required to execute plans?you?re going to need it!

Step 2: Clear your mind. Ten minutes before the meeting, stop taking calls. Review your materials and take a few deep breaths. If you?re traveling, arrive early so you can have time to focus. Make a prospect who arrives early wait.

Step 3: Build rapport, the foundation of every relationship. Small talk puts your prospects at ease and shows you?re a real human being. Talk a little about yourself and ask questions about the prospect?s personal background. Look for common ground such as children, sports, lifestyle and hobbies. Try to find out something about your prospect beforehand, whether on the Internet or elsewhere.

If possible, offer a sincere compliment.

Now, transition into the meat of the appointment by asking permission to continue. “Is it okay if I ask you a couple of questions to help me to do my job today?” Show the prospect your agenda. He or she will appreciate your thoroughness.

Step 4: Probe; get clarity. Ask: “What are your goals? What would you like to accomplish today?” If a prospect is vague and says he wants to know more about you, ask more questions.

Investing is an emotional decision. Your questions, therefore, should be emotionally driven: “What will you do when you retire? Do you know how much money you’re going to need? Where do you want to live? What lifestyle do you want to have?”

Next, get more specific: “What are you doing to fund your retirement? How long have you been working with your current advisor? Have you had one or more advisors? What do you like best about them? What do you wish they could do better?”

The answer to these questions will elicit an issue. Bring out the pain so you can create an opening for yourself. Provide alternatives to their current situation and make your responses relevant.

With couples, don?t assume that one spouse makes the decisions. Give both the opportunity to answer your questions. Make sure both are in agreement and comfortable with your plan. When people are confused, they take no action. Make sure your prospects have clarity.

Step 5: Uncover motivation; break procrastination. People need strong motivation to act. They become motivated when they perceive a need, don’t want to be left out or are deeply dissatisfied. But even clients dissatisfied with their current advisor won?t automatically leave.

Draw upon that dissatisfaction. Ask questions such as, “Do you feel you are getting enough service? Are you ahead of or behind your financial goals? How do you feel knowing you are behind your goals? If I can find you a way to reach your goal, would you be committed to making a change?”

The prospect’s answers will tell you what stage you are in your dealings. If the prospect says he or she is interested, ask: “What has to happen for you to be committed?” The answer will give you a blueprint for moving forward.

Now, pin down the timeframe. “How soon do you want to get started in the process of reaching your goal? Never ask “when.”

Find out early who else is involved in the decision. Don’t let your clients try to sell your plan to someone else, such as their son or CPA or lawyer. Speak to those individuals yourself to keep control.

Say something like: “I appreciate that you feel you need to talk to someone else. Here?s what I?ll do to inform them and here?s how we will proceed.” If they do not consent, they probably do not trust you and you won?t get a commitment.

Step 6: Tie into the client?s emotional needs when presenting your solution. Reemphasize the prospect?s commitment and recap your discussion, revisiting the source of dissatisfaction.

Step 7: Test your closing; uncover objections. Your presentation should be 50% technical and 50% emotional. A client who hesitates in answering the question, “How soon do you want to start the plan?” usually indicates an unspoken objection. Get the client to express objections by asking questions. Be observant.

Step 8: Acknowledge objections; overcome them with a four-step process. Whenever possible, handle objections before they are spoken.

The first step is acknowledgment: “I appreciate what you?re saying.”

Second, hear the client out. Ask, “Why aren’t you sure? Why do you feel that way?” Don’t get defensive or debate who is right. The client must now justify his or her objection. Let the client talk. Listen.

Third, let prospects talk themselves out of unfounded objections. They?ll often do your work for you.

Fourth, get to the final objection. Determine what is making the client uncomfortable by asking, “If I can deal with that issue, will you go forward with the plan?” If the client says “no,” this is not the true objection. Ask, “What is keeping you from going forward?” Once you find out, you can reply, “If I can handle that, will you commit to our plan?”

Step 9: Say thank you. Congratulations! You?ve closed the sale. Thank your new client for the business. Say how much you are looking forward to working to achieve the expressed goals.

Step 10: Reconfirm and wrap up. People often fall prey to buyer?s remorse within 72 hours and may hesitate to complete the purchase. Call the new client within 24 hours to confirm that he or she has made a great choice. Almost everyone wants to be reassured of this.

Now, you have more credibility. You?re no longer someone who wants to sell the client something. You?re now advisor and mentor.

Joseph J. Lukacs, practice strategist and coach to advisors and agents, is the founder of International Performance Group LLC, Melbourne, Florida. He can be reached at jjl@ipgllc.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 28, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.