When he started in the sales profession a couple decades ago, Bill Bachrach was part of the paradigm of the time – selling products to clients and then looking for more clients. He decided something was missing. When he realized trust was the missing element, he was uncomfortable. So, he ventured out on his own, thinking he could change the way advisors interacted with prospects and clients.
Now an author and well-known coach to financial advisors, Bachrach is able to transfer his thinking to others, creating a new sales paradigm along the way.
“Our focus is to help financial advisors transform themselves from being traditional salespeople to being what we call a client-centered trusted advisor,” Bachrach says.
The coming retirement wave is going to be made up of baby boomers who expect more from their professional advisors. They expect relationships. They expect to work with someone they can trust. The traditional sales formula won’t work. The title of his latest book says it all: “It’s All About Them: How Trusted Advisors Listen for Success.”
Senior Market Advisor: What is the biggest mistake advisors make in an initial conversation with a prospect?
Bill Bachrach: Talking too much. Simple as that. Talking too much. Therefore, the flip side is not listening enough. It tends to be too presentation oriented. It’s supposed to be an interview. For example, you are interviewing me, so you are asking me questions. The idea is to get me to talk. That’s what it is supposed to be. If you listen to your recording, if you are doing your job as the interviewer, I suppose I will do most of the talking. When we listen to recordings of financial advisors with their prospects and clients, which is something we teach advisors to do – to record the interviews – if it is a real interview, then the other person is doing most of the talking.
SMA: In your experience, why is it so difficult for so many people to listen?
BB: There’s a couple of things. First of all, I think it’s the nature of the sales profession. The sales profession tends to be oriented toward asking a few questions to find out their needs or hot buttons so you can make a features-and-benefits presentation of the products you planned to sell before you got there anyway. So you are not really listening to build a relationship and build a bond and to truly determine if there is a fit. You’re really only listening long enough until you find some basis to pitch your product.
SMA: Is there a difference between listening and letting the other person talk.
BB: There’s a huge difference between listening and letting the other person talk. One of my mentors is a man named Max Dixon. He has a great saying. He asks the question, “Can you show up ready to be no place else?” So when you ask a question, are you really fully present to hear what the person is actually saying, or are you thinking about when it is your turn to talk? Are you listening to hear what you want to hear so that you can sell your product? So there’s a big difference between the other person talking and listening actually occurring.
SMA: You talk about building trust in the first six to 12 minutes. How much should the advisor be talking during that time?
BB: The myth of being a salesperson is that you build trust by talking about yourself and your background and your credentials and maybe how great your company is, or maybe you engage in some superficial chit chat to kind of break the ice. I can understand why a salesperson would think from that perspective, but that isn’t how a trusted advisor would behave.
In the first 10 or 12 minutes, it’s about a 45-second opening to then ask a question that will stimulate a meaningful conversation where they are talking about what is important to them, as opposed to just chit chat or, worse yet, you talking about yourself and your background and your credentials. The metaphor I use for that is dating, especially a first meeting with a couple. Most financial advisors will tend to meet with couples. Imagine that as a date. You wouldn’t sit down on a first date and look across at your date and say, “You know, I’m so excited about our first date. I would like to start the evening off by telling you all about me.” You build trust by listening to their story, not by telling yours.
SMA: What kinds of questions do you ask?
BB: You don’t have to be leading them to specific answers that you want to hear in order to accomplish your outcome. It’s more creating a series of questions that gets them really talking about what is important to them, and if there is a natural connection, it will be obvious to both of you. If there isn’t a natural connection, then that will be obvious, as well. The good news is if there isn’t a good fit and this isn’t really going anywhere, it’s not only good for the client, or the prospective client at this point, it’s good for you because you can move on and you don’t need thousands of clients. Most advisors, if they really do the math, need between 75 and 150 what we call ideal clients, and that’s all they ever need. So that’s another distinction between a salesperson and a trusted advisor. A trusted advisor is looking for a serious long-term, meaningful relationship where they can be of service and value, where the salesperson tends to do the transaction and then move on to the next person, do the transaction, and move on.