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Acknowledging a need will get the sales ball rolling

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In previous columns, we have finished the discovery, identification, and qualifying steps to determine if we have the right type of clients that fit our practice. Now we move on to the crucial need acknowledgement step.

If you are a one-call closer, this will make or break your sale. If you use a two- or three-step process, this will immensely help set up your product/solution presentation.

Need acknowledgement is ensuring a client understands what his needs are. This is a problem for most people. It is essential, as an advisor, to do our best to find the proper solution to meet client needs. This is where we want to ask questions such as:

“John and Mary, if I understand you both correctly, you’re hoping to retire in 10 years in Arizona? With enough money to live a lifestyle current with the lifestyle you have today? I realize that you would also like to own a second home in the mountains? And eventually, have enough money to handle your long term care needs, should either one require it? Does this cover your major concerns?”

You have to be absolutely certain at this point that you have all the information they have to share. If their answer is not a resounding “yes,” review your notes and go back and ask more questions.

I personally love to ask four or five summary questions, other than what I just reviewed. For example, “Is there anything else that concerns you?” I do this to verify that nothing has inadvertently been left out of our conversation. Once you have made a summary statement that covers all the basics and your potential customers are in agreement, they will acknowledge that they have a need. You’re now standing on common ground beside them, looking toward the answer together. Their sales resistance is nearly gone and they’re beginning to look to you as their guide on the journey to resolving their problems.

However, most advisors tell me that clients come into their office with a mindset of not making a decision today, even though we’ve addressed their needs. They will say the dreaded phrase, “We want to take this home and think about it.”

Understand clearly that they all have said and done that, so let’s take control of the opportunity right away. Be direct and ask what brought them over here? I typically say, “I bet you folks kicked off the covers this morning and said to each other … ‘Honey, let’s go out and rearrange our financial situation. We’ll go ahead and change our portfolio and find somebody new to manage our money.’ ” This will usually get them smiling. Then I say, “ I know you didn’t really do that.”

Keep the humor flowing. “What really happened is that you probably made an agreement that no matter how good it sounds, you’re not buying anything or making any decisions today. I completely understand your feelings, because I have done the same thing myself many times. All I ask is that if you see something here today that would really benefit you and your family and probably save you money in taxes in the process, that you don’t let a little pact you both made earlier stand in your way. Is that fair enough?” If they say “yes,” you are on your way to a happy relationship with a new client.

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