Those words, let’s face it, strike something like terror in the hearts of too many financial advisors.
That’s because they find themselves confronted by a basic question. “What do you actually do and say in front of people?” asks David L. Lazenby, president of Rockford, Ill.-based ScenarioNow Inc., who holds a doctorate in psychology.
If you wanted to be cold blooded about it, you could say a financial advisor’s presentation, at its essence, is a set of numbers and a set of decisions about them. It should be easy to put across your great ideas in a few well-spoken paragraphs or a few colorful charts. But does it ever work that way in real life?
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After all, presenting financial planning information or advice to a client or prospective client means trying to gain that person’s trust while communicating information and perspectives that, to many people, might as well be Martian.
“Sales presentation” is redundant, anyway, because every presentation and certainly every one-on-one presentation is really a sales presentation. And, while such a presentation should end with a sale, in order to close the sale the presentation often doubles as a compliance document. Even the advisor who conducts a presentation complete with balloons and a brass band has to get a signature on legal documents at some point.
So what is a sales presentation all about?
“There are about four steps to getting a client,” says Mike Prestwich, president of Albuquerque-based ImagiSOFT Inc. These are finding the client, also known as client resource management; offering the sales concept/needs analysis/presentation; illustrating the solution; and filling out the forms to close the sale.
Neal Ringquist, president and COO of Lafayette, Calif.-based Advisor Software Inc., says “delivery” means “the presentation to the client and the ease and efficiency with which the advisor translates the construction of advice into a presentation that they could logically step through with their client that helps express the uniqueness of that advice.”
Lazenby looks at the question a little differently. The real bottom line is gaining trust, he says. “I call it the financial therapist point of view,” he explains. “When we’re trained as psychologists, we don’t have a lot of time to build trust.”
How can presentations help build that trust in a relatively short span of time – especially when your clients and their needs come in all sizes and shapes? What are the most effective ways the illustrations and charts in a presentation can really pound home the information to prospects? What are the most compelling ways to show a need or value?
Companies that specialize in presentation products as well as the homemade kind have such wildly divergent philosophies it could be hard to know how to proceed. Here are some of the basic qualities to look for in your client presentation package, in rough order from the most basic to the most sophisticated:
Content - Know your audience. You don’t want to present asset management advice to a client seeking to roll over an IRA. Vendors offer programs in a dizzying array of categories but the question remains, what does the client/prospect need?
All but the most generic presentations include personal information, serious analysis and a digestible presentation. On the input side of the equation, remember the old computer programmer’s mantra: GIGO, or, garbage in/garbage out. You are the best judge of the analytical value of a presentation.
On the output side of the equation, ask yourself, how will this client best assimilate this complicated ball of wax? Would an older client/prospect appreciate a paper printout? Do younger prospects/clients like a little more razzle-dazzle, say, an interactive demo projected on a big screen?
Commercial presentation packages differ dizzily from one another. Some approach the subject by product concept, some by goal-setting, some by reviewing or devising an entire financial plan on the spot.
Some packages emphasize planning and some emphasize presentation. Some are more illustrative or educational; some are geared toward moving to a formal financial plan as quickly as possible. Shop for a product with your clients and prospects in mind.