Be a problem solver, not a product pusher

The first step to successful presentations, whether it be at seminars to a group of prospects or a first appointment, is know who you are, what you offer and why you are more qualified to help that prospect than anyone else.
I don’t think many in this industry take the time to determine if they are a product provider or if they are an advisor or a planner. If you are a product provider, always remember it is the benefits of your product that will get your audience interested and not the features. For example, don’t explain “what” an income benefit rider is–rather, show your audience the income they will receive, guaranteed, regardless of market returns or interest rates. They have to want the benefits you can provide or they won’t become your client.

In today’s climate, if you sell annuities you should be showing your audience what your clients started with five years ago and how much they have today. Remind them they bought into the market on the “possibility” of great returns, and ask how that worked out for them. Show them that you can give them what the market did not, which is the income they need for their future.

For advisors and planners, there is also a subtle difference. You must show your audience why you are different. In a presentation, show the benefits of working with you, benefits they won’t get from their current advisor or planner. Don’t just tell them you are better; show them. I talk about alternative investments that most other planners will not discuss, mostly because they don’t know how to use them. I show workshop attendees how my current clients haven’t lost 30 percent of their savings (as many others have) because of the benefits in the investments I provide.

In the current economy, you can tell potential clients that your mutual fund is better than theirs or that you do proper asset allocation and diversification, but it means nothing to them … mostly because their current advisor already said the same thing and they still lost 30 to 50 percent of their retirement investments. Today, you have to show them how they are going to get that money back, keep their current income level and regain confidence. These are the benefits you provide as an advisor or planner, so accentuate them.

Your first message, regardless of where you deliver it, must be quick and hard-hitting. Remind them of their problem through a simple question: “Worried about your retirement investments? You should be!” Then tell them why they need to meet you: “Find out why my clients are sleeping well and aren’t worried about their future.” Remember, it’s all about the benefits you provide, not just the features of a product.

Bring a sense of personality to your presentations

Everybody is a generalist; you need to be the specialist. An effective seminar addresses what is impacting your community and the people who reside in it. Seminars and presentation topics are not one-size-fits-all. They need to be specifically geared to the attendee’s unique situation, and offer them the information and motivation needed to make a change in their financial life. It’s about connecting with the people you work with and work for, and offering them results.

It starts with your marketing piece, developed around a message that hits home and directed to the uniquely personal needs of your prospects. From there, your communication with the prospect–between the time they RSVP and the moment you step in front of them on seminar night–should revolve around building a relationship and allowing them to learn more about you and you about them.

Always keep things personal, from the interactions on the phone to what the table tents at the seminar say. Make it clear that you know about them and only want the best for them and their unique challenges. Seat new prospects with current clients or group the prospects in attendance based on their situations and lifestyles, allowing them to mingle with others most like them, people who understand the challenges they face in life. Show them you care enough to make them feel comfortable.

You are a real person and so are your prospects. Their individual needs should be as important to you as your abilities are to them, and both should be addressed in your seminar. Allowing your audience to know a little bit more about you, your family and your commitment to community, as well as your capabilities in regards to their situation, will help you build a connection.

Never forget who you are during your presentation. Being yourself and being comfortable makes your audience comfortable. Have a sense of humor when it’s funny, be empathetic when it’s serious and be encouraging when it’s overwhelming. Everyone in your audience is just as human as you are.

Always take time to get to know each person or couple individually, spending a few moments of personal time during breaks or dinner getting to know them and their situation. While you are talking to one person, have someone else from your office talking to others, allowing your guests to get to know your “family” while you get to know theirs.

People want safety, security and confidence in their advisor. Your ability to provide that for them goes much deeper than your speech on IRAs.

Understand the emotional impact of financial loss

How often have you heard someone say that the loss in their accounts is only a paper loss, and that it wasn’t “real” until they sold? What kind of stockbroker started that line of thinking? Your loss is real. What took you eight years to save is now gone.

When presenting, make sure that your prospects understand the impact of their losses, and that the decisions they make today will determine their financial destiny and their future. It’s not just words, it is their reality.

My presentation style, although different from many I’ve worked with, is effective in helping people feel what those words actually mean and how those words impact their retirement. First and foremost, you have to make your prospects feel and experience what they are saying.

For example, when someone says it’s only a paper loss, I will stop them and remind them of the years of effort and sacrifice it took to get that account where it was and even congratulate them on doing a great job staying the course over all those years when it would have been easier to do otherwise. Now they find themselves with 20 percent to 40 percent less in their accounts and want me to believe it is okay, that it’s only paper loss. Who are they trying to convince? I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it is an insult to the time, effort and sacrifices it took to earn and save that money in the first place. I ask my clients and prospects, “How long will you have to wait until that money comes back?”

Now… we talk about time. The most precious gift we have been given is time. One day at a time, with no promise of tomorrow. This is when people realize that it is not only a paper loss; it’s a loss of precious time. Once time is gone it’s gone forever, never to be replaced. So, Mr. Prospect, you don’t have a paper loss, you have just lost eight years, the time it took you to earn that money and you will never get those eight years back. How much more time do you want to waste waiting for it to return?

This is how my presentation begins. I believe in order to be effective you have to connect with your prospect, and to connect you have to communicate in a way that paints a mental picture of what was and what could be in the future. As advisors, we don’t deal with machines, we deal with people; parents, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Each prospect is a unique person and not only has needs, but deserves to be treated differently. To do this you must listen, connect and get involved. I attribute my success in presenting to the fact that my prospects feel my words and their impact, not just hear them. They feel the hope, the pain and the fear and they know I care enough to help.