Over the years, a lot has been written about the best techniques available for selling financial products. The obvious fact remains: You are paid to produce sales. Yet most producers make the same mistakes over and over again. Each one you recognize as your own has conservatively cost you $50,000 in commissions over the last 12 months.

1) Spend more time talking than your prospect.
Xerox research has shown that when three or more needs were discovered during an interview, a sale occurred. Unless the prospect has a chance to share his problems during the interview, a sale is like an immaculate conception.

Listening well is the most critical aspect of the interview and probe process. Yet, the American style of gaining business seemingly rewards those who can “talk” someone into buying. And that means that the sales producer is glib. The less you listen, the less trust you will gain. Most research has shown that few of your prospects really understand what they are buying. They buy your trust first and then accept your recommendations.

A great rule of thumb is to listen at least 80 percent of the time, especially in the first hour of the interview. Also remember to talk for no more than 30 seconds at a time. Your prospect won’t listen past that anyway. TV commercials are only 30 seconds long. The average camera shot is only 3.5 seconds. Our attention span is shorter than you think.

2) Assume you know what your prospect wants to buy.
If you have only a hammer, you’ll treat everything like a nail. Just because nails are popular this week doesn’t mean that they are right for your next prospect. The more experienced you are, the more you will assume what your prospect will buy. The more gray hair you have, the less likely you are to prepare for an interview. This is understandable but not excusable.

A divorce attorney I know says she never prepares for a case, claiming that after 15 years of practice, every case is the same. But one of her associates told me the attorney once concluded a case without even mentioning custody, which got her sued. Think what it would be like if every prospect sued you for not selling what they needed, because you assumed they were like everyone else.

Today, it’s more important to build a client relationship than to make a short-term sale. The most effective producers will actually encourage potential clients to buy from their competition rather than sell something inappropriate for the buyer. They also have the wisdom of knowing at some point they will gain all of the client’s assets. Long-term relationships mean long-term sales.