As financial advisors, one of the more intimidating but inescapable aspects of the business is meeting with prospective clients and trying to obtain new accounts. We are not taught how to do this effectively in school nor do we deliberately go out and seek training or coaching to improve our skills (although that would be money well invested). We attempt an ad-hoc approach without a road map and process which results in unpredictable and hit-or-miss outcomes.
One of the more threatening situations that we often encounter is what I call the “differentiation dilemma,” and in this column, I will equip you with an approach and process to respond to this potentially perilous encounter with a greater rate of success.
While attempting to win over a new client, we may think that we are impressing them with our investment knowledge and financial planning acumen. All seems to be perfectly aligned as we begin to feel quite proud of our salesmanship and performance. However, that euphoric feeling can be rather abruptly shattered when the prospective client says: “So, tell me why I should hire you over the other hundred financial planners who called my office last week?”
You suddenly feel as though you have been punched in the stomach and the wind taken from you. You waver on the precipice of another failed sales attempt as you attempt to regain your balance. You feel quite nauseous as you try to stammer and splutter yourself back to equilibrium. You have been assaulted by the differentiation dilemma!
Usually our first response is to hold forth about our success stories, our experience and how we have helped other clients. Besides boring our prospective clients with our mindless monologues, this seldom works. This is because just as we have these stories to tell, so do our competitors, and they may even be better at telling them — so we are not differentiating at all. So if this doesn’t work, how then do we regain control of the situation and salvage the relationship?
Regain Control Through Questioning
The key to resolving this dilemma is to realize that it is not sufficient to tell them why you are different, but rather you need to show them that you are different. To accomplish this we recommend a two-step approach. The first step is unleashing and exploiting the power of effective questioning. Paradoxically, we are far more in control of any conversation, when we are asking good questions rather than when we are promoting ourselves, selling our services or advertising our successes.
When confronted with the question: “So, tell me why I should hire you over the other hundred financial planners who called my office last week?” don’t attempt to answer the question but rather ask a question in response. You might say for example: “That is a very fair question. Tell me, what standards, measures or criteria would be important to you in choosing one service provider over another?”