It is, perhaps, the advisor’s most formidable challenge: persuading a prospect or client to do what, in your professional opinion, is firmly in that person’s best interests.
Call it closing the deal, call it fulfilling your fiduciary responsibility, call it selling an idea — your success as an advisor depends on your ability to convince people to act on your professional advice and do what’s best for them, whether it’s purchasing a specific product, following through on a recommendation or buying into a strategy or plan you have designed to help them reach their goals. Advisors who are best at closing will tell you that it takes preparation, strong analytic and communication skills, tact, timing, a keen ability to read people, and above all, a strong drive to help them.
Perhaps you fit that description to a large degree already. But even the best closers know there’s always room to improve, always more people to help, and always room to grow a practice. Try the following nine battle-tested tactics and you may find yourself accomplishing all that at once.
1. Project and practice transparency.
Trust is the most valuable currency in a strong advisor-client relationship. Establish and sustain it by always being up-front with clients and prospects about how you’re compensated, what the pros and cons of specific product or recommendation are, your motivations for a specific recommendation, etc. “It’s about full disclosure — sharing everything with them,” says investment advisor Anil Vazirani, LUTCF, IAR, QFA, president and CEO of Secured Financial Solutions, LLC, in Scottsdale, Ariz. “That kind of transparency creates tremendous good will and trust.”
2. Make everything about the client’s best interests.
“You want to offer solutions where it’s clear you’re putting the client’s best interests above your own,” Vazirani explains. “Honesty, integrity and good faith effort will triumph over slick salesmanship.”
“I position myself not as a salesperson but as a facilitator, one who can offer insight and tools to help shine light on a solution,” adds Joe Elsasser, CFP, founder of SocialSecurityTiming.com and Sequent Planning, LLC, in Omaha, Neb.
3. Paint the big picture.
Instead of narrow product recommendations, offer a solutions-based plan that you can later populate with specific products. “It starts with an objective analysis of the client’s situation,” says Irwin Gross, RFC, CFS, AIF, of Family Wealth Partners in Weston, Fla., “where there’s no implied motivation to sell anything. Then you provide tactical but generic solutions designed to get them to where they want to be, with the pros and cons of those solutions. This puts the client squarely in a decision-making position. That, to me, is the essence of getting a client to move forward.”
4. Ask questions that help you steer a conversation toward revealing a need or highlighting a problem that needs fixing. Then be the fixer.
“I’ll almost always ask a prospect, ‘What’s the one item of concern in your portfolio you would like me to address?’ ” says Vazirani. “Once they identify it, that’s the issue I’ll spend time on first, because if they admit to being concerned about it, they are usually ready to move to address it. I’m following that thread of discontent.”
“I ask questions about things that I see in their portfolio that don’t make sense,” echoes Elsasser, “hopefully to get them to realize things about their strategy that aren’t strategic at all.”