It’s a given that most of your current annuity clients and prospects are working with another advisor, or know one within their circle of friends or family. Even if they are the E-trade or Schwab “do-it-yourself-er” type, they still are in contact with people that are involved in parts of the financial product advising process.
As most of you know by now, I have burnt the boat and only recommend annuities (i.e., Stan The Annuity Man), so working with the “other” advisor is something that I have to address with almost every potential client and current client. Out of necessity, I have actually turned this potential and sometimes negative “advisor vs. advisor” interaction into a consistent national referral network. When you have lemons, make annuity lemonade!
So instead of getting into a verbal fist fight from the start with the other advisor, let’s look at a few important steps to take in order to win every time.
Be proactive and fire the first positive shot
Assume with every prospect that there is some type of advisory relationship in place, or at a minimum, they know someone in the financial services business that will probably voice their opinion on whatever your recommendation will be. Always ask the potential customer about the advisor they are now using, and anyone else they might be shopping the annuity idea with. Encourage them to interview and quote numerous carriers during their decision-making process, and offer to work in conjunction with their current advisor if needed and in the role of the annuity specialist. Don’t shy away from talking to or offering to get in the trenches with the other advisors for the betterment of the client. This always freaks the “other” advisor out!
I am so up front from the start about the other advisor that it literally frames the argument in my favor. When a prospect hears a kneejerk negative comment about annuities from their broker when my name is mentioned, it rings hollow and puts me (and annuities) in a positive light. In a lot of cases, this turns out to be one of the primary factors in becoming the annuity source and eventually winning the business.
General financial practitioners need annuity heart surgeons
Most brokers and advisors handle every financial product under the sun, and aren’t going to be as knowledgeable as someone who primarily focuses on annuities. The other advisor’s level of annuity expertise usually involves an annuity wholesaler coming by quarterly and giving them some bullet points on the latest hot product. The bottom line is that most annuity specialists have probably forgotten more about annuities than most “general financial practitioners” will ever know. That’s a fact.
Try to frame yourself and your practice like that of a heart surgeon’s. Heart surgeons don’t work on feet, lungs or backs. They only work on hearts. Become an “annuity heart surgeon.” Let the prospect and other advisors know that you only (or primarily) focus on annuities, and provide the best contractually guaranteed transfer of risk strategies. It’s what you do, it’s pretty much all you do, and it’s why you need to be a part of the prospect’s investment advisory team.
Always take the high road
Regardless of how many arrows come your way, always take the professional high road. Refocus any negative conversational path toward the positive value you can bring to the advisory team.
Many times, I have lost the business only to have the prospect who didn’t choose me ending up referring a friend or family member. Your goal with any potential client interaction is for them to respect the professional way you handle yourself during the process. That really should be the close. You should close them by showing them that you are a pro, and annuities are great products if placed properly within a portfolio. That’s the message that you want them to primarily buy. If they choose your recommendation in addition to that, then it’s icing on the cake.
When you approach all selling situations like this, sales will flow and strong client relationships will be built.
Live in Realityville
You have to know going in that you are not going to win every battle and close every prospect. Stop stressing yourself out with every single sales situation. Always remember that there’s a story-behind-the-story on why someone does or does not choose to do business with you. Just focus on providing the most suitable and appropriate contractually guaranteed strategy, and stand proudly behind your recommendation, regardless of the outcome.
In the past, I was involved in a competition with the other advisor. However, I ended up finding an expert who I now refer all of my life insurance and long-term care business to. He has proven to be an invaluable resource, and he now refers all of his annuity business to me. It’s been a total “win-win” business relationship.
As I have said in previous columns, be proud to be an annuity specialist and don’t shy away from the transfer of risk value proposition that you can bring to the table. It’s easy and cliché for an opposing advisor to talk about you (and annuities) in a negative light, so be prepared for it and always respond positively to whatever is said.
You will find that the customer will appreciate your professionalism, and regardless if they choose to do business with you, you will have left a positive impression of your business (and annuities) that you can be proud of.
For more from Stan Haithcock, see: