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How to sell more than you thought possible

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“Change with confidence — Answers to the 50 biggest questions that keep change leaders up at night,” by Phil Buckley (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2013).

If one needs change, Phil Buckley is probably the go-to guy. He’s been in the biz for 20-plus years and most recently co-led the $19.6 billion acquisition of Cadbury by Kraft Foods.

It seems to me that principles of change are the same, and that applies whether you are changing a small organization of one or more people, a company or even a nation. Change is always scary, but it can be very, very positive.

“Change” is organized navigationally. In other words, it’s easy to get around. It starts with the first chapter, “What do I bring to the project,” and moves along to others dealing with identifying what needs to change, spotting important stakeholders in the process and measuring success. All of these chapters are organized around themes like resources and communication. The themes are repeated to aid navigation; it makes sense, when you delve into the book.

Some readers of The Investment Edge have more than 100 employees and some have none. However, most all of us can benefit from learning what works in the world of change.

Consider: “Communication sets the tone for the project, provides knowledge to individuals and reinforces behaviors that support the change deemed necessary. When done well, the results are brilliant. When done poorly, it leads to unclear messaging, incorrect perceptions, and disenfranchised employees.”

In reading that, I was struck by the differences used by Presidents Reagan and Obama. The former would set things before the American people in super-clear fashion; the latter seems to meander, wandering so much over the landscape that I have trouble paying attention to the message, let alone understanding it.

Phil Buckley is a man who loves change. If you are thinking about the subject, this book is a great place to begin.

“Unlimited sales success — 12 simple steps for selling more than you ever thought possible;” “Motivation;” and “Negotiation” (Amacom, 2013).

These are three different 2013 books, all Amacom imprints. The first was written by Brian Tracy with son Michael, a sales success in his own right. They are all good reads, and they are all important books.

Brian Tracy not only talks the talk, he walks the talk, too, as does his co-author. When Michael was freshly out of college, Brian encouraged him to get into door-to-door sales instead of financial planning, and he was, after a few zillion initial rejections, soon earning $900 daily.

As I have preached time and again, there is no better way to learn to cope with rejection than by selling door-to-door. I’ve done it with fresh veggies. (I used to raise asparagus and rhubarb, and when I was a kid, I sold what I harvested.) A good friend, Charlie Gunkel, sold Bibles door-to-door during college vacations. Not only did Charlie help defer college expenses this way, he earned enough to buy, as I remember him telling me, a shiny new Pontiac.

Both Tracy authors are masters. Here’s an example: “Another reason for customer defection is lack of responsiveness to inquiries or questions. Remember, we talked about the need for speed. If customers call your company with a question and nobody calls them back — promptly — customers can become irritated and agitated.” I would make that “can” into a “will.”

Here’s another nugget from the same book: “Selling out of sequence kills the sale. Even if you do the right things, if you do them in the wrong sequence or order, you will kill the sale. New salespeople with little experience often violate this principle. When they meet with a customer for the first time, they introduce themselves and immediately begin talking about their product or service. Instead of asking a series of well-organized questions to understand the customer’s needs, they start making product or service recommendations. As a result, their customers quickly become guarded or back off completely. No trust or rapport has been built. It is clear the salesperson has no other thought or concern except talking about and selling his product or service. He does not care at all about the customer.”

This is so important, one of the most important principles. It is the reason I function like a consultant or diagnostician — I never worry about a sale; I worry about solving problems for others.

These three books are part of what Amacom calls the “Brian Tracy Success Library.” Consider this from “Motivation”: “You cannot motivate other people, but you can remove the obstacles that stop them from motivating themselves. All motivation is self-motivation.”

“Negotiation” offers more of the same Tracy wisdom. All three are an essential part of a library. If you don’t know how to appeal to customers — no matter how good you are as a planner or tactician — you won’t thrive and prosper. You could put the word “sell” as a substitute for “appeal” in that last sentence and it would still be accurate.

I think of selling as helping people, however one needs to interact and work the way prospects need. Otherwise, you will never get far enough along the pathway to help them become customers. The focus of financial planning is helping others to help themselves.

For more from Richard Hoe, see:

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