The goal of every sales interview is pretty straightforward: to discover if you have a good prospect, determine whether you can open a case and, ultimately, make a sale of your goods or services.

As financial advisors, we consider ourselves professionals, and this means we always put the needs of our prospects and clients first. We demonstrate that professionalism by inquiring about our prospect’s needs and desires before we make our recommendations.

Imagine you have some abdominal pain and make an appointment to see Dr. Hard Closer. The doctor greets you warmly and asks why you’ve come in. You tell him about your abdominal pain, and without missing a beat the doctor says, “You’re in luck! I’m having a special today on appendectomies — normally $3,500, today they’re only $2,500. When can I book your surgery?

I’ve never heard of anything like this before because a doctor, being a professional, would never recommend a course of treatment without a thorough investigation of a patient’s symptoms. A similar attitude of inquiry is the basis of all professional selling, too. The key to effective selling is to keep your objectives clear: discovery — and then persuasion.

Your job is not to extol the virtues of your background, the company you represent or the products you offer. It is first, last and always to discover: Does the prospect need the products and services you offer? Does she want to solve her problems now or somewhere down the line?

So do right by your prospect and prescribe the best treatment for her financial ills.

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Nick Ray is a business coach who specializes in working with financial services professionals. He is the author of There’s More to Selling than Making the Sale as well as a workbook on target marketing. He can be reached at nick@coachnickray.com.