Don’t get me wrong, I love great sales ideas and techniques. But they may encourage advisors to view sales as something you do to prospects, not with them, in order to spark fear, unblock objections, or fire up a buying impulse. Launching sales techniques or salvos at prospects leaves them feeling … well, sold. And today’s consumers, especially millenials, hate that feeling.
In their report “Bridging the Trust Divide: The Financial Advisor-Client Relationship,” State Street Global Advisors and The Wharton School of Business analyze the evolution of sales from a product-driven transaction to one based on service. In this new environment, they say, advisors must learn how to conduct “the sales-free sale.” This approach rests more on personal counseling and education than on hard-edged persuasion.
In this spirit, I believe the best sales ideas focus on trust building. Such techniques create relationships, not transactions, which is ultimately more profitable for both advisor and client. Plus, they create a safe environment within which sensitive personal issues can be discussed, an essential element of retirement planning. Finally, trust-driven sales are more compliant, persistent and acceptable to younger buyers, who, after all, represent our industry’s future.
So what are my best trust-building ideas? Here are five that have met time’s test:
Make sure everything you say in person, on your website and in your sales literature is 100 percent credible. This requires never lying, always supporting your statements with your experience or third-party evidence, and refraining from making dubious or exaggerated sales claims. Bottom line: Credibility isn’t just about technical expertise. It’s about how you convey that expertise through words, actions and appearances. Make sure every apsect of your business conveys total believability and mastery.
Show prospects and clients that you are an advisor of your word — that you are utterly reliable and dependable. I hate to use the cliche “under-promise but over deliver,“ but I will because it is so crucial. To this end, manage every prospect or client touch point to assure timely fulfillment. By sweating the small stuff, clients will learn they can depend on you, not just most of the time, but all of the time.
Become client-focused, not self-focused. In the sales process, strive to really understand your prospects — their fears, concerns, goals and constraints. After they sign on, work hard to become a “high-touch” advisor, staying in close contact with them, especially when financial markets are turbulent. In all interactions, make sure to listen carefully and to demonstrate empathy; after all, this is about them, not you. And finally, stress to clients that everything, everything, they share with you will remain confidential.
Be as transparent as possible during the sales process and afterwards. At the former stage, work hard to educate prospects about how to do their due diligence on you (explaining FINRA’s BrokerCheck, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and National Ethics Association (NEA), among others). Also, consider purchasing a background check on yourself to prove to them you have no criminal or civil skeletons in your history.
Finally, show your clients that you always place their interests ahead of yours. If you’re a Series 65/66 registered investment advisor, go beyond the statutory disclosure requirements and have a thorough discussion of fees and conflicts, along with your take on what it means to be a fiduciary advisor. If your license holds you to the suitability standard, adopt a “do-no-harm,” especially regarding proprietary product offerings.
In short, to increase sales through effective trust building, make credibility, reliability, client focus, transparency, and fiduciary responsibility your watchwords. You can trust me on this!