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How to become a magnetic advisor

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Sales ideas are great because they encourage financial advisors to try different methods of selling. But they can be dangerous, too, because they promote antiquated notions about the contemporary sales process. Here’s what I mean.

When you view sales as technique-driven, you view it as something you do to a prospect. You lay a clever argument on them. You unleash a powerful objection response. You show them an interesting napkin diagram. In short, selling skillfully means launching message salvos at someone, hoping they tap into a fear, unblock an objection, or fire up a buying impulse.

Unfortunately, techniques often create a negative side effect — prospects feel as if you are manipulating them or playing games with them. This is not good; it erodes trust and makes it impossible to move forward.

So let me suggest an alternative: Advisors should consider themselves their ultimate sales technique. Rather than laying a script or objection response on people, they should instead focus on becoming the best advisor they can be. This process of self-improvement is ultimately what generates clients — and it’s a more natural and authentic way to sell.

How might you become your own best sales technique? Here are three pathways:

Care more about your customers. Caring is not a superficial feeling (as in: “You are a source of commissions, so I will care about you — and listen to you — until you buy. Then I’ll stop caring and listening until you’re ready to buy again”). Instead, it’s a rich and deeply human form of compassion where you truly have empathy for a person. This compels you to uncover and solve their problems. As the Dalai Lama once said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Nor can the process of nurturing a lead into a beneficial advisor/client relationship. Also keep an eye on fairness, which Webster’s defines as “the lack of favoritism toward one side or another.” In other words, always be sure your clients are deriving at least as much value from the relationship as you are, if not more value. When they sense you truly care about them from the depth of your heart, they will listen and act upon your recommendations.

Become a more knowledgeable advisor. Start by working harder to understand the barriers to achieving a secure retirement. Become a real student of retirement (un)readiness by setting up relevant Google Alerts, reading white papers and books, and signing up for knowledge-intensive webinars and workshop presentations (not sales-technique oriented sessions). But understanding the issues is only the starting point. Also develop expertise on the available solutions to these problems. To this end, mine your wholesaler relationships aggressively; quiz them on product designs, advantages/disadvantages, suitability matters, and technology resources for driving optimal client education and communication. Study, really study, your product guides. And search out and read client case studies to see how product features are applied in the wild.

Shun expediency in every area of your business. Always focus on doing the right thing — the ethical thing — not the expedient thing. Part of this, of course, demands staying current on all compliance requirements. But also important is honing your ethics edge by doing what’s right when there’s no compliance rule dictating your behavior. And always remember that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. By adhering to these three guidelines, you will become a magnetic advisor; people will naturally gravitate to you. This means you will not have to use techniques on them, because they’ll virtually sell themselves. And you can stop worrying about closing sales, and start assessing your capacity to deliver. Not a bad problem to have!