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Portfolio > Asset Managers

4 Sales Mistakes to Avoid

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As usual, I have more to say than I have space to say it. I have, therefore, put some additional resources for you here: I have posted a webinar on that page as well as providing links to other resources to help you improve your sales process. You will for sure want to visit my site and catch the webinar.

Mistake No. 1

No Sales Process

Sales, by definition, is a step-by-step process. It has these objectives: increased desire to own the benefits of a product or service; and decreased fear.

I had a conversation earlier this year in which I ask an advisor, “What is your sales process?”

He replied, “I first try a pitch and if that doesn’t work, I profile.”

This poor boy does not have a process. Somewhere along the line, someone threw him overboard and didn’t even scream, “Swim!”

With that said, here is a process. There are certainly other processes. If you don’t like this one, find another one. But get a workable process.

  1. Establish communication and rapport.

  2. Present credentials.

  3. Profile the person.

  4. Profile the investor.

  5. Gather the investment data.

  6. Prepare a SIMPLE proposal.

  7. Educate the client in the concepts necessary to decide on the changes they need to make.

  8. Present recommendations.

  9. Question answering.

  10. Close.

  11. Onboarding.

I could build a two-day course around these 11 steps. At least now you have the steps.

Mistake #2

Profile Investor First

This is such an awful mistake. I cannot believe anyone makes it. But they do. Indeed, it’s institutionalized at many firms.

I am looking right now at a nine-page questionnaire. The first two questions are:

Tell me about your children, specifically any dependents you have, or any major upcoming changes.

Please list relatives or friends who may give financial, guardian or executor assistance.

From this beginning, the profile plunges into a listing of retirement assets, non-retirement assets, balance sheet items, and liabilities. By the time we get to page 5, the poor slob prospects are asked to prioritize a list of goals. On page 7, they get an opportunity to list their other advisors.

Nowhere does this questionnaire suggest the advisor should ask:

Why are you here today?

How can I help you?

Tell me about your family.

Tell me about your grandchildren.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Is there any urgent situation going on in your life I might help you with?

Imagine you just walked into a doctor’s office. The doctor walks in and says, “Take off all your clothes and sit on the table.” The doctor then begins an examination — tapping, squeezing, listening — and nowhere does he or she ask, “Why are you here?”

Diving into a financial examination without first finding out what the person wants to accomplish is the sales equivalent of “Take off all your clothes and sit on that cold metal table.”

In the sales process I just outlined for you, it says, “Profile the person.” And then “Profile the investor.” You can turn most of the data gathering over to your assistant. As a matter of fact, it can be done before the first appointment. Yes, I know you have to do risk profiles and other such things. But these and other required tasks pale in comparison to finding out about the person and the investor. The customer is first a person and second an investor.

Mistake #3

Ignoring Emotion

Emotion is necessary for change. Without strong feeling, nothing changes.

In your discovery process, you are not trying to create emotion. You just want to find it.

Emotion is found first by profiling the person, not the investor. That creates the bond. It shows you care about the person.

To find it, you must profile deeply.

I know only one way to find the set of questions that discover emotion. (1) Make up a long list of personal questions. (2) Make up a long list of probing investment questions. (3) After every appointment, revise your profiles.

Remember: testing, testing, testing.

When I started selling, I did not have a teacher. I had a cassette tape player and an album of tapes by the great sales trainer, J. Douglas Edwards. I remember my very first presentation selling my own seminar services. Somehow I had enough sense to write down a list of questions. If memory serves, there were about 45 questions. I had them printed on big sheets of legal paper. I left room after each question to write notes.

That first presentation took hours. It was awful. But somehow, I closed the sale. Perhaps I just wore my prospect out.

Immediately after the presentation, I went to a coffee shop. I took out my questionnaire and went through it line by line. Some questions just did not work. Others were in the wrong sequence. Others needed to be reworded.

I made it better.

And my next presentation was a little bit better. But again, I immediately went to the coffee shop and made my notes while everything was fresh.

My questionnaire got a little bit shorter.

In a few months, I whittled it down from about 45 questions to maybe 12 or 13.

Those questions bit. Somehow I knew enough to know that it wasn’t just the data I was seeking, it was the emotion.

Yes, I had some “data only” questions. But those were normally the first questions I asked. Their only purpose was to establish a question-asking pattern.

Here are some of the questions I asked in selling prospecting seminars to branch managers. Pay attention because there is a lesson here.

Me: How many brokers do you have with less than two years in the industry?

Manager: Seven.

Me: How many mid-range brokers, or even assistants who need to prospect?

Manager: Five.

These are “data only” questions. I use these to establish that there are enough people to justify the manager buying a seminar.

Me: How many calls are they making an hour?

Manager: I’m not sure.

Me: Hmm. Any idea how many leads they generate an hour?

Manager: Not really.

Me: Hmmm. OK. What’s their second call process?

Manager: What do you mean?

Me: It’s the call they make after they generate a lead on a first call.

Manager: I have no idea. Tell me again what you are selling? How much does it cost?

What’s the emotion there? It’s a fear that I know something he should know. I call these “Hmmm questions.” You can and should use them, especially in qualifying the investor.

You: Do you have an investment strategy and philosophy?

Prospect: I think so. It’s whatever my other advisor is doing.

You: Hmmm. How is the mix of assets in your portfolio determined?

Prospect: I don’t know.

You: (Pause to make a note.) OK. An income plan normally involves assets which might be drawn down first. It’s based mostly on tax consequences. What is your income plan?

Prospect: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

You: Hmmm. (Makes another note.)

I have given you a few personal/family questions as well as some investor questions. I posted a much longer list of questions at my “Good Way to Sell” website.

Mistake #4

Floaters Permitted

A “floater” may be responsible for more failed sales presentations than anything else.

So what is this awful thing?

It is a prospect cut loose without a next appointment.

Advisors create them. After you have completed the discovery process, you say, “I’m going to get to work on this. I will have my assistant call and set an appointment when I have completed my recommendations.”

A new floater wafts out of your pipeline.

A client or prospect … in the middle of the sales process … who does not have a next appointment.

Floaters get lost. They get scared. They don’t take phone calls. They don’t respond to emails. They talk to their Uncle Harvey who tells them, “You don’t need to pay those fees. Let me help you.”

Here are some solutions for floaters.

Situation: you did not complete the discovery step on the first appointment.

FA: Bob and Betty, I know you have other things scheduled for this afternoon. I still have a lot of questions that I need answers to in order to do good work for you. Let’s say we’ve made a good start. But I would like to reconvene. I have a couple of afternoon spots open this week. Could you come in tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock?

Bob: Yes, that would work.

By the way, “reconvene” is a magic word. It suggests the continuation of the process now underway. I use it all the time.

Situation: you completed discovery on the second appointment.

FA: Bob and Betty, obviously, I have a lot of homework to do for you. You have given me a tremendous amount of information. I can have that done by a week from today. (Looks at calendar.) I have a spot open Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock and again Friday morning at 11:30. Which of those looks better for you?

Betty: Do you have anything just a little bit later in the afternoon?

FA: I could do 3:30 on Thursday afternoon. Does that work for you?

Situation: you asked for the order. Bob turns to Betty and says, “I like the offer but I think we should talk this over.”

FA: I think you should talk it over. I’m guessing that won’t take more than a couple of days. Suppose we reconvene by phone Thursday afternoon at 4:00. Can I get you both on a conference call then?

The Four Mistakes

Correct one of these mistakes and your sales will improve some. Correct them all and your sales will improve a lot.

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