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Got prospects on the fence? Here's how to talk them down

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Life would be so easy if prospects and clients just made a decision. Say yes and get on with it, or say no and put me out of my misery. Why do they need to drag indecision out so long? That’s another story. Let’s focus on how you can encourage them to give you an answer.

Let’s start with the unspoken, yet obvious truth: It’s easy to get an answer if you are happy with “no.”  Yes is more difficult.

Here are 10 scenarios prospects might raise that cause them to hesitate and language you can use to help them get off the fence and into the yes column.

1. I’m concerned about the election. I don’t want to do anything until we know who will be our next president.

The logic: The country is facing different extremes. Both candidates represent different positions. If the “wrong” one gets elected, everything might collapse.

Wrong approach: You want to buy something now to keep your money safe. Who knows what will happen if (the person they don’t want) gets into office.

Better approach: You are concerned a new president might take the country in a different direction. Our founding fathers were smart. Power is split among three branches of government: executive, legislative and judiciary. We have checks and balances in place. However, everyone needs a strong economy in place to deliver prosperity.



Prospects may be looking for signs or turning to friends to help them decide what to do. (Photo: iStock)

2. I’m worried about the economy. I want to know where it’s going.

The logic: A rising tide lifts all boats. The stock market is considered a leading indicator of the economy. They want assurance the economy is back on track.

Wrong approach: No one knows where the economy is going. You know that. Stock market analysts and weather forecasters are the only people who can be consistently wrong and still keep their jobs.

Better approach: Consumer spending represents about 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Are your kids still asking for money to go to the mall? Have you been to a home improvement store or shopping center lately? Was it easy to find a parking space? When you go grocery shopping, have you seen prices going up? Are people still lining up to buy? How do you think the economy is doing?

3. I just want a sign. 

The logic: This was big in the Old Testament. Signs and wonders were in great demand.

Wrong approach: They don’t ring a bell when the stock market hits bottom. They don’t ring one at the top either.

Better approach: What would you need to see? The Dow Jones Industrial Average trading over 20,000? Unemployment under 4.5 percent? Oil prices over $60.00 a barrell? (List a few.) How many need to happen at once before you are comfortable investing? Two? Three? Four? Get them to set criteria you can track.

4. Everyone on TV says we are heading for a fall.

The logic: Mass media is powerful. People listen to those talking heads. They are perceived as experts.

Wrong approach: Do these people pay your mortgage? If you take their advice and they are wrong, what happens next?

Better approach: You are listening to opinions, not advice. Real journalism means you hear two sides of a story and draw your own conclusions. Maybe 98 out of 100 economists feel one way, but on TV you likely hear two people taking opposite positions. How can you tell it isn’t advice? Read the disclaimers: “The opinions of the hosts and callers are not the opinions of this station or its advertisers.”


Often clients are looking for reassurance that they are making the right decision. (Photo: iStock)

5. Let me talk with my spouse/friend/Beagle/Siamese.

The logic: I’m not ready to make a decision just yet, but I don’t know what to do.

Wrong approach: Who wears the pants in your family?

Better approach: That’s reasonable. I’m glad to sit down with them and explain it. However, if you prefer to relay the details yourself and answer their questions, I’m fine with that. We just need to set a time for a go or no-go decision, so we can get moving.

6. I’m waiting until interest rates go up.

The logic: Retirement planning would be a lot easier if I could get 8 percent with no risk.

Wrong approach: They aren’t going up again. Get used to it. Or, I have these non-registered developing market debt bonds. (They haven’t even reached emerging market status!) They are backed by the full faith and credit of Somalia.

Better approach: When might that be? Let’s assume it’s a couple of years away. Doesn’t it make sense to do something with your money in the short term rather than sitting in a money fund where the rate is virtually zero?

7. My friends tell me they are getting out of the market. You want me to get in?

The logic: They see their friends as experts. They trust them.

Wrong approach: What exactly are your friends’ credentials? What qualifies them to offer advice?

Better approach: Let’s put this into perspective. Did they tell you to get in when they got in? Did they come back to you when things kept getting better? More to the point, have they actually sold out or are they staying in the market and placing some stop limit orders that get them out if it turns negative?


Prospects might be afraid they are missing out on a hot investmen opportunity. (Photo: iStock)

8. I’ve heard this is the time to invest in real estate/gold/1960s lunchboxes.

The logic: Something else is always doing better. At least it sounds like it.

Wrong approach: Who have you been listening to? I hope it’s not one of those late infomercials.

Better approach: Liquidity and transaction costs should be a major part of your decision making process. Stocks, bonds and cash have traditionally been the major asset allocation categories. With the exception of lunchboxes (which is silly), these others are considered alternative investments. Think of it like a dinner plate. Stocks, bonds and cash are the entrée. Alternative investments are like the vegetables.  

9. Let’s just wait and see what happens.

The logic: Waiting is prudent, isn’t it?

Wrong approach: You are making a big mistake. You’ll see.

Better approach: I can understand why you feel that way. Bear in mind that no decision is actually a decision, and there’s a cost associated with waiting. Let’s revisit this in 30 days and see how prices have changed. After taking in what your money earned in savings in the meantime, if the cost of purchasing the exact same number of shares today is higher, that’s the cost of waiting.

Finally, there’s the “most common” reason given for not making a decision right now. Because it’s vague, it’s difficult to make your case for getting an answer now. You KNOW what the reason is: 

10. Let me think about it.

The logic: I just don’t know. (Perceived risk outweighs potential rewards.)

Wrong approach: Just trust me.

Better approach: You’ve been trained how to respond. Experienced agents and advisors in your office found what works best in that situation. No need to reinvent the wheel. Ask them for their best answers.

Everyone wants to work with logical people. Sometimes logic goes out the window and they can’t come to a decision no matter how hard you try. In these situations the best you can do is set criteria for coming to a decision and aggressing on a timetable.

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The 3 questions every prospect is asking

6 ways to get prospects and referrals to stop ignoring you

10 prospecting strategies that work

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