Clients don’t want to be sold investment products – they want to be sold outcomes. And the sooner smart financial advisors realize that, the quicker they can competitively displace their prospects’ current FAs.
That’s what sales guru Anthony Iannarino told ThinkAdvisor in an interview on winning clients and influencing prospects. His daily The Sales Blog boasts more than 50,000 visitors a month. An instant USA Today bestseller, his new book, “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need” (Portfolio/Penguin), was published last month.
The consultant-coach-trainer speaks internationally on sales strategy and boosting value to a wide variety of industries, including financial services firms such as Nationwide. At the same time, he is partner in a group of staffing firms located in Columbus, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Phoenix.
Iannarino argues that today, sales success means more than being a canny salesperson – it’s equally vital to be a savvy business person.
The strategist, 49, started out fronting a heavy metal rock band in Los Angeles; by day, he worked in sales at a temp staffing firm. But his show biz dream was cut short when he was diagnosed with a vascular lesion requiring two brain surgeries at age 25. That difficult time, however, would ultimately steer Iannarino to his true calling as a sales-strategy thought leader. Here are highlights from our interview:
THINKADVISOR: What’s your definition of selling?
ANTHONY IANNARINO: Selling is helping someone get an outcome they can’t get without you. And that’s particularly true of financial advisors.
“All salespeople sell outcomes and only outcomes,” you write. How does that apply to financial advisors?
People are trying to buy outcomes. They don’t buy drills; they buy holes. If they could buy the hole without the drill, they’d just get the hole. From the client’s perspective, it’s: “I don’t want to buy investment vehicles; I want to buy wealth. I don’t want to buy an annuity; I want to buy security in old age.”
What’s the best way for advisors to get across that they want to help a prospect, not sell them?
Language choices really matter – what we say and how we say it. It isn’t: “I really want to put you into this annuity program.” It’s: “I want to make sure I understand your needs, and I’d like to show you some choices and see if it makes sense for us to work together.” That way, you’re saying “You get to decide, and I’m not going to have you make a decision that isn’t good for you or is outside of your control.” When you honor their part of the process, it’s easier for people to come along and say yes.
You say, “You need to go beyond first-generation sales skills to create value.” What’s the second generation? And third?
First generation covers fundamentals, like prospecting and closing. Second generation is about diagnosing and negotiating. Third generation is: “I have the advice part [expertise] of being a trusted advisor [down], so I can be proactive and get people a better result before something bad happens to them.” To be a trusted advisor, you need two things: Trust and advice!
You write that “Opening is the new closing.” How so?
We used to make a big deal out of getting that final commitment to buy. Now, getting a meeting is harder than getting a close because prospects already have a relationship, and they’re super-busy. This is the biggest part of the challenge for most salespeople, and probably for most financial advisors too. Today, it’s more important to be an opener because if you can open, you can get to a close. Explain why “business acumen is the new sales acumen.”
If you want to be a trusted advisor, it’s not enough to just know your product, overcome objections, present features, benefits and solutions, and know how to close. Now you need to convey to clients how the business you’re in works and why you’re asking them to make [specific] decisions. You need to know the right time to use one product or a different one and what the trade-off is.
Expertise is clearly a big part of being a trusted advisor, especially a trusted financial advisor.
You can never let the client catch up and know more than you know. You have to be continually reminding them: “I’m looking out for you. I’m thinking about the next thing. I’m aware of what’s coming, and I’m keeping you abreast. I can make sure you don’t make mistakes and that you’re going to capitalize on any opportunities that present themselves.”
How can FAs create value by sharing ideas with prospects?
By keeping them aware of changes in new investment vehicles, legislation, new ideas on the ways they might protect and grow their wealth. The more you nurture relationships in front of an opportunity, the more you become known as someone who has really good ideas.
You write that being empathic lays a foundation of trust. Please expand.
The thing that gave salespeople a bad reputation was being self-oriented: “I need – I want – Let me tell you about me – Let me tell you about my company – Let me tell you about our product.” Being other-oriented is caring about getting someone else an outcome they need.
What effect does that have?