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?
When people know you truly care about them and their results, that you’re sincere about trying to generate better outcomes for them, it’s easy to trust you because they know you have their best interest at heart and aren’t trying to manipulate them for your own gain.
Empathy is extremely helpful in the discovery process when FAs are learning about clients’ personal matters.
My friend, Charlie Green, who [co-]wrote the book, “The Trusted Advisor,” said that basically, trust is reliability times credibility times intimacy divided by your self-orientation. Intimacy turns out to be the biggest driver: “Do you know me? Do you understand me? Do you care about me?”
In your own book, you discuss “the ground truth.” Please explain.
When we achieve trust and intimacy, we get the truth: clients are willing to share their real concerns with us. The truth might be: “I haven’t saved enough” or “I made a bad investment once, and I’m still hurting.” We need to know the ground truth so we can do what’s right for the client.
How can FAs make the most of a big market dip? Many avoid talking with their clients at such time.
The first decision a customer makes is: “Why should I change?” So the best time to call someone is when there’s an event that makes them want to consider change. When the market crashes, that seems to me like the best day to call [prospects] and say, “The market dropped by [X] % today. This is either really good for you because you have a financial advisor who’ll help you make moves to take advantage of that, or really bad because you lost a bunch of money.” What should the FA say next?
“What happened today presents an opportunity for people with advisors who proactively look after them, as I do. Which of those two things that I just described is true for you?” Losing a bunch of money is an extraordinarily compelling event and a reason to change.
Many advisors say that prospecting isn’t necessary because all their new business comes from referrals. Should they prospect anyway?
Yes. Otherwise you’re waiting for people to give you opportunities, and it’s unhealthy to depend on others to develop all your opportunities. Beyond referrals – probably the best source of leads you can get – are people who don’t know anyone you know but who you should be serving because you’ve got great ideas and could help them make money.
That makes sense.
Prospecting really matters. When you grow a business, you’re going to do more work with your existing clients – but you also need to win new ones.
Any concrete prospecting suggestions?
Go to networking events, talk to people with family offices and try to competitively displace [advisors] who aren’t taking care of their clients.
Is it good for FAs to have a prospecting script?
Yes. Some people say they hate scripts. What they really mean is that they hate sounding scripted, which is different. You’re already using a script because you certainly don’t use 100 different lines when you make 100 calls. But it’s better to have a script that you’ve thought through and is effective, and that can generate consistent results. Take the time to write a really good one.
Most advisors don’t like to cold call. Is that still a good way to prospect?
Only if you want to succeed faster! The speed-to-result is determined by the prospecting method you choose. You don’t have to like cold calling, but you do have to know that if your competitor is picking up the phone, they’re going to be dialing your contacts and your clients to try to competitively displace you.
What’s the ideal advisor mindset?
Optimistic – I’m going to have an opportunity to do something with this client. Resourceful – I have ideas that can help them. Proactive – I’m going to act before it’s ever required of me. That’s a powerful mindset.
You write that self-discipline is the “cornerstone of success in sales and in life.” In what way does that apply to financial advisors?
Nurturing relationships: Following up after they’ve reached out to prospects and clients, studying and making sure they’re aware of legislative changes that are going to impact clients. There are some things that you have to be disciplined about and take care of just because it’s time to take care of them. They aren’t goals or to-do’s. It’s routine maintenance that you have to do all the time forever and ever.
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