It’s never been easy to get FAs to prospect.
“I don’t have the money.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t know where to start.” “Cold calling doesn’t work.” “Seminars don’t work.” “Networking takes too long.” “Compliance.” “Too many ideas.” “I need more staff.”
These are certainly good “reasons” (or excuses) not to prospect. But let’s play a hypothetical game.
Suppose you knew, without doubt or hesitation, that each hour spent prospecting would generate at least $1,000 in recurring revenue. You would sweep all the above off onto the floor and start prospecting, wouldn’t you?
(If you believe you might be suffering from Sales Skills Deficiency Disorder, feel free to download “The Good Way to Sell.” It’s a compilation of nine articles on selling, seven of them from the original “Research” magazine series. We have updated the original series and added two additional articles on our website at www.billgoodmarketing.com/goodwaytosell.)
Let’s assume I’m half wrong and that an hour of prospecting only produces $500 in recurring revenue. Does that change the conclusion? Not even a little bit! You would be on the phone or even walking door to door for $500 an hour in recurring revenue. For $1,000, you would probably be running for joy, right?
Me: So why aren’t you prospecting?
You: Prospecting doesn’t produce $1,000 an hour or even $50 per hour.
Me: Why not?
You: Not sure. It just doesn’t work.
Me: There’s more to it than that. Either your prospecting is failing, or your sales is failing. Maybe both. I have written endlessly on why your prospecting is failing. Your prospecting can be failing because of your selling skills, right?
You: I guess.
Me: If you are spending valuable time prospecting but are not convincing very many people to do business with you, you will stop prospecting.
The Real Problem with Sales
Let’s clear up whether advisors sell. Of course they do. They sell their advisory services.
So, what’s the problem with getting these sales closed? It’s rarely the close.
Failed sales presentations normally don’t close because of what’s done or not done before the close. The close is just a simple question, “Let’s get started, OK?” Or whatever.
The whole process that happens before the close is called sales.
You: OK, Bill. I’ve always heard in sales you should “always be closing.”
Me: Rubbish. That’s just another old school myth just like “Don’t believe the prospect until he or she has said ‘no’ three, six, 12 or 27 times.” Same stuff.
You: So, if sales isn’t “always be closing,” what is it?
Me: Sales is a step-by-step process intended to increase desire to own the benefits of a product or service to the point where the desire outweighs fear of change.
Sales is obviously dealing with emotion. When someone wants your product or service more than he fears losing his money, the close is easy. It’s just a gentle nudge to push him off the fence. If you cannot create the emotion, you can close all day long and never get people to do business with you.
In my opinion, the real problem today is simply this: Many advisors do not know how to sell. Until you solve sales, every prospecting campaign you launch will fair.
Me: Three reasons: Many of today’s advisors were never trained to sell. Or they were trained badly. Or for too long, they have only been dealing with pre-sold referrals. They have long since forgotten their early sales training.
If you cannot close prospects on doing business with you, you will stop prospecting. To solve prospecting, first solve selling.
The First Pothole
My first clue that the problem with prospecting was selling came from a conversation I had with a client who was giving very expensive seminars but losing money. He was very discouraged. He had arrived at that inevitable dead-end: seminars don’t work today.
I asked him, “What do you do on the first appointment?” He replied, “I use a questionnaire provided by my firm.” “Send it to me,” I said. He did. Gasp.
It was seven pages of dense financial questions. The first few pages plunged into seven tables gathering info on assets, income, and retirement savings.
Me: How many second appointments do you get?
FA: Hardly any.
My client had fallen into one of eight potholes on the yellow brick road to sales success. He got his discovery interview all wrong. Big mess.
The questions on this and other similar “financial planning” questionnaires do not address this fact: The prospects in your office came for help. Diving into investment questions first gives them no clue they can get help, because you do not know what their problem is!
Do not ask questions about investments until you find out why the individual or couple is in your office in the first place.
In my opinion, the greatest sales book of all time is “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success Through Sales” by Frank Bettger.
While first published in 1952, it is still in print. You can buy it on Amazon. You should own it, read it, absorb it and put it into practice.
Perhaps Bettger’s most famous statement is: “Show a man what he wants, and he will move heaven and earth to get it.” (Keep in mind this book was written in 1952. The sales people then were salesmen. I’m quoting Bettger as he wrote it, not as it would be written today.)
Me: That makes sense, doesn’t it?
You: Sure, and I’m guessing I find out what people want by asking them questions, correct?
Me: Bingo! You ask questions. But get this: Countless financial planning questionnaires provide lists of lifetime goals. (Don’t believe me? Google “financial planning questionnaire.”) You are invited to show these to the client and ask them to choose the lifetime goal that is most appropriate.
Chuck that questionnaire, OK? Your questionnaire should be the questions you want to ask. You are the person they came to see. You are the expert. The questionnaire should be yours
Before you say a word about investments, find out what your prospective clients want, what they fear, what they value. By discovering what moves them, you can fulfill Bettger’s commandment, “Show a man what he wants.” Then and only then should you gather the investment data.
Eight Steps on the Road to Sales
To develop a professional grade presentation, you need to master these eight areas of sales. In the remaining space in this article, I cannot do them all justice, but I can tell you where these potential sinkholes are: (1) branding, (2) discovery, (3) proposal preparation, (4) client education, (5) proposal presentation, (6) question answering, (7) closing and (8) onboarding.
Remember, sales is a step-by-step process. These are the steps. Properly executed, you walk right over the potholes.
Branding: Ever wonder why successful financial advisors have a “brag wall?” Vanity? Nope. Branding.
A well-designed brag wall should communicate one’s credentials. Isn’t that what happens in a doctor’s office?
Your branding tools are: brag wall, website, LinkedIn, brochure, and references (if your firm allows it). Branding yourself as an expert financial advisor shortens the selling cycle and closes a higher percentage.
Discovery: Have at least two written questionnaires. One gathers info about the family, values, and goals. What are these individuals trying to accomplish? Why have they come to see you?
Keep asking these questions until you are certain. The second questionnaire gathers the financial data.
Proposal Preparation: Failure on this step guarantees not just a pothole, but that you will fall into a sinkhole and never be seen again as far as this prospect is concerned.
The worst proposal I have ever seen was prepared by one of the major firms. It was 37 pages long with 11 pages of disclaimers. It even included charts of Monte Carlo simulations that look like multi-colored spaghetti hurled on a wall. A good proposal should be five or six pages.
Client Education: A major reason people don’t buy is: They do not have a clue what you are talking about! You have jumped into dollar cost averaging, indexing, ETFs and (gasp) point-and-figure charting.
Your prospects, Bob Jones, founder of Bob’s Plumbing Supply, and his wife Betty, homemaker extraordinaire, do not even know the difference between a common stock and a preferred stock.
You’re talking about indexing? Dollar cost averaging? What on earth is that? ETFs? Is that a vitamin supplement?
Proposal Presentation: I’ve run out of space. I still need to cover proposal presentation, question answering (more important than you have any reason to believe), closing and onboarding.
You can find the rest of this article on my “Good Way to Sell” website. Get it. Read it. Overhaul your presentation.
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