Here’s another installment in our effort to bring time-tested sales, marketing and product knowledge articles to the eyes of new readers
The original version of this article ran on Aug. 4, 2016. In it, Ed McCarthy talked about the art of starting and ending effective sales conversations.
Sometimes clients and prospects get stuck. They agree that your proposal makes sense and would benefit them, but whether it’s for an annuity, insurance product or investment account, they just can’t get to “yes.”
Good closing lines can make the difference in those cases. They let the client see the situation from a different angle and work through their hesitancy, which helps them get unstuck. There are risks with closing lines, though. Many of them have been around for so long that they have become wince-worthy clichés. Use them and prospects might see you as a hard-sell hack. Other lines are so tacky that they border on rude and offensive. Even well-intentioned humor can backfire.
It’s also important to tailor closing lines for the prospect’s generation. Boomers usually don’t mind a direct close so it’s OK to flat out ask for their business. Millennials are different, though. The ABC (Always Be Closing) model turns them off; they prefer the ABH (Always Be Helping) approach. These clients came of age with much greater access to pre-purchase research resources than boomers had. Consequently, they are often well-informed about product features and instead want to learn how a financial product or advisory relationship meets their needs.
Good closing lines
“It’s OK if you decide not to work with me.”
Advisor Darin R. Shebesta, CFP with Jackson/Roskelley Wealth Advisors Inc. in Cave Creek, Arizona, makes this offer to prospects. It sounds like an anti-close but it’s effective from several perspectives. First, it shows that Shebesta is not going to hit them with a hard sell for his services. That realization can make prospects more comfortable and it improves Shebesta’s image as a professional in their eyes. Think about it: When was the last time your doctor tried to sell you something? Second, it reassures prospects that the firm is sufficiently successful that its future doesn’t depend on signing up every person who walks in. “It’s almost like a weight is lifted off their shoulders because they don’t like having to make a difficult decision like this,” says Shebesta. “The majority I have said that to have opted to work with me.”
“Whatever reason you give me for not doing this today will sound pretty ridiculous to your widow.”
Clark Randall, CFP with Financial Enlightenment in Dallas, Texas, uses this blunt line with existing clients. He explains that most of his clients go through an initial financial planning process before he recommends any products and planning first usually eliminates any significant pushback to his recommendations. But when he does make a recommendation for an insurance product, he uses these phrases as a call to action. “If they are backing off long-term care or disability insurance, which is a more likely scenario, I would say, ‘If not this, then what?’” he adds. “We are looking for solutions–don’t mix the two up. The insurance is not the problem; it is the solution.”
“If I’ve answered all your questions, are you ready to (fill in the blank)?”
Sometimes the best closing line is to simply and directly ask the customer if he or she is ready to buy. Boomers in particular prefer straight talk to multiple soft closes and other jaded approaches. Like millennials, many of them do extensive background research on important purchases and don’t need to be sold. Demonstrate that you are a knowledgeable professional, answer their remaining questions and then ask for the business. If they’re ready to buy your product or retain your services, they’ll say so.
Maybe she needs to rethink what she’s saying to the clients. (Photo: iStock)
Bad closing lines
“Do you want your kids changing your diapers?”
As far as long-term care insurance closing lines go, this one always makes me cringe, says Craig Roers, marketing manager, Newman Long-Term Care. This approach tends to shut people down immediately. Instead of discussing all the positives a long-term care policy can provide, it focuses on one of the crudest situations imaginable. Rather than talking about the positives for a caregiver—the financial and physical resources—it focuses on the recipient only and tries to get them to buy to avoid embarrassment. Roers adds that he has yet to hear of this line working.
“You’ll be dead by the maturity date, anyway.”
Years ago I worked for several brokerage firms and overheard this line. Another broker was trying to sell a long-term annuity by phone, but the prospect was balking because he believed the annuity’s surrender charges extended too far out for someone his age. Advisors know this can be an irrational objection because the products allow for no-charge withdrawals so they’re not completely illiquid. The broker was attempting to make a joke of the objection with this line but it backfired. Throwing someone’s inevitable demise back at them is insensitive and ineffective, though, and most people don’t appreciate the reminder.
“If you don’t buy this, you’re stupid!”
Another gem from my brokerage days. When the firm’s bond traders wanted to move an issue out of inventory, management would slap on an additional commission for a limited time to generate sales interest. If you’ve seen the hilarious Charles Schwab 2002 commercial with the line, “Let’s put some lipstick on this pig,” you get the picture. (The video is on YouTube.) A broker was pitching the hot bond to a client in a voice sufficiently loud to carry through the office. After delivering this bullying closing line, she slammed the phone down and hung up on the client. Maybe the pig needed a different shade of lipstick.
— Read 7 Ways To Sell More By Presenting Better on ThinkAdvisor.