Jeb Blount

“Pump and pounce,” “pitch slapping,” shutting up. Which of these go far to helping financial advisors get past “no” to “yes”? It’s unquestionably that third technique, as Jeb Blount, sales accelerator specialist, tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview. The first two yammering behaviors are deeply destructive, argues the coach, called “the modern-day Zig Ziglar.”

Many advisors talk too much instead of encouraging clients to tell their stories. Indeed, the information they reveal can be invaluable in helping FAs secure a buying commitment, says Blount, founder and CEO of Sales Gravy, a sales training and development company, and through which job seekers and employers can find one another.

The prolific author has just released his ninth book in 11 years: “Objections: The Art and Science of Getting Past No” (Wiley).

In the interview, he discusses a few of the actionable objection turn-around techniques revealed in his book. They largely focus on how to reduce sales resistance by dealing with the fear of rejection.

Blount points out, however, that to learn how to handle rejection, salespeople must seek out rejection: Ask for what you want “directly, assumptively, assertively and repeatedly,” he writes. In sales, “asking is everything. When you fail to ask, you fail.”

It is the financial advisor — and others selling products and services — who maintains emotional control in a sales scenario that has the highest probability of getting to “yes,” says Blount, 50. He spends the bulk of his time on the road giving keynote speeches and conducting sales training, the latter concentrating on reaching peak performance through emotional intelligence and effective interpersonal skills.

Prior to launching his own firm in 2006, Blount was the longtime vice president of sales for Aramark, a large provider of food, facilities and uniform services.

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the Augusta, Georgia-based coach, on the phone from Pacific Grove, California, where he was battling a deadline on his 10th book (having rented John Steinbeck’s historic cottage there “for inspiration,” he noted). He discussed, among a host of methods, how to handle the four types of sales objections, the “ledge technique,” the self-disclosure loop,” and how to develop empathy to better understand client needs — both emotional and financial.

Here are excerpts:

THINKADVSIOR: “In every sales conversation, the person who exerts the greatest amount of emotional control has the biggest probability of getting the outcome they desire,” you write. Please explain.

JEB BLOUNT: Emotional control is everything. That’s true for dealing with objections and for negotiating. What hurts salespeople is their own disruptive emotions [stemming from] things they worry about.

When do these surface?

When we treat an objection like rejection, for example. The emotions that come to us around objections and rejection happen without our consent. But we can rise above the emotion and choose the response that gives us the highest probability of getting past the objection to a yes.

You’re “rejection-proof” when you learn to master your emotions, so you write. How is that possible?

It’s not to say that we want to turn people into a bunch of cold robots. Being rejection-proof is knowing exactly how to deal with rejection when you face it. Then you can deal with the emotion and move past it. But to become rejection-proof, you need to seek out rejection by asking for what you want. Things that are a challenge to you change you.

Please explain “the ledge technique” to gain emotional control.

When you get hit with an objection, it kicks off the fight-or-flight response. The ledge gives you a “magic quarter-second” [so writes Tara Bennett-Goleman] to get into executive control and rise above that neurophysical response. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to say; it happens by rote.

Any examples?

If someone says, “I’m too busy,” you might say, “That’s exactly why I called.” Or if they say, “I want to think about it,” you can say, “When I make big decisions, I like to think about them too.” The ledge allows things to slow down so you can take control of your emotions and formulate [the most effective] response.

You write that “pump and pounce” is “the most destructive behavior” when dealing with objections. What is that?

It happens when the prospect or client says, “I want to look at some other options” or “I’m not really sure I want to do this,” and the advisor immediately starts arguing with them about why they’re wrong.

What should they do instead?

Have the patience to let the client put everything on the table so they can clarify what the objection [really] is. When dealing with someone’s money, you want to avoid arguing them out of the first thing you hear. To understand what’s holding them back, isolate the true objection. “Pump and pounce” is like playing whack-a-mole. You never win that game.

On the other hand, you write that “to be successful in sales,” you “must ditch your wishbone and grow a backbone.” Please elaborate.

Struggling salespeople are like rain barrels: Their mouths are under the sky waiting for something to happen. But the salespeople who are making a lot of money are assertive and assumptive — they’re going out and asking people for time, money, engagement. If you want to be successful in any role, you can’t wish for something to happen — you have to make it happen.

What are the four types of objections encountered in sales?

One set comes at the prospecting stage when you’re asking people to give you time. These are usually harsher than anywhere else in the sales process. The next set are red herring objections — things that prospects or customers say when you’re presenting that take you off your objective and end up derailing the meeting. The salesperson loses control because they treat this initial reaction as an objection rather than just moving past it and staying on their objective.

What are the two other sets?

Micro-commitment objections are low-key and usually concern value. When, for instance, the person says they’re not willing to go to the next step because they have “other things to do,” the salesperson’s role is to explain the value and give them a reason to move to the next step.

And the fourth set?

Buying-commitment objections: “I want to think about it”; “I have to talk to my partner”; “The price is too high.” But if you manage the micro-commitment objections right, buying-commitment objections often never emerge because the person has already made the commitment to do business with you as they’re going along the path.

 To handle objections, people typically take the tack of “overcoming” or “combating” or “rebutting” them.  But you say this confrontational concept doesn’t work. Why?

It turns the prospect into an adversary.  [Generally] when someone tells us we’re wrong, our inner brat comes out and we say, “No, we’re right!” We just dig in and don’t move.  You can’t argue a person into believing they’re wrong.

What should you do instead?

Turn the objection around by disrupting the person’s thought process by minimizing their fear and maximizing the value of moving forward.

How can the “self-disclosure loop” help financial advisors?

When they encounter hesitancy to turn over a portion or all of a portfolio, the self-disclosure loop allows the prospect or client to articulate what’s really bothering them.

How so? The problem for a lot of financial advisors is that they talk too much. They just pitch, pitch, pitch — pitch slapping, we call it. But when you’re talking, you’re not listening. The self-disclosure loop triggers the person to tell you everything that’s bothering them. And when people talk about themselves, they get a dopamine hit to the pleasure center of the brain, which makes them feel good and want to tell you even more stuff.

What should the advisor do while the client is telling their story?

All you have to do is get out of the way. Don’t interrupt them; don’t tell your own story. The more they tell you, the more they’ll reveal their real concerns and issues — and their objections to working with you.

What’s the best technique to get someone to talk?

You have to start with broad open-ended questions about, say, their retirement and what they hope to do. These types of questions don’t cause them to immediately put up an emotional wall. If you start by asking really hard questions about their money, they may not give you all the information because they’ll think they’re going to be manipulated.

What’s the biggest benefit to really listening to prospects and clients?

The more they’re telling their story, the more they like you; and the more they like you, the more likely they’re going to do business with you.

Why is being empathic so important in the sales scenario?

Empathy is the meta skill of today’s modern society. As a financial advisor, you’re asking another human being to trust you with their future. Empathy allows you to step into their shoes and see things from their point of view instead of talking someone out of feeling the way they do. Advisors, especially, have to almost put their arm around them and pull them forward to help the client make a decision. They need to minimize fears while maximizing the value of working with them.

How does being highly empathic or lacking in empathy affect sales?

The key to empathy is listening. It’s literally shutting your mouth and paying attention in order to understand the client. People [low on the empathy scale] try to get as much as they can out of the conversation with the least amount of emotional investment and time. People [high on the scale] have to be intentional about asking the client to move to the next step. Often they have a difficult time being assertive and asking for what they want because they feel they’re being too pushy.

How can an advisor at the low end of the scale develop more empathy?

The key about empathy is to turn off your own need to feel important and be the expert. A lot of financial advisors have that problem because they want to talk about the product they sell and about money.

What should they do instead?

Focus attention on why the prospect would want to invest. Where are they trying to go in their lives? Get them to tell you that story; and from there, bridge to the products you’re selling — the things you can help them with. This [is more effective than] trying to have a logical conversation about particular ways they can invest their money because it’s always going to be the emotion first that drives the decision and the logic second.

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