In the “red ocean” of fierce competition, it’s “the great white shark who rules.” So says sales guru Anthony Iannarino, who, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor, reveals how to be “a dangerous competitor.” Financial advisors must always keep that mindset, he argues.
Author of the bestseller “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need,” Iannarino’s new book title tells it all: “Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition” (Portfolio/Penguin Random House-Nov. 2018).
The advisor who creates a “strategic level of value” — becoming their clients’ “second brain” — and who makes a compelling case for prospects to take different action, is “very dangerous.” That FA will generally win clients away from competitors, Iannarino says.
In “Eat Their Lunch,” the sales-team leader-consultant-coach-trainer, whose daily blog, The Sales Blog, draws more than 50,000 visitors monthly, provides strategies to displace the competition — “Become your client’s second brain” — and protect one’s own lunch from being devoured: “Build an impenetrable wall of fire” around your best clients.
His approach to competitor displacement is neither nasty nor cutthroat. In fact, he advises telling prospects nice things about competitors as a way to start describing how your approach to managing assets differs.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Iannarino, on the phone from his Columbus, Ohio, office. Among other topics, the international speaker who presents to a variety of industries, including financial services, shed light on “integral theory,” a discovery process that, in part, assigns colors to folks based on their values. Most FAs’ high-net-worth clients are likely to be in the deep-orange group, though be mindful, he says, that a definite attitudinal shift is underway to green.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
THINKADVISOR: What would make a financial advisor a “dangerous competitor”?
ANTHONY IANNARINO: Not the product, the service or their company. What the client needs are strategic outcomes. And whoever can create that strategic level of value and make a compelling case for change is very dangerous — and generally will win clients away from their competition.
Is trying to win clients away from the competition an attitude advisors should have all the time?
All the people advisors want as clients who have a high net worth belong to somebody else. If you think competitors aren’t trying to steal your clients away from you, you may be delusional or confused. You have to face that reality.
So should an advisor be ruthless in trying to win other FAs’ clients?
Most of us live in the “red ocean” [as written in “Blue Ocean Strategy” books by Kim and Mauborgne], which is signified by ferocious competition and a lot of blood in the water. That’s opposed to the “blue ocean,” where you have no competitors. In the “red ocean,” you don’t have to be unfair or behave badly; but you do have to go out and get clients who aren’t being served well enough by your competitors.
Why is it wrong to bad-mouth your competition to prospects, as you write?
It makes them think you’re weak, that you can’t create greater value, that you’re trying to shrink your competitors instead of creating value. When you point the bony finger of indignation at them and say, “Their model is wrong” or “They don’t do this or that,” you’re causing the prospect to believe you’re not creating value — that you’re just trying to take down your competitor.
What should advisors say about their competitors, if anything?
The right thing to do is compliment them and say, for instance, “JPMorgan Chase [or whatever firm] does really good work. In some areas, we have wildly different ideas about how you should be investing right now and thinking about longer term goals. I’d love to share with you some of the things that make us different.” That lets you start differentiating your offering.
Why are advisors sometimes their own worst enemies?
One thing is that they’re in a rush. They skip the process that allows the buyer to come to good decisions. The advisor is thinking: “I can give you a proposal so I can ask you for your business so you can transfer the money.” But prospects need more time. When they speed up, they disconnect from the prospect. [Advisors and others in sales] worry too much about making the sale and not enough about helping clients get to the point where it’s easy for them to say yes.
Please discuss the concept that the client is buying you — that you are in fact the value proposition.
The point is not that you work for JPMorgan, say, or that your business has been around for a long time or that you have this or that investment vehicle. When you talk about those things, you’re deflecting the client from deciding whether you’re the best person to do the work — the one they trust to help make decisions about their future. That makes you the value proposition because you are the trusted advisor.
Just what constitutes being a trusted advisor?
That you have clients’ best interest at heart: You’re going to tell them the truth even if they don’t like it. You may have to say: “Your goals are out of line with the financial decisions you’re making today. So we need to either change the goals or change the decisions.” The trust comes from being other-oriented, not being self-oriented.
What does being truly consultative entail?
You tell clients what they need to do, what they need to change, how they need to change, what’s coming in the future. You’re helping them make decisions to create a better future. Many financial advisors leave too much for their clients to decide, when instead, they’re supposed to be giving them the best advice and helping to push them in the right direction.
Why is it important to develop a theme or a strong point of view?