How good are you at forging relationships with prospects and clients?
Most advisors would answer that question like this: I’m ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ at it! That would be an accurate assessment for some, but for many of us, there is a lot of room for improvement.
It’s an important skill for anyone, really, and even more so if your job includes a sales function.
Here are two critical conversational skills that most advisors think they’re great at, but really aren’t:
Listening from the client’s perspective
Bringing in new clients can be challenging. And whether you’re an independent advisor running your own shop, or you’re working for a national financial institution, you have revenue targets to meet. That can put pressure on sales calls and meetings. So, it’s natural that when your prospective client is speaking, your brain is thinking ‘how can I sell this or that product?’
However, this habit creates problems. It’s a trap that you must work against falling into, because thinking of what you want to sell stops you from being present.
Should this matter? Let’s see:
When the client can feel your unspoken agenda, they won’t trust you. No trust, no sale. You are so narrowly focused on product that you miss many opportunities. Missed clues, missed revenue.
The cost of this skill gap is huge.
Here’s how to fix it:
Call it out for yourself before the meeting
I’m feeling the pressure to sell. I have a short list of products and services that I think would be great for them and that would pay me a nice commission. I realize that that’s what I’m aiming for, and that’s a trap. I’ve done my prep and I’m ready for the meeting. I trust my knowledge. Now I need to throw that all away and be completely present and listen deeply to what my client needs. That will create trust and I’ll be able to bring this deal home.
Incorporate the step of calling out your own mental chatter into your meeting prep. This will bring you into the present moment and increase your ability to listen deeply from the client’s perspective.
Huh? Yeah, catch. In a friendly game of catch, the ball goes two ways. Instead of tossing the conversational ball back and forth in a relaxed way, many advisors act like a pitching machine, lobbing question after question at their client.
I want to be clear. I’m not saying you interrogate – although some of you do! – I’m saying that there’s a beat missing. The pattern most advisors have is to respond to an answer by immediately asking another question, like a player laser-focused a couple plays ahead: there’s a home run in here, I can see it only two questions away!
In a friendly game of catch, when your client tosses the ball back to you, hold it in your hand for a moment and demonstrate that you fully understand what they’ve given you.
Here’s the skill:
Capture and Reflect
Say you heard a health clue. There’s a right way and a wrong way to respond to it.
You’d be forgiven for immediately thinking: Critical illness insurance! Long-term care! BIG potential sales here! Take a breath and stay present.
If you react immediately to the health clue and lob a follow-up question like How will you manage your financial commitments if your husband falls ill, this will increase anxiety and connect you to that crappy feeling.
Instead, capture and reflect:
Ms. Richards, I understand that you want to make some decisions about retirement. But I’m also hearing some worry about your husband’s health. Is that right?
This demonstrates that you were listening deeply to their needs. You’ve built a safe place for them to talk about their worry without feeling pushed in any way.
Notice how the reflect captures both the facts you heard and also the client’s spoken and unspoken feelings. The better you get at addressing the whole person, not just their situation or revenue potential, the more they’ll see you as someone they can really trust with their financial future.
This brings to mind an indigenous teaching from the novel Sacajawea I read as a teenager. Sacajawea was traveling with the Lewis and Clark expedition and at one point allowed her child to crawl forward and touch the fire. The explorers were quick to jump in, but Sacajawea explained that the child would learn for himself that fire was dangerous and must be respected, and she was there to watch out for him. She was the source of comfort and wisdom.
Obviously, your clients are not children.
The point here is that you can either be the thing they resist, or the source of comfort and wisdom they trust and gravitate towards.
When you improve either of these skills even marginally, you’ll notice that sales conversations feel more relaxed and business rolls in more easily.
Did you enjoy this article? Kira writes weekly articles packed with actionable tips for sales professionals in the financial services industry. Sign up here to receive Kira’s article delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday.
Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.