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Practice Management

Being a problem solver is the key to success.

This Practice Management article is intended for financial advisors only (registered representatives of broker dealers or associated persons of Registered Investment Advisors).

The word “salesman” sometimes conjures images of high pressure tactics and possibly someone doing something in their own best interest instead of the client’s best interest.

For that reason, many people simply don’t like being “sold to,” yet everyone likes having their problems go away. If you are effective at solving people’s problems, you will become an effective salesperson. I will discuss how to set the mood for a sales meeting, how to learn what really motivates a client, and how to do a one-page close.

Let’s discuss the most important thing first: setting the mood for the meeting. If you are going to set the mood, guess whose emotional state you need to manage first? If you said the client’s, you were incorrect. You need to master your emotional state as a first step. If you did not get a good night’s sleep, if you are hungry or are thinking about a problem, this will be difficult to do consistently. You may fake it for a while, but eventually, at some point, you will “lose it.” So, sleep eight hours, take breaks during the day, and have healthy snacks and keep plenty of water at hand. Do not skip meals (especially breakfast); you simply won’t have the energy to give 100% all day long.

Next, before meetings, stand up, breathe deeply, stretch a little, and get yourself in a good state. You need to move physically to get really engaged emotionally.

Once the client arrives, begin the meeting with empowering questions. Empowering questions must be answered in the positive. Don’t ask, “How are you?” Instead, ask, “What’s the best thing going on with you lately?”

And don’t just ask, “What do you do for a living?” Make sure you follow up with: “What do you like best about that type of work?” Instead of asking: “Do you have any hobbies?” ask, “What’s your favorite thing to do when you are not at work?” Then ask: “What do you like best about that?”

These types of questions will put anyone in a positive state of mind as soon as they focus on the answer. With practice, you can think of dozens of similar examples and have fun with them. Only when you can see the person emotionally engaged will you “bridge” to finding out the client's motivators by asking: “Before I get into the agenda, I’d like to ask a few questions first to help me make sure I really understand what you would like to focus on today before getting started, is that okay?”

Now, before you start recommending anything, you need to understand the client’s primary motivators:

• What is it they want to move toward?
• What is it they want to move away from?

If you are going to present a product, you will frame those questions around that issue. If I am going to present an investment idea, I might ask: “What’s most important to you when making an investment decision?” Then follow up with, “Why is that important to you?” Or, I might ask: “What is the long-term goal you have for the money you are investing?” Then follow up with “What is another long-term goal?” Keep asking again until they run out of goals.

So this is the client’s “toward” motivation. Now we need to understand the problem they are trying to resolve, or their “away from” motivation. An example would be: “So you just mentioned that ______ is your long-term goal for your portfolio. What has been your biggest problem achieving that in the past?” Or, “What is it about your potential financial future that is your biggest concern, is there anything that keeps you up at night?”

The last step is to present your idea. If you asked the right questions, you should know what the client wants to achieve and the issues around that goal. If you have a solution, great—now you can be the “problem solver” as opposed to the salesperson.

Present solutions in a simple one-page, side-by-side format, making it easy for the client to compare differences. Your firm may already have approved sales literature for this purpose. If you need to create something, make sure you get approval before using it in the presentation. Try and offer at least two, but ideally three, potential ideas that will help the client get what they want and resolve their problem. Make it a simple, clear comparison that ideally fits on one page.

Remember to start the meeting by getting in a good state yourself, then ask empowering questions. Next, learn the client’s goals and the problems he or she is trying to resolve. Finally, make the choice easy by presenting your solutions in an easy one-page comparison and let the client choose the one they feel is best.

Remember, sales literature needs to be approved. As you become better at identifying and solving problems, your sales numbers will take care of themselves.

Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.


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