The Art of the Sale

How About Low Profile Selling?

The best salespeople avoid data-dumps, verborrhea and pushing too hard

by Tom Hopkins

Mr. Hopkins is world-renowned as a master sales trainer. His online courses are approved for CE credits by the CFP Board. Let him help you improve your skills and gain more clients! Download his free ebook titled, The Art of Growing a Successful Financial Services Business here:

What are your pre­dominant thoughts during your first contact with a prospective client? Are you thinking about closing the sale? Are you thinking about how you look – maybe the mustard stain on your cuff?

Or, are you thinking that this could be the start of a beautiful relationship?

Hopefully, you will always remind yourself to think of the latter when meeting someone who appears to need your help – a new long-term relationship in which you provide peace of mind to your new clients.

Too many representatives in financial services do poorly because they think selling a new account requires them to be more forward, even pushy and aggressive. They think they have to talk, and talk, and talk, wearing clients down until they agree to their services or take their advice. Some advisors think if they dump enough information on potential clients about the many options available that they’ll be so confused that they’ll hire the advisor to sort it all out for them. Neither of those approaches will lead to great success in this field.

Making the sale… for the long run

In many instances, folks who aren’t educated about their financial needs or haven’t analyzed their specific situations may accept whatever is offered so they’re at least doing something with their money. And while that makes a sale for today, it may not do the client or the advisor much good in the long run. And in this business, you want to be in it for the long haul. If you intend to achieve great success in the field of financial services, it’s imperative that you learn professional selling skills. Hint: They’re not anything like the pushy, aggressive stereotype portrayed by Hollywood.

Truly great selling involves being low key. It includes developing the ability to lead people with questions rather than push them with facts and figures. When you’re talking, you’re only spouting off what you already know. Truly successful people in this business understand that what really matters is getting the clients talking about what they need. Then, they work together to find a truly good solution for the client’s needs among your wide range of product offerings. When you figuratively (and possibly literally) sit beside your clients to review their needs together, you eliminate any adversarial pre-conceived notion where someone wins and the other loses.

Great selling begins the moment you make contact with others. You are being sized up by others during the first five-to-seven seconds you are near them. So, yes, that mustard stain should have been dealt with so as not to distract you from building rapport and putting your new contacts at ease. And your fingernails should be clean and trimmed; your hair brushed; and you should have checked for anything stuck in your teeth after your last bite to eat.

Building rapport, the getting-to-know-you phase of selling, is highly critical. What happens in the first few moments of this stage will establish the foundation for the future of each relationship. We all know that we never get a second chance to make a positive first impression. So, why don’t we prepare more for that first impression? Anyone involved in sales can benefit from learning more and better ways to make this stage of the sale the smoothest, most comfortable situation you and your potential client have ever been involved in.

Rapport building can be compared to laying the foundation of a new building. You are laying the foundation for new sales – not only from this client, but from potentially hundreds of people they could refer to you over the years.

Don’t start by telling potential clients about the various products you have available. Ask them what their goals are. What are their thoughts about what having a financial plan will do for them? Make certain they understand what a plan will and will not do for them.

Truly great selling involves being low key. It includes developing the ability to lead people with questions rather than push them with facts and figures

In essence, your primary job is not to sell financial products. It’s to educate people about what the different types of programs can and will do for them. Your job is to act as a guide so they find the best path for their goals and dreams for the future.

Be the Expert

Not all clients will be easy to work with. Clients who are interested in changing from another company or adviser to working with you may be doing so with the belief that the previous fast-talking adviser ripped them off or pushed them into a plan that wasn’t right for them. Their defenses will be high and they’ll be ready to bolt out the door to shop around some more if you come across like the stereotypical salesperson they fear.

If helping people with financial planning is your professional career choice, envision yourself as an expert adviser. You want to counsel clients into the right plan for their needs, not just sell them a product. Being an educator is an important aspect of the business of selling.

Think back to your favorite teacher. Most likely that teacher asked a lot of questions to draw out what you knew about a subject – engage you. In fact, at the beginning of every school year most good teachers will ask a lot of questions to determine what level of understanding their students already have about the subject at hand. Do the same with any new client.

If you don’t already have a needs analysis list of questions prepared and ready to use with potential clients, invest some time in drafting one up. Be careful to make the questions conversational. No one wants to be cross-examined or felt they’re being “grilled” for information. However, most people do like talking about themselves and sharing details of their situations when they feel you truly care by how you phrase your questions and how you listen to their answers.

None of this requires aggressiveness of any sort. It doesn’t involve talking fast either. Many consumers have the perception of people who sell as being fast talkers. If they hear that coming from you, they’ll quickly raise defense barriers. Little alarms will go off in their heads telling them that they don’t want to be sold anything. They will try to get away from you as fast as possible and seek out someone who can provide professional counsel to them, rather than being controlling. Speak at about the same speed they do.

Reduce Their Fears

The fun part of learning how to professionally meet, qualify and present products to people is that you are in control, but not in a way that generates fear or alarm. You control your meetings with clients by being professional, sincerely interested in their needs, putting them at ease, and asking a questions. When you get them talking about themselves or their needs, they’ll relax. When they relax, they’ll tell you more about why they agreed to talk with you in the first place and why they want what they want. And, that’s what you really need to know if you are going to serve their needs long term.

Want vs Need

In some cases, clients will contact you seeking Product A because they think that’s what will take care of their needs – perhaps after reading about it in the newspaper or doing some online research or just talking with friends or relatives. However, you’re the professional – the expert adviser. If all you do is talk with them about Product A and try to sell that product, you could be doing them a disservice. By remaining low key and asking questions about their needs, you could very well determine that Product B would be so much better for them and make them happier, knowing that you really listened to them.

By making your clients and their needs the focus in your communications, they’ll sense the level of importance you put on serving them well. When people feel they are being taken care of they’ll come back to you with repeat business and refer their friends and relatives to you. That’s when you’ve truly made it in this business – when clients think “financial services,” they think of you.

Those business people who take center stage for themselves and their products by being pushy, showy or talkative may appear to outshine the low-key people in business. But, those who keep their profiles low and their service levels high are those who will be sought out again and again. ◊