The Art of the Sale

Stop Selling and Start Making Client-Partners

… and create raving fans in the process

by Dave Vick

Mr. Vick is the Executive Vice President for Dressander|BHC, a billion-dollar, financial marketing organization. He is a top producer, author and a gifted educator, who writes, speaks and shares sales and marketing techniques with multiple publications and producers. Visit

I’ve found that most advisors in the financial services industry are “compulsive presenters.”

They believe if they beat prospects up with a bunch of information about how great index annuities are, the prospect will see the error of their ways and gladly place all their money into an annuity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is, it is better to have the prospect tell you how much they should have in index annuities or other financial products… not you telling them. That’s the beauty of the ABC Planning Process. The clients get it—maybe for the first time they actually see the value of a true fixed income asset, and they tell you what percent of their portfolio they want in index annuities.

Know your process…

With every FMO trying to give you one hundred ways to overcome objections, I believe what Todd Duncan, best-selling author of “High Trust Selling,” says… “You only get objections when your process leaves something to be desired, or maybe you don’t even have a process.” If this is true for you, then it is absolutely essential you spend more time on a process to lead clients through, rather than memorizing pithy little sayings in response to a prospect’s objection to doing business with you. It’s not you or your product. It’s a faulty selling system. In fact, it’s likely the concept of “selling” rather than “leading” a client that’s the barrier to your success.

So, how do you solve the problem? I believe that leading and planning are best done with a systematic process of listening and focusing on the needs and objectives of the client. That’s exactly what the ABC Planning Process does. It’s a guided process allowing you to lead by understanding what the client’s objectives are thus avoiding their objections.

Develop a plan that meets these needs, rather than “selling an annuity.” That’s why I’ve been heard to say, “Stop SELLING, and start making client-partners that refer the heck out of you!” Once you learn how to get a prospect emotionally involved in the process, you will have a high rate of success in moving them to act on a plan. After all, people buy emotionally, and then take rational steps to fulfill their plan. The ABC Planning Process involves the prospect on both levels, emotional and rational.

This process is a culmination of years of experience in the financial planning arena. I’ve tried an incredible number of ways to get clients involved in the planning process, see its value, and act in a timely manner. I’ve been professionally trained in sales by several organizations. I’ve used various software programs that are available on the market. I’ve read and studied the processes of selling, persuasion, and planning for the last 20 years. Everything has led me to this conclusion: Selling is best done by a process rather than an event.

Defining your system…

I decided that I needed to design a system along with the software that does exactly what I needed it to do. It fits the Indexed Annuity market perfectly. What’s more, I’ve experienced a higher rate of closing than ever before. I now believe a system is not a system unless you can predict its results. I have been closing at a 90% rate since developing the system, which is much higher than previous efforts.

I have also noticed the client feels much more at ease since I’m not trying to “talk them into something.” The client has input and I have a directive process which allows for their decision-making time frame. It’s also a very compliance friendly program, which in this day and age, makes a huge difference. With the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule and other regulations, it’s always a good idea to show (and prove) that you’re always putting the client’s best interests first.

What Kind of Advisor Are You?

I would love to ask you a question: “What kind of advisor are you?”

Now, I don’t mean, are you a PC agent, or life only agent, or captive agent, or even a “good” or “bad” agent. I think there are basically two types of agents: Transactional vs. Process. Here’s what I mean.

If you are “Transactional Oriented” in method, the following might apply to the way you do business:

  • Event oriented: you look at acquiring new clients as an event, an hour, and a dog-and-pony show.
  • Looking for one asset to put in an annuity, like a CD, or maybe another annuity or mutual fund to “sell against.” You try to point out the weaknesses of their assets and the benefits of your asset.
  • Constantly looking for a “commission,” another notch on your gun.
  • One and done. You may be a “one-call-closer” with no time for follow-up.
  • Stuck in the “Client Acquisition” mode, with no thought of how you will be able to service your clients, or if you even want to service them. Clients are talking about you with their friends, family and associates, but you don’t want to know and don’t care what they’re saying.
  • Few referrals. Your “sales targets” are so beat up by the end of your process they just want to get out of your office with the least amount of damage.
I’ve tried an incredible number of ways to get clients involved in the planning process, see its value, and act in a timely manner

However, if you are “Process Oriented” then the following will apply:

  • System oriented. You look to create a system that helps move prospects from point A to point B in a manner that enhances their involvement both in time and assets.
  • Looking for the best financial plan for the client, rather than just looking to move an asset for the sake of a “sale.”
  • Best interest of the client. Commission is an after-thought, with the client’s needs driving your recommendations.
  • Ongoing relationships are the norm. You set up year-round client involvement from the very beginning, and ask yourself if this client fits your practice.
  • You spend time, energy, and money servicing clients to such a degree it creates “raving fans.” Clients are “raving” about you with their friends, family, and associates.
  •  Referrals come in on a regular basis. You can actually determine on a regular basis how many referrals you’ll receive on a weekly basis.

You see, I know you want a process that results, not only in a high closing ratio, but a high referral rate, too. The ABC’s, by design, produce exactly that. The ABC Planning Process:

  • Is a system with proven and predictable results
  • Creates referrals
  • Is incredibly compliance friendly
  • Makes innovative use of technology and media
  • Is a Process vs. Event or Transactional sale

The Process: Investigate, Recommend, Implement, Review & Adjust

There are four steps of the ABC Planning Process; here’s a brief description of each:

Our planning process begins with Investigation. We investigate each other, investigate your portfolio, investigate any leaks, gaps, or deficiencies in the client’s current plan, and investigate sample solutions to your needs. We also look to establish specific, realistic financial goals. We make use of our own Financial Snapshots Software to help in this process. You will receive brochures from the financial institutions we use, Financial Snapshots and the ADV II (prospectus) for XYZ Investment Company. The meeting usually lasts about an hour.

The second phase of the planning process, Recommendation, brings the specific elements of the solution to bear on the diagnosis. This phase may include income planning, protection of assets from market loss, or asset management recommendations. It’s at this meeting that you’ll be asked to make decisions regarding asset allocation and transfers. Again, the meeting usually lasts about an hour.

In the third phase, we begin with the process of allocating assets to the proper areas by way of applications and transfers to the various companies. We then begin to follow-up on the transfer of assets to the proper companies which can take two to six weeks. Once the assets are transferred, we sit down again with you to review the end results. We then meet periodically to communicate progress and answer questions as they arise.

Review & Adjust
The fourth phase of the ABC planning process begins with the review of account transfers and delivery of annuity contracts. We set expectations for reviews of all accounts and always give the new client a calendar of events, so they can participate as a client-partner.

In any industry, where there are a lot of competitors with similar track records and capabilities, process-oriented selling is going to be of paramount importance. I truly hope you see the value in the ABC Planning Process and put it to good use. I’m sure you will find it easy to assimilate into your everyday practice. Thousands of agents around the country have found the ABC Planning Process to be the missing ingredient to successful leading clients to better financial decisions.