By Walton Rogers
By now, we’ve adapted our practices to be conducted entirely online, and many of us are finding new ways to connect with prospective clients who turn to us to allay their financial concerns.
Even as some of us begin returning to our physical offices, many prospective clients may still be uneasy about visiting unfamiliar places, and we will need to continue meeting with them virtually for some time.
Finding personal connections with prospects can be more challenging in this altered form of business, so we must consider the most thoughtful and impactful ways to connect while physically separated.
Overcoming Virtual Limitations
Advisors tend to sell in the same way they buy, so for those of us who are less comfortable conducting our personal business online, selling in this way may be more challenging. Speaking to prospects online and over the phone comes with an extra set of limitations we need to prepare for.
These challenges will be more difficult for some of us to embrace, particularly those who rarely conducted any business online prior to the pandemic.
To overcome the constraints of online selling, first identify what the most significant challenges are for yourself. I tend to find in-person conversations more meaningful, as I can pick up more clues about how someone is feeling when speaking face-to-face.
Without being able to read body language or facial expressions, we can be left to wonder what a pause in conversation means. Is your prospective client simply contemplating what you’ve just said, distracted by their child or are they feeling uncomfortable and unsure of how to respond?
Listening intently to what a prospect is saying and the undertones of emotions in their voice can help you work out what they may be thinking. Keep them talking throughout your conversation and let them run the meeting.
It may take some clients longer to get to the point of what their needs are, but if you listen closely, most people tend to give you all the information you need to deduce exactly what they’re intending to buy and the factors influencing this decision.
Many aspects of selling will never change regardless of the platform. We should always be actively listening, building trust, asking questions and customizing solutions for each individual. Virtual meetings simply place a larger emphasis on these qualities than we may be accustomed to in person.
Building Trust Over The Phone
Whether virtual or not, I like to begin every appointment by asking what my client or prospect hopes to gain from our conversation. This sets an agenda for our discussion and gives us a place to return to if we find ourselves off topic.
After establishing your agenda with your client or prospect, take the time to ask about their family and create a personal connection to put them at ease. A recent MDRT study showed that 83% of Americans say advisors exhibiting emotional intelligence is important to building a quality client-advisor relationship, an asset that becomes even more important over the phone.
Taking this extra step, particularly at a time when many people are struggling, will help set the foundation for a trusting and comfortable relationship.
Return to your prospect’s agenda after setting this baseline and remember that this is their meeting, their conversation and their problem for which they’re seeking a solution. Approach these conversations in the same way you would an in-person meeting, but take it slower, asking for clarification when you need it and allowing them the opportunity to do the same.
Without the ability to speak face to face, it can be easy to miss out on the meaning behind what they’re saying. If a prospect does not feel heard, they will likely not become a client.
We should continue to show the same empathy we would at any other time while remembering emotions are likely still running high from the uncertainty of the last few months. Keep in mind that some prospects are likely turning to you out of concern for the impact the pandemic is having on their personal well-being.
Look for new opportunities to ease their concerns and provide as much information as they need. If you concentrate on the needs a prospect is telling you about, you’ll more easily be able to find a tailored solution for them as a new client.
About the Author
Walton Rogers has been an agent representing New York Life and other insurance companies since 1974. He qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) in 1975 and every year since then. He was elected to the MDRT Executive Committee in 2005 and served as President of MDRT in 2009. Walton resides in Severna Park, Maryland. By joining and engaging with industry peers via associations like MDRT, you can keep your skills at the top of their game.