By Steve Plewes
Imagine this: you’re great at your job. You make sales, you manage your clients’ assets well and you’re an attentive advisor who makes sure to follow up. But you can’t get a call back from referrals and your prospects aren’t scheduling appointments. You can’t figure out why. Maybe your reputation precedes you.
As a professional coach and former financial advisor, I work with many advisors with between 12 and 18 years of experience, several of whom are having this problem. If this scenario sounds uncomfortably familiar to you, you might have made a less-discussed industry mistake: you’ve become too good at closing.
Customers Vs. Clients
It can be difficult to wrap your head around being too good at closing. Financial services is a sales sector, after all, and some advisors forget that to their own detriment. But “closers” tend to have a specific profile: they’re great at presenting, have an exemplary record of ending meetings with policy sales, but often that sale will be the last they ever make with that client. They might not even hear back until they get a notification that the client has chosen a new advisor.
Advisors in this situation must ask if their clients see themselves as “clients” or “customers.” A client talking about their advisor says, “here is my trusted financial advisor, I feel like I can talk to them about anything.” A customer says, “here is my financial advisor, they’re okay but they’re always trying to sell me something.”
Customers may trust “closer” advisors with their immediate needs, but often not with their long-term goals or desires. They may not see this as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship because the advisor probably hasn’t worked hard enough to build one with them.
Avoiding or dismantling this reputation may not be easy, but it will allow you to upgrade customers to clients if you engage with them on a deeper level. To do so, you must embrace and add a mindset of empathy to your process.
Demonstrate A Desire To Understand
Your job as an advisor is to take care of your clients, but coming on too strong may convince them of the exact opposite. The old adage that nothing happens until the sale is made, may be true, but relationships are required to move the sales process along and still retain clients afterwards.
Not every meeting should involve a sales pitch. Take opportunities to step outside the sales mindset and build connections by asking clients questions that demonstrate your interest in their lives. Talk about their families, their jobs and elevate conversations by discovering their goals and passions.
Embracing this mentality will help you retain clients by showing them that you care about them and understand how their personal desires shape their financial needs.
Consider delaying the sales pitch even with prospects. Data collection, after all, is paramount to effective prospecting and more time before pitching means more data collected. These prospects will also feel more at ease because you set a precedent that they don’t have to buy anything to meet with you.
Sell With Empathy
When the conversation does move to the closing phase, stay grounded in empathy and avoid bogging it down with data. Price, performance and comparisons to similar products matter, but clients won’t connect with numbers even if the product is the best possible fit for them.
Throwing these data points at them will simply fulfill a boring stereotype of what financial planners supposedly do.
Instead, ground the discussion in your knowledge of their goals, passions and life experiences. Echo your client’s wants and their reasons for them back to them and make them feel heard. This makes a good policy or asset management plan feel like the natural solution to a client’s needs that it is, rather than a product they feel convinced to buy.
If you can’t get calls back from prospects or referrals after you approach them, you might need to take off your sales hat for a minute. Stop and think about what they may be going through on the other end of the phone. Life is amplified for people right now, and you may be low on their list of concerns even if they recognize the need what you offer.
Remember that an advisor’s top priority is taking care of their clients’ top priorities so weave empathy into how you approach that. Accomplish that, and closing will feel so natural you might not have to be so good at it.
About The Author
Steve Plewes, CLU, ChFC, CPC, ELI-MP, is a 33 year qualifying and life MDRT member with 13 Court of the Table and 11 Top of the Table qualifications. As a former independent firm owner, Steve honed his communication, problem-solving and sales skills to build a nearly 40-year career in financial services. He now works as a professional coach, combining his experience, wisdom and insights with his passion for helping people move forward in life. He is the author of the book The High Altitude View; Gaining Perspective to Grow your Practice.