When you sit down with a prospect or a client, you probably open the conversation with a brief comment about the weather, followed by a discussion about families or work or a news headline. At some point, the conversation shifts and you discuss some aspect of the client’s finances or portfolio – perhaps listening to their ideas or giving advice from research you’ve performed.
To an untrained eye, this was just an advisor and a prospect or a client having a conversation. But look closer and you’ll discover powerful selling forces going on below the surface. And understanding these selling forces can help you convert more prospects to clients and can help you do more business with your clients.
The Three Objectives of Every Conversation
Every conversation you have with prospects and clients has three objectives:
To build rapport
To communicate information
Depending on the relationship you have with your client, and what you wish to achieve with the person in the long-term and in the time you have available at the moment, each conversation might have more of one objective and less of another.
Rapport-building: Conversations about the weather are mostly rapport building. There tends to be more rapport-building at the beginning of relationships and at the beginning of conversations, although rapport-building does continue throughout each conversation in a relationship.
Rapport-building conversations tend to be very “surface” conversations, seeking mild opinions on topics that are relatively well-known and where some agreement likely already exists. This is why you probably won’t use topics like religion or politics when rapport-building, unless you happen to belong to the same religion or political persuasion of the person you’re speaking to.
The goal here is to find further common ground. Some rapport-building will simply touch on topics that have no long-term significance (such as the weather) while other rapport-building will touch on topics that do have long-term significance (such as families).
Communicating information: Conversations should also communicate information. You communicate financial advice information to your client and they communicate back to you with their feedback of your ideas and with potential new ways that you might be able to serve them.
For example, conversations about family and work build rapport but, if you’re paying attention, they also communicate valuable information by hinting at opportunities that allow you to serve your clients further. Perhaps the birth of a new child or an impending retirement suggest ways that you can provide more helpful advice to your client.
The goal here is to ask great questions and to listen closely to the answer. You can build off of some of your rapport-building conversations but go deeper, asking about the future and the other person’s plans. And then listen actively to the response!
Persuading: Persuasion is part of your job, unfortunately the term “persuade” is often misunderstood to mean aggressive sales or pushiness. However, professional persuasion is how advisors grow their business: You persuade prospects to become clients and you persuade clients to take a sensible course of action by following your advice. (Of course they may choose not to become clients or to follow your advice but professional persuasion should present the best course of action for them so they know what you think they should do).
Persuading presents the best choice to make and outlines the reasons why someone should make that choice. Persuasion grows out of rapport-building and communicating information. If you haven’t built rapport and if you haven’t communicated the right information, your persuading will fall short.
Financial advisors’ practices are built around conversations. Master these conversations by understanding the three key objectives you strive for in every conversation and then prepare before each conversation to help you convert more prospects to clients and to help you work more effectively with your clients.
List a number of topics that you can use to build rapport. Think of topics that you feel comfortable discussing that you probably share some mutual agreement with your clients.
Memorize a list of questions that you can draw from to show that you take an interest in your prospect or client.
Reflect on the ways that you have persuaded prospects and clients in the past. What results have you achieved with the persuasion methods you’ve used?
We’ve simplified the concept of “selling” down to this one concept: Persuading presents the best choice to make and outlines the reasons why someone should make that choice. Prepare for your upcoming conversations by thinking of 2 or 3 specific prospects or clients you’ll be speaking to soon. Identify the best choice you’re going to recommend (i.e. become a client or invest in a particular investment) and then list as many reasons as you can for that person to follow that course of action.
Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. Her book is called, 101 Success Tips and Strategies for Financial Advisors. Visit her website at www.rosemarysmyth.com. You can email Rosemary at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. His first book, The Sales Funnel Bible, helps advisors master their sales funnel. Visit his website at www.AaronHoos.com and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.