Since the industrial revolution, traditional selling has been trained and practiced by almost every industry and business model known to mankind. It appears many of us have been taught to sell in a very similar way, but this traditional sales approach has begun to present some serious problems. These commonly held negative beliefs affect insurance agents and financial advisors, and by taking these simple steps you can overcome these beliefs and standout in a sometimes crowded marketplace.
Overcoming Negative Beliefs
When a financial advisor is perceived to be a self-serving, fast-talking, slick salesperson the prospects automatically shift into a defensive mode. When this occurs, that advisor will have difficulty obtaining pertinent information, reaching an outcome, and ultimately creating a mutually beneficial relationship. Why? Consumers have been pitched every product, service and scam you can imagine.
Most people have had bad consumer experiences with self-serving, fast-taking, slick salespeople. They never forget the hard-selling car dealer that promised a great deal but left them wanting more. Or it could be the sour taste left in their mouth by the impulsive value purchase that turned out to be just a cheap product with very little value. Most eventually discover that long-term memories of poor quality overshadow the short-term satisfaction of a bargain or discounted deal. It is for these reasons that many prospects are skeptical of anyone that makes a living on commissioned sales, including financial advisors. This does not imply that you have the intention of scamming, cheating or outright lying to the prospect. But since others before you have had these negative intentions, if you don’t differentiate yourself from the others, why would the prospect expect anything different from you?
It’s not the same old sales world any longer. Consumers have the advantage of the internet to conduct research on financial products, your competition, and even you. You must be prepared to differentiate yourself from the crowd of quick-selling agents and instead nurture from the beginning a culture of long-lasting, client-focused relationships. "Hit and Run" sales are a thing of the past and could become a legal liability for financial advisors. Prospects have their own beliefs and perceptions about advisors. Valid or not, these perceptions will produce many obstacles and hurdles in the path to converting prospects into clients. By focusing on the most common negative beliefs prospects have, we can identify potential problems as well as professional growth opportunities.
Prospects believe that even if you seem like a nice person, the fact that you make a living on commissions forces you to compromise your ethics and integrity just to make a sale and survive.
Sales professionals in any industry are seldom held in high regard. In many of my workshops and sales boot camps, I conduct a training exercise that I call “sales password”. Remember the television show "Password"? On this game show, there would be two people sitting on opposite sides of a table. One of the participants would have a key word that they would try to get the other person to say by giving them one word clues.
In my exercise, I tell advisors that the key word they must try to get me to say is “salesperson”. Generally, the exercise starts slow with a few people throwing out words like "professional" and "problem solver." I then stop and ask, "What word comes to your mind when you sit down to dinner and the phone rings?" Then, when you answer the phone the person on the other end stumbles, fumbles and can’t even pronounce your name correctly? Then the real terms start to fly. I get terms like "vulture," "slick," "pushy," and the list goes on and on. If that is how sales professionals would identify a “salesperson”, what do prospects think when they get a slick line or a canned phrase that looks like, sounds like, and feels like a sales move? I think you get my point.
Prospects believe that you will at some point give them the hard-sell that includes a lot of pressure.
Many of our prospects are hard-sell aware. We have all been in a buying situation where we felt pressured, rushed or hurried during the process. We saw the windup and waited for the hard pitch. It may have been due to the fact the salesperson used a lot of cheesy catch phrases or buzz words. The salesperson may have only asked questions that we could respond to with the answer of” yes” or constantly kept saying “wouldn’t you agree”?
This scenario puts a lot of pressure on the prospect for many reasons. If we wanted to say “no”, we felt very uncomfortable saying it and didn’t. When prospects say, “I want to think about it" or something like “I need to speak to my spouse," often these statements are really a "no" in disguise. Plus, even if a didn’t agree, the salesperson may have made them feel bad as if we were personally attacking or insulting them by saying no.
The hard-sell approach paints a prospect into a corner in which they feel the only way out is to agree and buy so that the pressure will subside and the salesperson will ultimately go away. Generally sales made under these circumstances fall apart soon after, because the buyer felt forced to buy for the salesperson's reasons and not their own. If a prospect is forced to buy for the salesperson's reasons, then they haven’t bought at all ... they were sold! Who likes to feel like they were sold and they didn’t buy? No one.
Prospects believe financial advisors regularly attend workshops focused on sales tricks and prospect manipulation.
Because most salespeople rely on the same catchy phrases, come-back lines and closes, the prospect can spot them from a mile away. Many prospects feel that salespeople listen to tapes on how to manipulate them. They believe that you have an entire host of negotiation and sales-related tricks that you will use against them to gain the advantage.
A lot of our prospects were probably salespeople at some point in their lives. I know a very successful advisor that used the “Franklin Close” effectively for many years until the day he met with a prospect, that unknown to him, had also been a salesperson. When the agent pulled out his yellow legal pad and began to draw the “Franklin T” on the page the prospect said, “Wait a minute, you aren’t going to do the 'Franklin Close' on me are you”? This is a great example as to why we must be different.
People buy from individuals who they have a high level of comfort, confidence and trust with. If you are nurturing the sale and not the relationship, you will appear to be focused only on the transaction. This environment does not lead to high levels of comfort, confidence and trust. Instead, the sales process should sound like you and your best friend sitting down for coffee and conversation.
Think of your sales approach as having a conversation with your best friend and they've come to you for help and guidance. In these types of conversations, the only way to know if you can help is to have true, open, free-flowing dialogue that allows the friend or prospect to paint the problem picture for you. The prospect must do most of the talking. They must lay out the dilemma, personally own it and be willing to correct the problem. That approach leads to building comfort, confidence and trust. Many salespeople try to point out problems prospects either haven’t discovered or don't own. This makes selling extremely difficult because if the prospect doesn't own it, they aren't be compelled to find a solution. Open dialogue and looking to solve a prospect's admitted issues is how you can have clients for many years.
A Better Sales Experience
We must hold ourselves out to be professionals in this age of digital communication, instant information and a very crowded marketplace with a high level of marketing noise. If that were done on a regular basis, the perception of sales professionals would change. Maybe not globally, but at least locally, and that is what really matters. Your prospects, clients and community deserve it. It’s all about doing the right thing, every time, with all people.
When we are in the consumer role we don’t appreciate slick, manipulative approaches that make us feel uncomfortable or give us a high sense of anxiety after we make the purchase. If you apply these sales techniques and strategies, you will find more doors will open, more clients will be eager to introduce you to others, and you will ultimately get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.
Make your marketing easy for your prospects and clients to understand what you do. Too many financial professionals waste an enormous amount of money on marketing, websites, and printed materials that just don't work.