The problem with data-driven selling

By SteveLewit

United Advisors


Relying on clients to connect emotionally with data is an inefficient selling methodology created by old-school thinking that is based on the drive to close the sale.

Some selling methodologies focus on gathering data, examining that data, and finding all of the bad things in that data (such as paying too much in taxes, fees that are too high, taking too much risk for the return, etc.). They then present these problems to the client by saying things like, “Did you know? Were you aware? Didn’t your advisor tell you?” and so on. The idea is that by showing the client how poorly his or her current holdings are, the advisor gets the client upset and motivated to make changes.

To me, this approach puts the cart before the horse, requires too much up-front work on the part of the advisor, gives away too much information too early in the sales process, and assumes that the client will make some kind of an emotional connection between them and the numbers. (Remember, though, that numbers carry no emotion; they are just numbers.)

In my world, data comes last. Here’s why.

I talk ad infinitum about emotion driving sales. I tell you over and over again that if there’s no emotion, there is no drive to change. You can stand on your head, with all the data in the world, suggesting that your client could do better by making a change, but if they are not emotionally driven, they will just shrug their shoulders and walk away.

Clients have a singular purpose for meeting with you — they want information from you, and they don’t want to make any commitment to you in order to get that information. Your job, in my opinion, is to get a commitment from your client prior to giving them any information. In other words, when you finally present that information or data, you know that the sale is already closed. The data just becomes material for the mind to wrap itself around in support of the emotional drive to change. Without the data, people will not feel comfortable enough to change based just on emotion. Without emotion, the data has no meaning and they will not make a change at all.

I don’t want to spend all that time gathering data, doing analysis, tearing down the client’s current plans before I know whether or not they have an emotional charge about their current situation. Now, you’re saying to yourself that if they don’t know all the things wrong with their finances they will not have an emotional charge. And I am saying to you that if they are sitting in front of you, they are already emotionally charged, otherwise they wouldn’t be there at all.

I find people’s emotional charge in the first 15 minutes of my very first meeting with them. If I can’t find any charge, I begin to bail out of the meeting. I know what you're going to say: "Why not take a shot? Do all the work and show them how much they are missing, and let them know that they are making all kinds of mistakes. What have I got to lose?"

And I say to you that when you do that, people just say, “I would like to think about it." Now you lose big-time. And you lose time, energy, confidence, self-esteem, and worst of all, you lose their respect.

Find emotional issues first, and then provide the data that may compound those emotions or, ultimately, fix those emotions. Relying on clients to connect emotionally with data is an inefficient selling methodology created by old-school thinking that is based on the drive to close the sale.