The key to those questions is that they always contain a part of the larger context or topic. That larger topic is the product or service being sold, and the smaller topic serves to bounce the conversation to the larger one. Let’s look at some examples:
| Larger (ultimate) Topic|| Smaller (immediate) Topic|
|Financial Planning Service|| Are you tired of market volatility yet?|
How much money have you lost in the stock market?
How many of your investments are totally safe?
How much money can you afford to lose in the stock market?
| Insurance|| Do you ever lose any sleep thinking your insurance might not be up to date?|
Do you know anyone who has suffered from too little insurance coverage?
Are you 100% confident that you have enough insurance coverage?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you didn’t have enough insurance?
This where the seller puts the handcuffs on the prospect, using the prospect’s own words to trap him into the sale.
As you can probably see from the table, any answer that plays to the seller’s agenda puts the prospect in a trap, a “double bind.” In other words, no matter what he says after that, he can’t win. He either has to agree with the seller or back down from the statement he just made. (Of course, he could always just walk away.)
It’s as though he drew a casual line in the sand, and now he has to defend it. One of the most powerful manipulative tricks is to get the prospect to make a “public” declaration, then use his declaration to justify the sales pitch. For example:
“Yes, I am concerned for my family’s safety. Those highways are crazy!” Gotcha! Now, the seller can use safety as the basis for his pitch.
Example: “Considering how important safety is to you, what are you doing about it? Let’s look at a way to guarantee the safety of your wife and kids. How does that sound?”
“Tell me about it. When I see a man wearing a boring tie, I think, what a loser.” Gotcha! Now, the seller can use “loser” as the basis to sell custom clothing.
Example: “You’re absolutely right about the tie. And, beyond that, if the tie is beautiful and matches the quality of the suit, the man looks like someone to take seriously. Who doesn’t want that?”
“Ever since this market meltdown, I don’t trust the stock market.” Gotcha! Now the seller can use that statement as the justification to sell his products.
Example: “Actually, there’s a really simple way to invest and avoid all that market risk.”
How can you use this concept?
If you ask the right question at the wrong time, then it is actually the wrong question. The counsel we give our coaching clients is to ask very simple questions in the beginning. Most advisors go for the throat (pain) right away; that's not good. So, just enjoy the conversation and ask simple questions.
The way you do that is to make a statement first, then ask the question. The statement sets up the question. It would go something like this, and notice how easy the questions are:
The questions have to be asked in such a way as not to seem invasive to the prospect. What's an invasive question? Something like this: What is your total net worth? How much investible money do you have right now?
- Most people have a mutual fund. Is that part of your portfolio?
- The financial industry is really confusing. Have you noticed that?
- Tax laws are in flux. Are you prepared for the changes?
Once you can get the prospect talking easily, you can turn to questions that take more thought and elicit longer answers.
Think of yourself as a mentor and your prospect as your protégé — the person you are going to help. There are two ways to approach the relationship. 1) You could dictate and preach at him. 2) You could understand his mind and appeal to his values. Which way to do you think would be more effective?
Unfortunately, most advisors take the low road, ask the wrong questions and even fail to listen to the answers. That approach is horribly dysfunctional, and given that today is the Age of Cynicism, it’s an approach that could destroy your credibility.
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