Make money through relationships, not productsArticle added by Ryan Poterack on March 17, 2010

Ryan Poterack

Charlotte, NC

Joined: December 22, 2008

My Company

PCA Advisor Network

How do you make sure your current prospect becomes your newest client? You need to set yourself apart from the crowd; you need to stand out as an advisor they can trust and work with. The most successful way to do this is to work on building a relationship, not closing a sale.

During my first visit with a prospect, I fully explain my three to five visit process and how I'm compensated. By speaking forthrightly about how you are paid and what the prospect can expect from the process, you are setting yourself apart from other advisors (a primary goal of the first visit).

It's important to set the expectations for a prospect's first visit with you immediately. You want to learn as much as you can about your prospect, while keeping the discussion business-related. I always set expectations by starting my visit with these statements and questions: "We are here to get acquainted: nothing more; nothing less," "How may I be able to help you?" and "Why did you decide to come in today?"

Keep the visit prospect-focused at all times. Sales people tend to think they are conducting a great interview simply because everybody is getting along and being nice. A few hours after your prospect leaves the office, that "fluff" evaporates and there needs to be some real substance. Keep a proper balance.

Body language is critical during all interactions with your prospect. The process allows for you to develop a powerful relationship built on trust, and every action counts. It's important to always make direct eye contact with them, and treat them with respect. You must take good notes so your body language communicates that the prospect's comments and questions are important. Get in the habit of writing while talking and maintaining natural attentive eye contact.

Your prospect may ask your opinion on a product or their portfolio early in the visit. For example, "I'm concerned about long term care insurance." Or perhaps, "I brought my brokerage account statement for you to look at." You should respond "I'll make a note of that, what other issues are of concern to you?" Do not take the bait and reduce the first visit to a product sales pitch.

You could revert to talking product like every other advisor on the planet, but why would you want to? Your prospect should reveal all of their financial concerns before you address any individual concerns. By doing this, you control the interview and the sequence of handling issues. Resist your tendency to talk about everything you know before you know everything the prospect is concerned or interested about.

Two of the most constructive questions you can ask your prospects are: "What has been your experience with people in my industry? What's been good and what's been not so good when you've worked with financial planners, stock brokers, and insurance agents?" I ask these questions in 100 percent of my first visits.

Your prospect may answer this question by talking about investment performance. If they do, limit your prospect to a couple of comments and then stop them to clarify that you're more interested in how they've been treated, and what type of service they've received. You must dig in this area. If your prospect says everything is good, I typically respond with "That's great. I don't hear enough of that." Then, I follow up by asking one or all of these questions:
  • "What are two or three things you wish your advisor would do differently?"

  • "What would you want me to do for you?"

  • "What's missing, in terms of your relationship with your current advisor?"
With these questions, you are now in control of where the interview goes, with much less risk of walking into a landmine. You are in a great position to gain a more effective relationship.

Above all else, it's important to understand the psychology involved in this sales process. You must understand that when your prospect is sharing their industry experiences, they are describing who they think you are. From your prospect's view, you are like other advisors they've had, until you prove otherwise. At one point in time, their current or prior advisor relationship was great. Your prospect shook hands, smiled, and opened an account with the advisor they now want to leave.

You should ask your prospect, "What would you want me to do for you?" Your prospect is defining your job description with their answer. They clearly outline what they like and dislike from financial advisors. You simply need to decide if that is a good fit for you.

Keep all visits to one hour, not a minute longer. One hour on any topic is enough. People need a break, and time past one hour gets less productive. Even though they may be enjoying it, their memory of the visit will be that it took a long time. This may prevent them from scheduling a second visit. Though rapport-building conversation is important, it is not remembered by the client without substance.

When your hour is over, say, "It appears there is a lot more to discuss, and we're running out of time. My suggestion is that we schedule another visit." This statement shows that you are busy, and your time is valuable. I do this even if I do not have another commitment at that time.

Once you recognize there is potential for a mutually profitable relationship, it doesn't matter if you get the business today, next week, or next month, if you're focused on the relationship. Most advisors put unnecessary pressure on themselves to close business earlier. Closing cases sooner, even if you can, is contrary to building relationships if the client can benefit from a more thorough process. The client is in no hurry to make decisions simply because you get paid quicker. Always focus on tangible, purposeful topics. Everything should be done with the client view in mind.

Having said all of that, I close on the first visit every single time. I don't close for an application; I close for a commitment to my process and developing a relationship.

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