Provide solutions and let products and services follow

By Thomas Day

The National Care Planning Council

If a product or service makes sense and potential buyers understand exactly what they are purchasing, and the salesperson has been forthright and honest and the benefit has been adequately demonstrated, people will buy that product or service and typically will be happy about their decision.

Getting a buying decision based on the principle of what is right for the client requires using a different strategy from traditional closing techniques. Unfortunately, forcing a sale by using typical closing techniques may result in the purchase being unsuitable and the buyer experiencing remorse.

Solution-based planning eliminates the need to persuade people into buying products or services that may not fit their needs. Through solution-based planning, your client will pay you to uncover problems the client currently has or will experience in the future and to provide suitable solutions for those problems. Your solutions are designed to fit the needs of your client. You will give the client a number of options to choose from and not force him or her to take the option that you think the client should have.

Solutions are not specific products or services, but may translate into these. Solutions are concepts, actions and strategies. The client will always take action on one or more of the recommended solutions. That is the beauty of this process – the client always buys in.

Solution-based planning results in more product or service sales

If products or services are necessary to implement the planning actions and strategies, the client will recognize that and will typically buy those products or services from you. After all, the client is paying you to solve his or her problems and will readily listen to your recommendations, if they make sense. Is a client going to pay you for advice and then go to someone else for products and services? Unlikely.

Those of you who do fee-based planning and make commissions through products or fees from services already understand that this process typically results in more income to you from the planning fees as well as from commissions or fees from product/services. Those of you who focus entirely on selling products or services need to understand that solution-based planning will create fee income for you and, contrary to what you may think, an increase in the number of product/service sales as well.

A common argument from product-oriented practitioners is that solution-based planning is too time-consuming and not an efficient way to make a living. Those practitioners who use a solution-based strategy, who are genuinely interested in the welfare of their clients and who charge their clients fees for advice know that this argument doesn't hold up.
The basic principles of a solution-based planning practice
  • You must have a willingness to serve others. You must represent their best interests and receive satisfaction from doing it.

  • Sell yourself, not your products or services. Sell your knowledge, your capabilities, your personal values, your sincerity and your desire to serve.

  • Emphasize the uniqueness of your service so that potential clients will recognize your value. Show a sample plan and display your knowledge of the unique aging senior niche that you serve.

  • Develop rapport and trust so that clients will pay you. Meet with clients personally, have a sincere mindset that you are there to help them (they will perceive this), show them what you have done for others and don't waste time jawboning. Instead, get right to work examining their documents and going over their situation.

  • Dig deeply enough to uncover their problems, whether they are aware of them or not.

  • Give them extensive, written planning presentations that reflect quality, investment of effort and detail.

  • Only provide advice that you are licensed to provide.

  • Design your written planning presentation to educate them and thus allow them to discover for themselves what actions or strategies they want to use instead of your telling them.

  • Don't recommend solutions, actions or strategies or force them to make decisions that are in conflict with their desires or not in their best interest.

  • Give them a list of valid solutions, actions and strategies that are pertinent to their situation and let them prioritize the ones they think fit best.

  • Allow product or service sales to occur if they fit.

  • Don't force product or service sales if they don't fit.

  • To avoid conflict with licensing entities, always make product or service recommendations an activity not related to the planning process and disclose this issue to your clients. Put on a different hat.

  • If additional fees or commissions are involved, be open with them and give them alternatives.

  • Make them feel good about the decisions they make and you will feel good as well.