The top 10 critical selling mistakes

By SteveLewit

Wealth Financial Group


After years of coaching, here is my top ten list of mistakes that I see financial professionals make that lead to selling failure.

All closed sales are the result of a successful sequence of steps. If, during the process, any of those steps are mishandled or simply omitted, the sale will fail — a losing proposition to both the client and the salesperson in time, effort, energy and money.

Ideally, each step of the selling process should be molded into a system which delivers a predictable selling result, eliminating all of the landmines (stalls, objections, think about its, etc.) which can undermine the sale. No matter which selling system you subscribe to or which style you use, the elements of success remain the same and there are certain components of the selling process which are, in my mind, universal.

After years of coaching, here is my top ten list of mistakes that I see financial professionals make that lead to selling failure.

1. Failure to connect client’s material needs or wants to the emotions connected with those needs or wants
Emotions drive change; change is required for a successful sale. If a client is concerned about getting more income, that is just a need or want. That in itself is just an intellectual idea. Intellect or reasoning are not drivers of change. Intellect is necessary as a support for the emotional drive connected to wanting more income in order for change (the sale) to take place, much like a river needs a bank to guide its way.

If there is no emotional drive, there will be no sale. Failure to connect needs and wants to emotions results in an over-focus on details, data, spread sheets and other comparisons, which cause confusion and ultimately end up in a think about it type stall.

2. Failure to identify the client’s core priorities

Clients rarely have specific goals for their money. They work in generalities — I need more growth; I need more income; I need greater safety; I don’t want to lose too much, etc.

Identifying core priorities is like choosing a destination for a vacation. If clients used the same reasoning for their vacations as they did for their money, they would get in their cars and say something like, “Hey, let’s head off to Colorado, or let’s go east,” without any specific thought about where they are going or what roads they will travel.

If core priorities are not identified, you and your clients will not have a basis to evaluate whether a plan is suitable or not. Without that clarity, decisions are much harder to make and clients will, all too often, just bail on the process instead of moving forward, because they feel they may be going somewhere they are not sure they want to go.
3. Failure to agree on the selling process

It is human nature to feel insecure when you don’t know what is going to happen to you. This is why surgeons, for example, explain in detail what is going to happen during a surgery. Knowing the future creates feelings of trust and comfort.

Selling is no different. Financial professionals make the mistake of not informing their clients about their selling process, including when and what decisions will be made along the way. Interestingly enough, early in my career I asked a client why they didn’t buy and the answer shocked me: “Well Steve, we didn’t buy because we didn’t know when we were supposed to buy.”

When clients know and agree to your process, many defenses are lowered and a relationship is developed.

4. Failure to give the client permission to say no

Sales professionals are so tuned in to getting a yes, they don’t see that their clients often begin to feel cornered during the selling process. When clients feel cornered or manipulated, their defenses go up and they begin to hide, making communication difficult, if not impossible.

When clients are given permission to say no — and know that you won’t be insulted, that your feelings won’t be hurt, that they don’t have to run from you when they see you in the street — they relax. They have an out and no longer feel that you are trying to corner them in any way. Then, when clients say they need to think about it, you can take them to the no. If they don’t come fighting back to yes, then the sale is over and you don’t have to end up chasing them.

To get clear yeses you must give your clients permission to give clear no's, and then you must persist to get one or the other per your upfront agreement with the client.

5. Failure to let the client give solutions

People come to see us because they have a problem that they are thinking about fixing. Most financial professionals believe that they have the answers to their clients' problems, sort of like they are the experts and their clients know little. While this approach may be personally satisfying to the financial professional, it is a sure road to selling failure.

Which is better: You tell the client that they are going to run out of assets and need to buy a fixed index annuity; or your client, during the sales process, tells you that they are going to run out of money and need to buy a fixed index annuity? This is the art of selling: getting the client to say what you want to say to the client.

Remember, clients always believe what they say and normally have little belief in what you say. Don’t make the mistake of telling clients when they should be telling you.
6. Failure to eliminate the competition before giving any information

Clients are getting advice from someone else before they come to see you. That someone could be another adviser, a friend, dentist, uncle, sister, TV show, market report, Internet site etc. Most financial professionals make the mistake of dealing with the competition at the end of the sale. They wait until after they have given away all their advice, when the client says something like, “Well, I’ve been with Joe down there at Schwab for 10 years and I don’t know if I really want to leave him.”

When that happens, the sales professional has lost all control of the selling situation and the client can take his or her information and run. Not dealing with the competition in the first 15 minutes of your first meeting with the client, and instead waiting for
the client to bring it up, opens all kinds of doors to selling failure after lots of work and energy has been expended.

7. Failure to disqualify clients early in the selling process

Most selling professionals believe that they need to qualify clients, and work hard to do just that. In my world, the focus is on disqualifying clients as quickly as possible. While this may not sound very different, it’s really like night and day.

Most financial professionals enter a sale with the idea that they are trying to make the sale. This one idea sets up a dynamic fraught with selling danger.

I enter the sale with the idea that I don’t want to make the sale, or that I am going to discourage my client from buying. First of all, this sets a very different tenor to the meeting. Clients expect me to push them to buy; then they find I am pushing them not to buy. Not only does this bring down their defenses, learned over years of dealing with salespeople who are trying to get them to buy, it makes them feel that I am on their side — and I am.

Think about it, when’s the last time your client was told that they shouldn’t buy something from a salesperson who was trying to sell them something? Failure to push clients away might be one of the biggest selling errors of all.

8. Failure to handle buyer’s remorse before it happens

Everyone has buyer’s remorse. No one is exempt. Most sales professionals let clients go home, even though they understand that when their clients are driving home in their cars, they are looking at each other and asking if they did the right thing.

Failure to bring up buyer’s remorse right after the contracts are signed and clients are getting ready to leave means any negative discussion about their decision is held without you present, ready and willing to readdress their concerns or clarify their issues.
Without your input, concerns can grow out of proportion, leaving your clients in a position where only one course of action is available — to leave you a message the next morning that puts the sale on hold.

9. Failure to tell clients their story

Every client has a story and they share that story with you over your meeting process. Clients are very willing — in a non-pressurized meeting environment — to open up, let their emotions out, share deep insights, thoughts, feelings and opinions with you regarding their lives in general and the issues that brought them to the table with you.

Most sales professionals focus on the nitty-gritty of what the plan will look like, what product they are going to use, how much more growth they will get, how much safer their portfolio will be and, along the way, forget to put all their recommendations in context with the client’s story.

Making the mistake of not reviewing your client’s story — why they came to see you, what they said in their own words, their history before they came to see you, where they have succeeded, where they have been burned — makes clients feel that they have not been heard, causing them to feel disconnected from the recommendations you are going to make.

Their story needs to be told back to them in order for them to drive themselves to buy, rather than you driving them to buy.

10. Failure to tell the truth and be real with clients

When it’s all said and done, clients need to be brought into a sense of reality about their situations. Many are misinformed, dreaming, or just out of touch.

Clients who get real about their situations will make changes. However, in order for that to happen, sales professionals need to be real with clients. For example, how would you speak to clients if you were independently wealthy and didn’t need or want to make a sale?

If a client said, I’ve been with my broker for 10 years and I really like her, you would say, “Okay, so what are you doing here? Go back to your broker.” If clients said that they didn’t like annuities you would say, “Okay, so don’t buy them. Let’s go in another direction.”
As an independently wealthy person, you would be fearless with clients and tell them the truth, rather than pulling on them to get where you want them to go — the eventual yes. Focusing on making the sale instead of getting yourself and your clients into reality is a universal failure undermining most all sales processes.

Conclusion

Selling failure is the result of process and attitude failures that build up during the sales process and eventually topple the sale. The first step is recognizing the failures; the second step is developing a real system to correct them. To be candid, the first step is a lot easier than the second.

When I was a professional tennis player, it was easy to recognize a technical fault in my backhand (which, if I may so, was still pretty good). It took long hours on the court with professional coaching to change that ingrained habit.

In this respect, our profession is no different than the profession of tennis. To change, to eliminate old habits, to become superior at your craft, you go out and find a professional coach and decide to work hard on your craft. Not only will your results go far beyond what you ever thought possible as a financial professional, but you will get similar internal results.

How you feel about yourself, your self-respect, your confidence, your sense of being, will all also grow beyond your dreams.