Sales skills for financial and insurance professionals: powerfully relate

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC


I've previous discussed the three basic yet essential skills that will help you get, and keep, more and better clients:
    1. The ability to ask provocative questions

    2. The ability to listen with total focus on your client

    3. The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors
Today, we'll focus on the the ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors.

Testimonials about your service help you get clients, because human beings are hard-wired to believe and love stories. Even before people developed a fully-spoken language, they could tell stories with cave paintings. As language progressed, one of its first uses was to communicate tales of great exploits, while sitting around the campfire.

But even when there are no clients around to give testimonials — or campfires to sit and chat around, for that matter — stories of your service exploits can assist you in turning uncertain prospects into ready clients.

My client, Michael, a financial professional, is a master of sales stories:

"Joe, your situation is very similar to that of another client I'm helping at the moment. He approached me a few years ago, having lost a bit more money than you did … but what his last advisor did to him was almost identical to what yours did to you.

He also struggled with whether he should get back into the market or not. But after we talked that first time, he decided that he couldn't let a past mishap get in the way of his retirement, and we've been working together successfully ever since!"

It's a rare instance when a prospective client doesn't come on board in the face of stories like these.

Michael also uses metaphors. I remember our discussion about a client of his with a small retirement fund, who asked him whether he thought she could handle it herself, without an advisor.

"Sure you can," Michael told her, "But you'd be like a leaf on a rushing stream. With no rudder and no one to steer, you'd be rushing toward whatever result the system had in store for you."

Michael delivered the "steering" service he promised, and the woman remained a fiercely loyal client.

One of my favorite masters of metaphor was Ben Feldman, who is considered possibly the greatest insurance salesmen in modern history. Ben could look prospective insurance purchasers in the eyes and say things like, "With the stroke of a pen, you create an estate," and the prospects would pick up their pens to sign the application Ben had brought with him.

Another client of mine, Larry, is a financial advisor, as well. To explain a Roth IRA to his clients, Larry uses a farming metaphor:

"If you were a farmer and you had to pay taxes," he asks, "would you rather pay taxes on the seed, or on the crop that you harvest?"

"The seed, of course," is the prospect's usual reply.

"Why is that?" Larry asks.

"Well, the tax on a huge crop is probably a lot more than the tax on the seed would be," goes the response.

"That's why I want you to make this investment," Larry tells his prospect. "You'll have already paid taxes on the seed — and you'll be able to harvest the crop tax-free."

As this plays out in real life, Larry manages to put all three sales skills together in his presentations to prospects. He asks provocative questions, listens with focus to their answers, and reacts empathetically by relating compelling analogies that help explain in clear terms how he is able to serve his clients.