3 Sales Principles for Better Results at the Moment of Truth – The Close

Share via emailShare on FacebookShare on Twitter

The conversation has gone well.  The prospect asked some great questions – the kinds of questions that say “I’m definitely interested.”  Now it’s time for the moment of truth – that critical juncture in the conversation that some advisers live for and others dread.  It’s time for…the close – time to “ask for the check.”  So you mentally rehearse the precise wording you read in an annuity sales blog this week and deliver your recommendation with the author’s prescribed mix of confidence and empathy.

And you HOPE.

Hope? It seems that given the weight of the decision, your level of confidence in the individual’s interest in taking the next step should be characterized by a better word. Unfortunately, for many financial professionals, this level of uncertainty is accepted as the norm.

IMPROVING ON HOPE:

We want to take a look at three sales principles that can significantly increase the likelihood of a prospect’s willingness to take the next step and raise the adviser confidence needle a bit when it comes time to propose a solution.

PRINCIPLE #1:  They have to buy you before they’ll embrace your recommendation.

This is particularly important when there is no existing relationship.  New prospects want to check off three boxes about you before they will start to be honest about their situation and receptive and open to your ideas.

  • TRUST – Can they trust you?  It probably comes as no surprise that advisors face a trust gap – especially with first time prospects.  They want to know – are you there to help them reach their goals or are you there to hit your own personal sales numbers for the month?  Do you have “commission breath?”
  • CREDIBILITY – Can they rely on you? Are you able to help them consider various options to reach their personal financial goals or do you only know how to talk about your product sweet spot?
  • RAPPORT – Can they relax with you?  Are you someone with whom they can feel comfortable?

Let’s focus on trust. Trust is easily established over time. But top professionals have the ability to establish a base level of trust in initial conversations. Too often, advisers unintentionally erode trust early on by making strong statements about the “right/best way” for prospects to manage their resources – with little if any understanding of their situation or goals. These pronouncements of the “right way” (even if they are in fact correct) have the emotional effect of forcing the hand of the prospect – robbing them of their freedom to choose. Advisers who take this approach unwittingly introduce tension into the interaction (starting a metaphorical tug-of-war) and feed the prospect’s already present feelings of distrust.

One effective way to counteract this trust eroding effect is to “Drop the Rope®” – clearly and intentionally communicating to the prospect that the purpose of the conversation is to explore “which” solutions “might” be an appropriate fit – starting conversations by letting them know that you are “not sure” that you have the best solution for their unique situation.  Clearly establishing the prospect’s freedom to choose by “Dropping the Rope” will increase their comfort with the conversation, build trust in the adviser’s objective and increase the likelihood they will be receptive to the solution when the time comes for a recommendation.

PRINCIPLE #2: If they don’t see a need, they won’t take action.

We are all guilty of pitching solutions too soon – before we really understand if and how the benefits apply. These approaches have a significant negative impact on trust.

But beyond the issue of trust, there are other important reasons that top performing advisers resist the urge to recommend products and solutions prior to discovering the prospect’s needs.

A. Most importantly, without completing the discovery process with the client, advisers can’t be confident in what they should recommend. A little clarification is in order here.  It may be true that a particular annuity product is the perfect solution for nineteen out of twenty prospects that fit a particular demographic profile.  But it will be equally true that it will be the perfect solution for nineteen different reasons. The product doesn’t change, but the personal goals and concerns the product addresses do. In the end, people don’t purchase products – they purchase solutions.  Knowing prospect’s goals and concerns will allow advisers to communicate the uniquely personal relevant benefits of the solution, which will have a direct positive impact on prospect’s responses to recommendations.

B. Discovery is also an opportunity to facilitate a process of self discovery in which prospects identify and embrace problems and opportunities not previously seen.  People are always more receptive to recommendations for solutions to problems they’ve identified than they are to solutions for problems they’ve been told they have.  The discovery process allows advisers to inquire about prospect’s plans to deal with typically overlooked problems.  If there are no plans, or if the plans are inadequate, the adviser has helped the client uncover a problem they didn’t previously realize they had and increased the likelihood that they will be receptive to a recommendation that addresses that problem.

PRINCIPLE #3: Sometimes, they’re not ready to write a check.

We’ve all heard the statistics – if a prospect walks away from a meeting without writing a check, the odds of them ever writing a check in the future are significantly reduced.  I won’t argue that point and don’t doubt that it’s true, but let me suggest a few more statements that are just as true.

A. Asking someone to write a check when they are obviously not ready will do harm to the relationship – the kind of harm that will not be easily repaired. Getting someone to write a check that they are not emotionally ready to write is even worse. It destroys trust and reveals your true self-centered motive. It may produce the occasional customer, but it is unlikely to create a client.

B. Asking a prospect to commit to something other than writing a check – something that actually makes sense to the client and advances the relationship – will increase, not decrease, the total number of prospects who eventually become clients.

The key then is to propose a specific next step that is genuinely in the best interest of the prospect, not just the adviser. Top advisors are prepared to propose a variety of appropriate “next steps” based on where the prospect is in the buying process.

THINK ABOUT

Take a look at your last few “lost” sales.  Which of these three principles might have increased the likelihood of a positive response?  Do you see a pattern?  What changes might be in order?  Now, take a look at some of your “stalled” sales.  Which of these principles might make a difference in turning one of these into a client?


Marc Lamson is the President of Aslan, where he oversees all aspects of sales, marketing, client support, operations and other functions to drive the company’s growth. Prior to joining Aslan in December 2005, Marc worked for Fortune 1000 companies like Mobile Oil Corporation and American Power Conversion. He has over 20 years of experience in sales, service and management and has been a featured speaker for organizations like International Customer Management Institute, Institute for International Research, National Association for Fixed Annuities, Disease Management Association, the Help Desk Institute, and others. Lamson has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island.

Related Articles