If both you and your client expect to make a profit, then you must have a strong and harmonious relationship between the two of you. Building and maintaining that relationship can take up an enormous chunk of a financial advisor’s time and effort! Here’s some advice on making that investment pay off.
Why Relationship Building Is Not Enough
What skill do you feel is more important to sales success—consultative selling or relationship building? Most people answer relationship building. I disagree! Consultative selling creates the foundation from which profitable relationships are born. Did you ever lose business … despite a relationship you thought was solid? If you’re like most of the people I work with, the answer is “yes.”
Learn how to Sell More in Less Time at Higher Profits,
by attending the Titan Principle® Boot Camp!
Relationships will get you the appointment, but the consultative selling approach will get you the business. This approach brings out the full potential of the relationship. Once you stop acting in the consultative selling mode, you start taking things for granted. You stop doing the things that made you invaluable– the things that got you the business in the first place.
So: How does one build a relationship around the consultative selling approach? First, you must realize that when I use the word “relationship,” I’m not talking about “schmoozing” your clients. I’m talking about creating a rapport that instills trust and confidence in what you can do for them. I’m talking about concentrated effort that goes into finding out what your clients need and how you can best deliver it to them. I’m talking about giving your clients the best overall value for the money they’re investing.
Most of all, I’m talking about positioning yourself so that you can be the most invaluable resource your clients have. This is true whether you’re tending to a current business relationship or prospecting for new clients.
During an initial sales call, you have very little time to capture the attention of your prospective client. You must quickly send the right signals about what you can do for him or her. Therefore, you have to make a positive impact at the very beginning – you must make your prospect sit up, take notice, and quickly conclude that you are like no other financial planner he or she has ever met before. You do this by positioning yourself as an invaluable resource.
You can’t position yourself as an invaluable resource by title (financial planner) or product (mutual funds, on line services, etc). Positioning by these two methods only puts you in the same arena with all other financial consultants and no differentiating value. Instead, you must make it clear that you can help deliver at least one of these 4 outcomes:
- Increase profits. In other words, you must show how working with you will help your clients attain profits – and profits, after all, are what supports the person’s lifestyle goals!
- Increase productivity. You must show how working with you will save your client time and money through the services you have to offer.
- Reduce costs. You must show how working with you cost your clients less money overall than working with your competition. The key word here is cost, not price. Your fees may be higher, but at the end of the day, if your clients realized a reduction in the overall costs they incurred in attaining their goals, you’re a better value. Costs include time, money and level of frustration.
- Increased competitive advantage- For commercial clients, this includes helping your clients maintain the competitive advantage by providing them with desired levels of return on investment — and providing their employees with benefit plans that make them want to stay.
The Titan Principle ®
Now that you know what you need to do to position yourself as an invaluable resource, how do you do it?
To succeed in sales today, you must implement The Titan Principle tm. The Titan Principle tm says that the business will go to the organizations and individuals who give their clients what they need the way they want it. Clients need investment assistance and vehicles to grow their money. Are you giving them what they need the way that they want it?
Many people think clients only want the lowest fees available. While price is an issue, it is not the driving issue in most cases. Clients want to be heard and understood!
Clients want to feel that an advisor is truly working on their side and truly understands what they are trying to accomplish. Here are seven ways to send that message – and position yourself as an invaluable resource.
1. Create and Use a Resource Proclamation
To gain a client’s attention, you must first focus on the results you offer your clients, not on your services. The results constitute the “what”—what your clients can expect from a relationship with you. Your services constitute the “how”—how you are going to help them get those results. Concentrating on using your title or describing your services will not position you as an invaluable resource in the eyes of your customer. You need a Resource Proclamation– a statement you make that sets you apart from all other financial advisors and tells clients more about who you are than any title could ever do.
A Resource Proclamation outlines what you have to offer your client in a simple and direct manner. For example:
“I help clients achieve their life’s goals through investments”
Now, doesn’t this sound more interesting and powerful than saying “I’m a financial planner” when someone asks what you do for a living?
The best way to develop the right proclamation for yourself is to take the time to revisit all of your accounts and document the results you delivered for your clients. From these results you will be able to devise a statement that accurately reflects your achievements and results. A Resource Proclamation should …
- Communicate the “what.” Your proclamation should convey the bottom-line benefits and value your client will gain from a relationship with you, and should prompt your customer to ask you for more information. If you say, for example, “I help clients manage their investments,” the response may be – “So what?” There are plenty of advisors out there who do that — what makes you different?
- Be simple. Potential clients don’t want to waste time listening to as long, drawn-out pitch. They want you to get to the point, and quickly. If you want to make an impact, your resource proclamation must be easily understood and succinct enough to avoid losing the attention of your audience. When you’re meeting a prospect, you only have 10 to 20 seconds at the most to make your impression!
- Be memorable. Your Resource Proclamation must be strong enough to create a lasting impression that someone will be able to communicate easily to others. You want your prospects to remember you and talk about you to other people. This can only happen if your proclamation is dramatic and impossible to forget.
2. Use Effective Questioning
The questions you ask of your prospects and clients comprise the most powerful tool you can use in positioning yourself as a resource, because they get the other person mentally and physically involved with you. This is vitally important, because the other person’s time and attention are precious commodities. The more you actively engage him or her in the process through effective questioning, the more they will trust and respect your judgment and abilities.
The right questions allow you, within a brief period of time, to send an essential message to your prospect or client early on in the relationship — i.e., “I’m unlike any financial adviser you have ever met.” This does not mean you should ask questions simply for the sake of asking questions. You have to ask the right questions at the right time. For instance, you wouldn’t ask in the beginning of the initial interview who the prospect is currently using for financial advice. That is not pertinent to the main issue, which is what the customer currently needs and wants.
The questions you ask should be appropriate to the current situation, and should proceed in a logical sequence. They should be directed in such a way as to get the other person reveal the information you need in order to come up with solutions, as well to ensure that he or she is fully involved in the conversation.
The most effective type of questioning focuses on issues. Your client has challenges that need to be met, and issues that need to be addressed. By zeroing in on those concerns, you are much more likely to hold that person’s attention and demonstrate that you can and will “be there” for him or her, and will turn their goals into realities. One of the best ways you can preface such questions is by using the words “Please describe” — i.e., “Please describe what goals you hope to attain by investing your money.” Such a question might also be phrased: “What would you say are the three things you want your money to provide you with — now and in the future?”
Good questioning breaks barriers. It takes the attention away from the competition and focuses fully on the client. With existing customers, effective questioning makes it possible to identify other areas where you may further serve as a resource. Effective questioning motivates both you and the client to work in partnership to tackle challenges and achieve goals. That helps you emerge as an invaluable resource!
3. Know Where Your Clients Are Going and How They Want to Get There
You are a partner in the achievement of your clients’ goals. The minute you cease to be vigilant about what they want and need, you run the risk of losing them to someone else who will be more responsive to their needs or will do a better job of helping them reach their goals.
Clients want results; and more often than not, they need a wide variety of solutions to a multitude of issues and concerns. They want somebody who accepts the responsibility for making sure everything happens as it should happen. And they need a resource they can count on. That resource is you!
What steps can you take first that will bring the prospect closer to his or her goal? You must show that you’re paying attention; that you understand their goals and how they want to achieve them; and that you will follow through to find the solutions that will help them achieve those goals. Your purpose must be aligned with your customers’ purpose. By asking key questions, learning as much as you can about the client, and taking steps that demonstrate that you understand the direction they want to take and how they want to get there, you can align yourself with your client. Your objective is to serve as your client’s “roadmap” by taking the initiative on his or her behalf.
4. Identify and Focus on the Value Proposition
Your goal as a financial advisor is to become a value-added partner in the achievement of your clients’ goals. In essence, you have to prove to your clients that you are their best resource getting them where they want to be. This means focusing on the value proposition that helps customers reach their goals, thus attracting new clients and keeping existing clients happy.
What is a value proposition? It’s a way of creating unique value for your customer’s investment by creating a mixture of key elements:
- Information: The knowledge you possess about the events and trends in areas of most interest or concern to your client.
- Support: Your ability to provide the right kind of support, electronic or otherwise, to best service your clients’ needs.
- Stability: The strengths you possess that provide additional comfort and value to your customers — that is, what sets you apart from the competition.
- Service: Your ability to set up and implement superior solutions.
- Assets: Critical financial, technical, or interpersonal tools you can make available to clients in key situations.
In creating a mixture that works, your challenge is to learn which elements are of greatest importance and benefit to your prospect or client and which of your own strengths you should emphasize or de-emphasize as a result. By finding the right combination of appeals, you will create the greatest level of overall value, because you (and your organization) are going to be the best “custom fit” for what your clients need and how they want it.
5. Understand the Decision-Making Process
To determine how your prospect or customer wants what he or she needs, you have to have some idea of how the person prioritizes important decisions. In other words, you must acclimate yourself to the other person’s way of thinking, so that you’re better able to understand and anticipate what will be needed to provide the best overall solutions.
Asking key questions of your prospect or customer will help you to determine how he or she goes about making decisions and what effect that may have on the solutions you have to offer. By learning what issues affect your client’s decision-making processes, you can appeal directly to those issues — and no others. You can help to guide clients in their decision-making through issues-based questions that essentially answer one key question: “Where is this person trying to go and how is that destination likely to affect the decisions he or she is making?” Often, the client may be uncertain of his or her direction, which makes your guidance all the more valuable as they attempt to reach an informed decision.
What you learn about how a customer makes decisions will tell you what goals and values are most important to that person, which in turn helps you to shape your communications and your solutions to those goals and values. As a result, you may end up asking yourself: “Am I willing to change what I have to offer in order to deliver the value that this customer requires?” The answer to that question may, in fact, tell you whether the relationship is even worth pursuing. It could be that you find it impossible, for whatever reason, to align your purpose with your customer’s, in which case there is no point in wasting your time (or the prospect’s) on pursuing the relationship.
Gaining important insights into your clients’ decision-making processes takes time and attention on your part. But it is time well spent. It enables you to adjust your methods and tailor your services for that “custom fit” with a client that sets you apart from the pack.
6. Monitor Client Wants and Needs at All Times
The principles involved in positioning yourself as a resource for prospects do not disappear once he or she becomes a client. You should be a resource at all times, not just when you are trying to sell a particular investment or strategy to your customers.
It is important not only to build a relationship with a client, but also to maintain it and to modify it as necessary over time. You can do this by staying fully informed about their wants and needs; by continued questioning, even when the relationship is well established; and by always being aware of their most important value propositions.
New business matters, and a lot of your time is no doubt spent on trying to sign up new accounts. But existing business can and does provide even greater sources of revenue, especially in the financial planning field. Your existing customer base is your bread and butter. Their loyalty to you and dependence on you as a resource — as well as your loyalty to them and ability to focus on their wants and needs — can result in profits for both of you. And they can also be a resource for you. If they’re happy with the service you provide, they’ll talk about you to others; and new business will magically appear!
By relentlessly monitoring your clients’ needs and wants, you will be able to make the appropriate modifications to your service and stay ahead of your competition. This ensures a harmonious business relationship that provides value to all concerned.
7. Give Them What They Need The Way They Want It
Whether you want to sign on new clients or keep current clients happy, the business will always go to the individuals and organizations that provide their customers with what they need in the way they want it.
Communication is particularly important in this regard. We all want to hear things differently. The same piece of information may mean different things to different customers. After all, everybody has unique prejudices, pre-dispositions, and preferences. The trick in any form of communication is knowing what significance certain information will have to a particular client and then how to present it to him or her (or them if you are dealing with a group) so that it has the greatest possible appeal or value. This is true whether you’re conducting an interview, giving a presentation, or even having an ordinary telephone conversation.
Thus, more often than not, your message has to be customized to the specific client. Bear in mind that any flashy presentation materials that you use are not enough to customize your message. That is only a supplement to what you yourself say and do to get the message across.
Start by focusing fully on the prospect or the client. After all, you are there for your client, not the other way around! You must actively demonstrate that your customers’ concerns and desires are paramount to you. This is accomplished not just through the solutions you provide, but also through the way you communicate with your clients. For example, in responding to a question or concern, you can use their own words in your answer to show that you have been listening and understand what it is they’re trying to say. If somebody asks you, “How will that particular investment affect my tax situation?” you might respond, “This particular investment will not affect your tax situation in any dramatic way. Here’s why … ”
You should also always confirm any key assumptions you have made about your clients’ goals and circumstances. For instance: “The last time we talked, you mentioned that A, B, and C were your issues. Is that still the case, or has anything changed?” Being up-to-date is crucial to giving your clients what they need the way they want it. Furthermore, confirming assumptions in this way brings the customer into the moment and reassures him or her that you have been paying attention to key concerns.
Remember: Whether you are communicating or whether you are taking direct action, you have to know from the start and throughout your relationship what exactly the client needs and how he or she wants it, and respond accordingly. Such attention to detail will establish you as an invaluable resource — and set you apart from the competition!
Copyright© 1998 Karr Associates, Inc.
Ron Karr is a professional speaker, consultant, trainer and author who specializes in helping organizations dominate their marketplace while helping individuals get closer to the people they serve. He is the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Great Customer Service and author of The Titan Principle®: The #1 Key to Sales Success.