Successful fee-only financial advisors realize the importance of closing the sale. But have we stood in our clients’ shoes to see what holds their attention during a pitch?
Last week, the tables were turned on me. I found myself in a pitch to buy vitamins. To the salesperson’s advantage, I am health conscious and try to eat right. At first, I had a real interest in what he had to say, but by the end of the call, I didn’t want anything to do with his product. He knew his facts, and communicated them well, so where did this salesperson go wrong? Too much information is not necessarily a good thing.
From the client’s perspective, I realized that spewing data is not a good strategy to keep the customer engaged, no matter how convincing the facts are. In reality, it’s better to ask questions and, even more importantly, to listen.
When communicating with clients, fee-only financial advisors often focus on three things:
- We want to convey important information.
- We want our ideas to be heard.
- We want our ideas to be accepted.
But we are fooling ourselves if we think we can achieve these goals by talking more. The more we talk, the more we actually obstruct our objectives.
My own urge to speak often arises from a desire to feel important or special. But when I speak, I waste time that could be spent connecting with the client. Like any financial advisor, I want clients to like me. I think that for people to like me, they must pay attention. So I should talk more to command that attention, right? Not exactly.
Listen More, Speak Less
Just like we want to be accepted when we make a pitch, our clients also want to feel like they’re being heard. That said, I encourage you to take a step back and listen. What the vitamin salesman didn’t know is that the more he spoke, the more I shut down—I stopped listening. If he had asked me questions to determine why I take vitamins or why health is important to me, it would have captivated my attention. It would have been a conversation, and it would have been an easier sell for him.
Successful fee-only financial advisors can also sell their ideas and services more effectively by showing clients that they fully understand the situation at hand. We need to develop top-notch listening skills, so that we can best align our expertise with our client’s personal needs.
Of course, I am not suggesting we stop talking all together. We just need to focus on asking quality questions before we speak too much. We need to ask for clarification and repeat what we’ve heard back to the client. Rephrasing what you’ve heard shows the client that you understand.
Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I understand what my client is trying to say?
- Do I need any clarification?
- Why, why, why? Ask yourself “why” three times.
The vitamin salesperson may not have sold me on his pills, but from that experience, I am sold on the power of listening. Especially in this time of uncertainty in the stock market, committing to fully understanding clients’ wants and needs is the best sales plan a financial advisor can have.
Take a step back and review your pitch. Do you listen? How can you better connect with your clients? Then, ask your self the three questions I outlined above before you speak during a pitch.