Selling


To influence change is the edict of any financial advisor … or at least it should be. As advisors, our objective is to guide clients and create value for them. In other words, we want to sell to them. However, when it comes to selling, we often fall into the habit of trying to instruct our client on what to do. Now is the time to think about that approach — how often have you changed what you were doing simply because someone else TOLD you what to do instead? In the World Presidents Organization (WPO), Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), there is a language protocol called Gestalt. This protocol provides a framework wherein members discuss their experiences rather than give advice to one another. Essentially, members share stories based on their own account of something. These stories help make the topics more relatable to others and opens up communication for all members which aids in allowing change to occur. In a previous article, From High to Goodbye: Are You and Your Clients’ Finances in Line?, I reviewed the power of storytelling through the eyes of Chanel Reynolds. She was happily married until her husband, who was out for a bike ride in July of 2009, was killed after being struck by a vehicle. The event sent her into a state of panic and prompted her to organize her financial situation. Chanel’s story — including the actions she took and the tools that helped her – is featured on her site, http://getyourshittogether.org/. The most valuable aspect of her site; however, is not the insight into financial planning she shares, but rather the STORY she provides about how she got to her end result (finding financial stability and managing a successful website). We all can think of similar stories, either our own or from someone we know, that link us to Chanel’s story—a once-removed subject that evokes emotion and personal interest. Success in Storytelling Storytelling is a terrific art form, but what does it have to do with your financial advising business? The takeaway is simple: stories sell. In the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler describe how changing behavior is really about creating a vicarious experience. As advisors, we do not necessarily have the time to take clients or prospects through an experience. However, telling a story like Chanel Reynolds has done enables us to provide our customers with a tangible concept they can make their own. Storytelling does not come naturally for everyone though. If you’re unsure how to lead your clients on an experience through the use of words and feelings, don’t fret....

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The words “But wait! There’s more!” are all too common for those of us who have not been able to sleep and turn on the TV in the middle of the night. It’s a classic phrase on infomercials. Infomercials have created a multi-billion dollar industry, with a combination of product and pitches that make extraordinary amounts of money. With the help of Brandon Dempsey, founder of goBRANDgo!, a strategic marketing and branding firm, I want to break down a sales process that has origins similar to the infomercial. Infomercial for Your Business When we think of infomercials, we think of the line heard again and again:  “Call right now, and we’ll double your order!”  But there is much more to the infomercial process – it is about developing curiosity and confidence that the buyer will like the features and persuading them to think the product is worth the cost. The process of the infomercial brings the buyer along and causes them to think, “What is this worth to me?” The trick is having the buyer realize that he is getting real value for what you are providing. By following a process like that of an infomercial, you as the financial advisor, are taking control of the sales process. You want to put the buyer in a place where his is following your process. To understand an infomercial-like process more, I interviewed the founder of goBRANDgo!, Brandon Dempsey. We met at a Global Leadership Conference for the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), a support group devised of advisory boards, education and global networking for business owners with a million dollars or more in revenue. During a scheduled organized run, we started talking about competing in triathlons. Brandon was in the process of training for an Ironman, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Brandon not only juggles running a marketing firm and the high demands of training, but he also manages the Accelerator Program for EO in St. Louis. The Accelerator Program is for newer entrepreneurs who are trying to get to $1 million in revenue. Throughout the run, Brandon discussed his meticulous sales process. Always a sucker for procedures, I asked him a few questions and was intrigued with the specificity of his plan. goBRANDgo! Brandon and his partner Derek Weber joined forces in 2010 to go beyond being a website development firm. What they created with goBRANDgo! is an integrated marketing company. Their core focus is working with companies with $50 million or more in revenue who are looking to reposition their brand, are in the process of launching a new brand or...

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The following guest blog post is written by Townsend Wardlaw, a sales management systems specialist. The post is featured on his blog, http://townsendwardlaw.com and can be found here. One of the challenges that one of my clients and I are working through in his sales process training is the seemingly random and overly-responsive, reflexive approach that they have to selling in a lot of their business. My advocacy with my clients is always for a very structured and analytical approach to selling wherein pretty much every activity we do is associated with and aligned with the potential outcome of that activity, and, more importantly, the potential for that account, customer, and, most importantly, the contribution to the overall goal. It’s pretty common that I come across a client where people seem to be running around doing a lot of random things, and one of the manifestations of this that’s really evident is when I work with a client and always hear that the salesperson is on a plane. They just headed out of town for a sales trip: they had to go see a customer or prospect, they had to deliver a proposal, what have you. So it got me wondering why this is and why it’s so hard to break that habit, because over time it’s glaringly obvious that a measured and analytical approach to selling, meaning alignment of effort to output, is what gets you the win over time. Everything else may be fun, but it’s really hard to manage. As I worked on sales process training with my client this morning, I explained to him that it is like what happens in Vegas—there are professional gamblers, and there are recreational gamblers. I personally am a recreational gambler (if I gamble at all) because it’s fun to blow some money. If I win some it’s fun, if not, I am not going to be too terribly upset, because it’s not like I bet the mortgage or payroll on it. I had a past partner who was actually a professional gambler at one point (among other professional gamblers I’ve known), and it’s a completely different experience—very measured, very structured, very process-oriented. They also almost exclusively play games of probability like blackjack or Texas Hold ‘Em. Blackjack is a great metaphor for professional selling in that people that choose to pursue blackjack have a process system and, generally speaking, can make good money if they work that system. My past partner would go to Vegas and play for eight, ten, and twelve hours. After three or four days he would come back with a bunch of money, but it...

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The following guest blog post is written by Townsend Wardlaw, a sales management systems specialist. The post is featured on his blog, http://townsendwardlaw.com and can be found here.   This post is for executive sales training, because it’s about something that I am very passionate about.  The most powerful form of selling occurs when the salesperson has a commitment to the customer’s desired outcomes and the impact of accomplishing those. This is a simple statement, and it’s gone by a lot of different names over the past 20 years including solution selling. Selling, as I define it, is fundamentally about understanding a prospect’s situation, need, environment, etc. to such a degree that I am no longer presenting a product or a service. Instead, I am presenting how the implementation or utilization of my products and services will help them accomplish their goal. It’s amazing to me how much people talk about selling solutions rather than products, but how little customer-focused, outcome-oriented selling actually takes place. I suspect part of that is because it’s natural for a salesperson presented with an existing need to immediately start pitching them on our product or service. Similarly, when salespeople come across somebody who is in a state of latent need, and it’s going to be a lot of work to get to the point where the prospect acknowledges they’ve got some pain, it’s natural to shy away from that. As a lot of you know my target market consists of companies in the $1-$10 million range. Typically, I am working directly with the entrepreneur or founder to help them move from founder-led selling to professional selling. At that level, this kind of focus on customer outcomes is particularly important because you have far more prospects than resources with which to serve those prospects. Therefore, the game must be about driving as much value in your services as possible in order to grow revenue with the fewest number of deals and the most revenue per opportunity. When we focus on customer outcomes, competition and price sensitivity fall away. Conversely, price sensitivity and competition tend to be high when we focus on our product or service primarily because the customer has already identified alternatives. If you really want to drive significant value for your customers and differentiate yourself from your competition, the conversation must center on what your product or service is going to do for them… and this impact must be measured in dollars and cents. The Wrong Way I’ll share an anecdote. A number of years ago I did some executive sales training for a company in the project management software space, and...

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