If you’ve ever read my articles, you know that I inject bottom-line pay-offs, skills, tools and ideas that will help you build a relationship-based business. Often, I cite specific cases I’m working on. As often, I explain a concept that you literally will not find any place else – not just in the financial industry – I mean in any industry. And, sometimes I dip into my psychological training and debunk some of the flawed advice I see in the industry.
Today, I want to explain something to you that you will probably recognize as worth its weight in gold. As I’ve mentioned in recent articles, there are two elements that are the legs of the post-modern financial business: consultative selling and connecting with Boomers. If this is news to you, I suggest you hold on tight, what you’re about to learn just might frighten you.
Boomers hate anything connected to their parents’ tastes and needs. If you sell mutual finds or annuities or life insurance to seniors – guess what, your lifetime of experience just became obsolete. That’s because you’ve been selling to the Boomers’ parents.
The Big Question – What’s the key to selling to Boomers? Easy. There is only one answer – consultative selling. Easy, yes, but not simple. Consultative selling is a question-based conversation that you facilitate. However, you can’t even start it until you prove or demonstrate your credibility to the Boomer. And, then, you can’t expect the Boomer to respond openly until you build rapport.
Those two hurdles make consultative selling impossible to most people working in the financial industry today. I’m referring to people who will not change their approach to meet the Boomers where they need to be met. I make that statement from experience after having coached insurance and financial professionals for about twenty years.
As a culture this industry trains producers to make presentations, not to listen. That is the exact point where consultative selling dies. See, consultative selling is based on questions, and the important questions are not the memorized, strategized, contrived questions. The important questions are the follow-up questions, and all relevant follow-up questions are based on what that prospect just said. It is a “real time” performance, and you must become an expert at it.
Here are two examples:
- What’s important about money to you?
- Would you rather have return on your money or return of your money?
Those questions are contrived. And, the reason they are contrived is that they assume way too much. First one is obvious; it assumes the prospect places value on money. Research shows that very few people do. Second one is just plain silly, but it’s also obnoxious and invasive because it assumes you’ve already gained rapport and trust.
I can already hear the phone ringing with producers demanding for me to explain the solution to the puzzle I just described. See, every article I write delights some people and makes others angry. Both types call me. Anger is just an expression of fear, so I know I hit a nerve with those people. I’d be frightened, too, if an authority told me that my training was wrong.
Another call we get on a daily basis is from advisors who want to learn the secret to consultative selling. We tell them, “The good news is, there is no secret! But the hard news is, there is a set of specific skills you need to learn.” It’s hard news because many producers, agents and advisors want things to “Be better,” but they don’t want to go through the effort of making them better.
Side story: One insurance agent begged me to hypnotize her to make her a better sales person. Someone else looking for a magic key.
I said there is a set of specific skills you need to learn in order to succeed with consultative selling. Trust me on this – attempt to be consultative without learning the skills, and you’ll regret it. That’s especially true with Boomers. However, learn and implement the skills, and you will become a master at consultative selling.
Here are the skills:
Skill 1: Read the psychology of your prospect. We teach our clients how to recognize social styles and personality type in less than 3 seconds. Can you do that? If not, you don’t know how to talk to your prospects. Instead, you’re talking to yourself while hoping your prospects figure out what you’re trying to say.
Skill 2: Ask questions based on the prospect’s own psychology. Simply, a person’s psychology revolves around her values, and values act like computer code. Without the code, the program doesn’t run. Get the code right and it’s like you inserted the magic key into the bank vault. What’s the key? The code. See, it is tied to what you learned when you “read” the prospect. Can you read your prospects quickly and accurately? If not, you’re sabotaging your own success because you don’t know explicitly how to talk to your prospects. You’re guessing, or you’re talking to yourself.
Skill 3: Ask follow-up questions based on the prospect’s conversation. “What did you say?” This skill is the hardest of all to learn. Asking follow-up questions requires you to stop your own internal chatter and listen closely to what the prospect is telling you. It requires you to listen without thinking.
About fifteen percent of the people who call me have a comfort zone for sameness. They want to keep on using a traditional fact finder and needs analysis to guide their new business presentations. People with that mental filter configuration will retire soon, because Boomers will soundly reject them.
By the way, sixty-five percent of the advisor population wants to improve. So, if you’re still reading, you might be among that population. Congratulations, there’s hope for you – depending on how proactive you are.
Consultative Selling is a Strategy. The strategy is for you to facilitate a dynamic, consultative conversation that leads to a pay-off for the other person.
- Your first goal is to keep the conversation going. The longer you can engage the prospect, the closer you come to getting a new client.
- Your second goal is to guide the conversation. You start by focusing on the other person, and you gently switch direction so the other person begins to focus on your solutions.
What makes that switch possible is to bring in as much relevance as possible. That means you have to elicit relevant facts from that other person, then feed them back to him as you introduce the solutions. And, what makes that possible is what you’ve been able to learn about that person’s values and communication style.
Here are some guidelines for you to follow in every business conversation:
- The more you focus on that prospect, from the beginning, the longer you can talk.
- The more relevance you bring to the conversation, the more the other person will pay attention to what you’re saying.
- The closer you come to describing your solutions through the other person’s eyes, the closer you come to getting a new client.
- Stay awake. Make sure to recognize when you’ve lost the relevance or allowed the conversation to go off target, ramble, meander or go too long.
What to say next. Like any strategy, this one is comprised of tactics. And, the main tactic you’ll use to prolong the conversation is follow-up questions. They are based on the essence of the prospect’s previous statement.
First step – ask a relevant question that gets him talking.
Second step – ask a question based on what he just said.
Here’s the puzzle – how do you know what opening question to ask? How do you know what specific words to use that will be most effective in engaging the other person?
Here’s the answer – you simply “read” the person. You read his face to determine social style or personality type. And, if you pay attention, you’ll recognize when the person changes from one personality type to another. If you get good at face reading, you can even tell if the person is processing information visually or auditorially. If you know what to listen for, you can actually create a detailed psychological profile of that person in just a few minutes. We do it all the time, and we teach that skills to our coaching clients.
Consultative selling depends on your ability to make your statements and questions relevant to the other person. We’ve seen that very few advisors have been taught the skills required to succeed at consultative selling. If you want to learn them, fill out the form below and mention “Consultative Selling book” in the message. I’ll give you a $10 discount on our new, updated edition of our book “Magnetic Connections – The Consultative Selling Program for Financial Services Professionals!” Regular price is $129. It’s on sale right now for $89. And, you can get it for only $79. I guarantee, you will love it!