A favorite hypothetical of mine:
Let’s imagine two professionals in the same field. We’ll call them Advisor A and Advisor B.
We’ll give them the same educational background, the same training, the same resources and connections, and even similar personalities and work ethic.
But when we put them out in the field, I can promise you that one—let’s say, Advisor A—will do better than the other—our unfortunate Advisor B.
If we made them practically identical in every aspect, the only factor that could account for the difference in their performances is that Advisor A would be taking more of the kind of action he needs to take than Advisor B is taking.
But if their work ethic were the same, how could their actions be any different?
The simplest explanation is that for each, the way his world is occurring to him will be different: the way he views his work, the way he views the people he interacts with, and, of course, the way he views himself.
Advisor A might see his work as being important to the people he works with—something they need in their lives.
He might see the world as a safe and friendly place where what he has to offer is welcome.
He might see clients and prospective clients as open and interested in doing what they need to do for their families. And he might see the people he works with as good people, who are there to support him.
Advisor B—the less successful advisor—might have a different view of his world:
Maybe it’s a difficult, unfriendly place, where you have to struggle to succeed.
Maybe he sees himself as a “salesperson”, who “bothers” people.
Perhaps he sees clients and prospects as closed and deceitful, and he sees the people he works with as being there to make his life difficult.
When Advisor B feels he is not succeeding, he tries to imitate what Advisor A is doing, or he enrolls in yet another course to learn another way to do what he already knows how to do. He experiments with the latest and most advanced strategies and language nuances, and finds that none of it works for him.
Of course it doesn’t. All of his effort is like trying to take the apples off of someone else’s tree and tape them to his own, withering tree stump. It’s not the same, and it won’t yield any new, ripe fruit.
If you identify with Advisor B in this hypothetical, you should understand that it is a mistake to try to solve your work performance problems with more information. You already know enough to succeed. What you need is a transformation—an alteration in how your world is occurring for you. Your “inner game” needs fixing, not your “outer game”.
Strategies and language nuances may help a little, but until you view the world as a place where taking action is easy and fun, you will continue to struggle.
If you’re not taking enough action because you are uncomfortable or overwhelmed, don’t spend your time, energy, and money on another course to learn new ways of doing the same thing. Instead, get to work on your view of your world.
How different would your practice be if you believed that finding new prospects is easy? That people are grateful for the help you offer? That it’s OK to tell them what you believe, even if it might upset them? That you bring value to everyone you speak with?
Change your inner game and you automatically change your results—but only always.
I always believe in game-changers, so contact me if you’re in need of one. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
I had been limping around for three weeks with a pain across the top of my left foot that didn’t seem to be getting any better. I made it through five straight days on my feet for two workshops and an active vacation, but the pain did not subside. So, I finally decided to visit a local orthopedist.
It was good for me to go through this experience, because as often happens, it reminded me of why I do the work I do.
I called the doctor’s office and an unhappy-sounding scheduling assistant treated me as if I was a huge interruption to his day. He was abrupt, unsympathetic, and annoyed when it took me a couple of seconds to give him precisely the information he demanded. He advised me that the doctor I wanted wouldn’t be available in this century, and offered me some alternatives. And he became noticeably agitated when I wasn’t satisfied with the first available appointment. After all, who did I think I was? HE worked for a DOCTOR and was VERY busy. I was just one more bother in his bothersome day.
Actor Frank Morgan as “The Gatekeeper” in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
When I arrived at the office, the staff was annoyed that I didn’t notice the big hand-written sign at the window on the right that says “Sign In Here”, and that I thought it was okay to approach the busy person sitting behind the desk on the left instead. When I got back to the person on the right, she handled our entire transaction—from the clipboard to the insurance card and picture ID—without ever looking up to see my face.
Believe it or not, your staff may be treating people like this—and no matter how good you are at what you do, or how kind and considerate you might be, your clients are thinking, “I’m not coming here again.”
Maybe, as it was in the case of this doctor, there are so many people waiting to see you that you can afford not to know how your staff is behaving. But if you’re like most professionals, it matters to you that clients who have experienced something like this aren’t staying with you, and that they will tell others to stay away, as well.
If you want to grow your practice or business, you need to be certain that you’ve spelled out for your staff how to handle the phones and how to greet people, and you need to be sure that they’re following your system. This means listening in on a prospective client or patient call, and having someone report to you about how they are treated while they’re waiting for you. Don’t assume because you’re being treated well by your assistant that he or she is treating your clients in the same way.
It also means spelling out the basics for your team with a formalized procedure that includes, at least, all of the following points:
1. Identify the office and yourself. Everyone who answers a phone should use his or her name.
2. Be pleasant. No matter how frenetic your office might be, every caller deserves to feel that he or she is not an interruption in someone’s busy day.
3. Offer to help. The identification should be followed by “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” or—well—anything that’s genuinely helpful.
4. Don’t rush the caller. No matter how busy you are, clients want to ease their stress, not to confront yours.
5. Own the call. Until the caller is connected elsewhere, the person answering the phone is responsible for the caller’s experience.
These are just some of the basic rules.
Nearly an hour later, when I finally got to see the orthopedist, I found him to be extremely competent, and a genuinely nice human being. He advised me that I had fractured a bone, but I wasn’t willing to face his staff for the follow-up appointment. I ended up taking my foot elsewhere.
Referrals come from clients who tell stories about the “magical” service they are receiving. If you’re not certain that you and your staff are making magic in your practice—right out of the gate—you can always contact me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Thank clients for their business. Thank them for referrals. Remind them about their appointments. And do each of these…with a handwritten note. Find an excuse to send a note card to people you meet, people who provide services to you, and people who you serve.
We have all become so accustomed to communicating by email, text, and other electronic and social-media means that the lowly note card—handwritten, hand-addressed, hand-stamped, and delivered by “snail mail”—has actually become an item of immediate interest and delight when someone is shuffling through her junk mail or bills.
While there is a cost-factor, and a small amount of labor in selecting stationery, buying stamps, writing, and posting the card—not to mention tossing an occasional mistake into the trash—the potential rewards are great.
One of my clients—Peter, a financial advisor—was telling me a story about how he thought his light gray suit was ruined when someone spilled red wine in his lap at a networking event. He was amazed that the Dry Cleaner was able to get the stain out entirely, leaving the suit as good as new.
“Send him a note, thanking him for getting the wine out,” I told him.
Peter protested that a handwritten note was overkill. He had thanked the owner personally when he picked up the suit.
I explained to him that the owner probably received dozens of complaint letters each year—people sending letters to complain about damaged shirts and demanding reimbursement. The seemingly outdated “Thank You” note, I told him, would surprise and flatter the owner and, in the long-term, help Peter’s business. Peter was skeptical, but he sent the Thank You note, with one of his business cards enclosed.
A week later, Peter called me, unable to hide the excitement in his voice.
“When I walked in with my shirts yesterday,” he started, “My note and the business card I enclosed were taped up on the wall near the counter. The owner thanked me for my note and asked me about my business—something he’d never done in the three years I’ve been bringing my clothes to him.”
“But wait!” he exclaimed, “It gets better. I told him what I did, using the audio billboard you helped me to develop, and he asked me if I’d be willing to talk with him about his situation. And all because I sent him that note!”
Peter eventually started working with the Dry Cleaner, who turned out to have other businesses, and a significant amount of assets.
“It won’t always work like that,” I warned him during one of our later sessions, “But it will open doors for you if you keep doing it.”
Make it a point to write three note cards a week—to anyone you can think of, and for any reason. Enclose a business card, and don’t be afraid to follow up when the opportunity arises by asking if your note was received.
You don’t need a note card to contact me for help. However you go about it, reach out, and keep REACHING…
P.S. Peter sent me a handwritten note to thank me for helping him land this new client. I was thrilled to receive it, and would be just as thrilled to refer him to anyone who needed his brand of help.
Mehdi achieved his success despite starting out with a severely limited grasp of the English language and American customs. Now, at the top of his industry, he is famous throughout the world—with a following in over forty countries. A Chinese admirer changed his own first name to Mehdi, and at least one other inspired insurance agent gave that name to his son.
At an Insurance Pro Shop seminar a few years ago, I had the honor of being asked to speak alongside Mehdi and the renowned publicist Wally Cato. Here are some of the Lessons I learned from Master Mehdi that day:
1. Doing the right thing for your clients results in more business and referrals. Mehdi does not attribute his success to any skill of his own—he believes it is his karmic reward for giving what he can to everyone he comes into contact with. His belief in this regard, and how it humbles him, shines through him as he speaks.
2. Love what you do. Mehdi told his audience that selling insurance is his hobby. He is up at 4 a.m. eager to start his day and doesn’t stop until his wife calls him to tell him to come home for dinner.
3. Be prepared to give them what they ask for, but always show them what you believe they should have. Mehdi talked about how he increases the size of his sales, and helps clients at the same time, by presenting insurance policies at signing time for amounts greater than what he had previously discussed with them.
“They always try to buy less than they should,” he told his audience. “I present to them what they really should have, and often, they agree when they see it.”
4. Make them clients first. “What do you do when a client doesn’t want what you believe is right for him?” a workshop attendee asked. “I give him what he does want, of course,” was Mehdi’s reply. But he continued:
“I wait two or three years [until we have a good relationship and my client trusts me],” he explained, “And then I show him a chart that has on the left side what he bought, and on the right side, what I believed was right for him. I ask him which plan looks better now…and he always points to the one on the right.”
None of this can happen, Mehdi told his audience, unless the person in question becomes a client first.
5. Never give up! A consistent theme in everything Mehdi spoke about was his persistence. “Whenever there is a problem,” he told his audience, “I sit down and create a solution. There’s always a solution.”
6. Talk “Nonsense”. That’s what Mehdi calls his delightful way of engaging people in conversation.
“If I’m going up in an elevator and I push ’4′, and the other man pushes ’8′, I say, ‘You must be twice as good as me’. When he asks me why I say that, I tell him that 8 is twice as good as 4.”
Mehdi reminded his audience that day that it makes people feel good when you’re having fun. As further proof that Mehdi walks his talk, he invited me to spend an afternoon with him at his office to pick his brain, and bought us lunch at his favorite Chinese restaurant—asking nothing in return.
Give first, talk small, and think big—and contact me for help with doing the right thing. Love what you do, and keep REACHING…
After two visits—a total of six hours—advisor Marianne had gotten an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from her new “almost clients”—a young professional couple with small children—to prepare a financial plan for them. The plan would specifically include some much-needed life insurance. There was no doubt the mission was going forward!
But a few days later, just before Marianne’s scheduled return with her specific proposal, the couple called to tell her they had decided to hold off on doing anything.
“I needed that sale,” Marianne complained to me during our coaching session.
“And that’s probably why you lost it,” I responded.
Our need is the ugliest thing we can show prospective clients. If they believe that your need to make money is more important than your delivery of the service they would be hiring you to do, they’ll back away. Retaining you or buying what you have to offer has to be their idea, not yours.
Blake, an attorney in Michigan, wrote me last week about his problem in getting prospective clients to engage his services.
“I find out what their situation is,” he writes, “and then I explain very carefully what I’ll be doing for them.”
“Then they ask about price. I tell them my hourly rate, which is competitive, but they say they want to think about it…and then, I don’t hear from them again.”
Professionals like Blake often don’t spend enough time developing a relationship with their clients, customers, or patients. They know their work. They know how to diagnose problems, and they know what the most likely solutions are. But they don’t know what their prospective clients really need: someone to hear them out; sympathy, empathy, and validation.
Here are some suggestions that might help you “close” more clients:
1. Ask more and better questions. “Situational” questions are essential for you in order to enable you to do your work, but they have relatively low value to a prospective client who already knows his or her own situation.
How does the situation make him or her feel? Why does he/she feel that way? What result would this person like to get from working with you? How will that make him/her feel better?
These kinds of questions don’t necessarily add any information to your business stats, but they help you to create a bond with your new client.
2. Find out if they’re committed to change before you talk about fees. Ask if she’s receiving value from the discussion and if she has any questions for you. Ask if she’d be interested in working with someone who could alter her status quo.
3. Find out what is causing them to hesitate. If he says, “Let me think about it,” find out what he agrees with and narrow down what his concerns are. Does he have reservations about your abilities? Is he looking for a better price? It’s okay—and important—to ask these questions.
If you want more clients to say “yes” and stick to it, start by making sure you spend the time to ask compelling questions, and base the solution you offer directly on their answers. Whether it’s in asking for the sale or asking for introductions, make it about them—not about your need.
Every week, I try to provide you with a message of value—either to keep you motivated, or to help you hone your skills to get more clients—or for whatever else you want in your life. Today’s message has an almost Shakespearian relevance:
“To Do” or “NOT to Do”…That is the Question!
During my workshops, when I ask participants to describe their biggest challenge, “Time Management” is often ahead of getting or keeping clients. But since we can’t really manage time—only our activities—thinking in this way can get us stuck in an approach-avoidance tango—with ourselves. So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective.
If you have created a traditional “To Do” list that is now 31 pages long and leaving you feeling overwhelmed, throw it out! Or, at least, put it away in your drawer for a moment.
Before you do, however, pull from it the Six Things you believe are the most important and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep on top of your desk (perhaps, pin it right next to that Memo to Self: Learn to Let Go!).
Prioritize those six things—and only those six things—from most important to least important, and only then, begin working on Number One, taking it as far as it can go. Tomorrow, maybe move on to Number Two…and so on.
In the early 1900s, the industrialist Charles Schwab paid consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for this one idea. At first, Schwab did not believe that ignoring his huge list and focusing on just six things could possibly work. After a month, however, he was excited to find he had finished more projects in those four weeks than he had in any previous month. Try this strategy for just one month, and see for yourself.
While you’re at it, make another list of things “Not to Do”. As my colleague David Ward describes:
“You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time…As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”…If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.”
A “Not to Do” List might look something like this:
1. Check my smart phone.
2. Turn on my email client.
3. Go on Facebook.
4. Reorganize my files.
5. Be hard on myself.
Remember: this is only for now. Set the hours between which you choose to abide by your “Not to Do” List. Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules, and put this “Not” list back in your drawer for the evening. Suddenly you’ll feel like you’re Managing Time. Your story about your own ineffectiveness will change.
You’ll be thrilled with how much less you Procrastinate when it’s one of the six items on your new “Not to Do” list.
If you need help simplifying what To Do and Not to Do, contact me. In the meantime, do what you can to keep REACHING…
With fewer than ten weeks to go in 2013, I’ve put together a list of the most effective ideas for my financial advisor friends to boost their holiday sales. Even if you’re not a financial or insurance professional, I know you’ll find at least some of these ideas useful.
1. Keep your schedule filled with appointments. If your goal is 8 appointments, don’t “try” to keep 8—keep them. If you need to fill your time slots with existing clients, turn those visits into referral opportunities.
2. Look through the information you’ve taken from existing clients to determine if there’s any way in which you haven’t yet served them. Maybe you need to discuss converting an existing term policy, or increasing their 403(b) contribution. Maybe you haven’t discussed long-term care with them. Is there a client who wouldn’t be helped by increasing his or her monthly contributions into retirement savings? Find out!
3. Use the holidays as an excuse to surprise and delight them. It takes a little extra time and few extra dollars, but the rewards can be incredible: a face painting kit or a barrel of pumpkins for Halloween, a fresh baked pie or a bowl of homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.
4. “Up” your offers. A client who needs $300,000 in life insurance might agree to $500,000 if given the option. A client who can put aside $300/month for investing might be able to stretch that to $500, if you explain the benefits. Just ask. If 1 in 4 prospects says “yes”, your year-end numbers will increase dramatically, just like that.
5. Ask for referrals as a way of helping someone start next year with a bang.
“Joe and Betty, thanks for letting me know how helpful I’ve been to you in getting your finances in order and in building toward the retirement you want. With the end of the year coming, I’ll bet you have at least a couple of friends who might like to get a new start on their financial situation for the New Year and may want the kind of service you’re getting. Who comes to mind that could use a hand?”
6. Ask for referrals as a way of giving a gift!
“Joe, how about giving your friend you mentioned the gift of a session with me to talk about his finances? It won’t cost him anything and I won’t pressure him to work with me if he doesn’t want to, but you’d be giving him an opportunity to get something life changing that will last…”
7. Focus on reaching out to people with whom you already have a connection. How many people attended a seminar or gave their names to you at a Home Show who you couldn’t reach right afterward, so you then just dropped those leads? Instead of cold calling people you’ve never met, revisit those “failed” contacts, starting with the most recent. If you can’t reach someone by phone, try a quick email, or drop a short message on social media. If you do connect, those people who you have met at least once are far more likely to agree to make an appointment with you than total strangers are.
8. Slow your fact-finding interviews down. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll turn more first appointments into [first and] second appointment sales if you ask more questions, especially about consequences of acting and not acting. It’s not good enough to ask how someone feels about a million dollar insurance need. Dig deeply into the consequences of not having that insurance in place. (If they can’t keep the house, where will they live? Is that okay with them?) Then, make sure your presentation addresses the consequences that they brought up in response to your questions. (This will ensure that they can stay in their house, at least until the kids start college.)
9. Keep your need out of it. You have numbers you want to reach, but the days of the “Contest Close” have long passed. Do they need your help, or not? Is what you’re offering them the best thing for them, or would something that gets you a smaller fee actually be better for them?
10. When it comes to services they need, don’t please your prospects or clients, and don’t sell to them, serve them. If they’re telling you that they’re going to put off applying for the insurance they need, and you believe that the delay does not serve them, tell them passionately that they’re wrong. Be proud of being in sales, but don’t sell, and don’t put having them like you above doing what’s best for them.
*Image courtesy of Mint.com.
For most advisors, the Fourth Quarter means a year-end blitz to improve their production numbers, hours billed, and company or office standings. Realistically, there are only a few ways to do this:
The majority will focus on the first of these, squeezing in as many cold calls, workshops, and client-appreciation events as they can. They’ll rush around, becoming exhausted and frazzled—but not necessarily maneuvering themselves into a better position—by the time the holidays hit.
Many top producers, however, will slowly and meticulously examine their top clients’ files to see if there are more ways they can serve them, planning out their referral discussions, and looking for ways to surprise and delight them enough that these advocates will tell their friends and family members about the magical experiences they are having. More business from existing clients and more quality referrals—without the frazzle and exhaustion. Their Strategy is Simple:
1. Serve them. Set appointments with your best clients. Review their files first to see if there’s any way you can help them that you aren’t already—whether it will produce immediate income for you or not. If they need an introduction to an accountant or a good podiatrist, serve them by being the source.
2. Use the holidays as an excuse to surprise and delight them. Fortunately, while the upcoming season may feel like crunch time, it also presents some great opportunities to get your clients talking about you. The first of these opportunities is actually Halloween. Just think of all the ghoulish possibilities!
Do your best clients have children who will be dressing up? How about investing in the Klutz Face Painting Book? It comes with easy-to-remove face paints and detailed instructions for creating characters. Or, pick up and deliver some great pumpkins and bring them to their homes.
For Thanksgiving, find out if your best clients will be traveling and, if not, order them a wonderful pumpkin or apple pie from a local bakery or pie company. Hand-deliver it a day or two before the Holiday—or on Thanksgiving morning.
Two years ago, my coaching client, Don, was invited in to meet his financial client’s family when he showed up at the door with pie. In the presence of her relatives, his grateful client announced how much she enjoyed doing business with her advisor—how much they had accomplished and how much more they would have to do. A few days later, one of her guests contacted Don about starting to work together.
If pies aren’t your thing, be creative. It’s about astonishing your clients in a way that gets them smiling about their relationship with you and raving about you to the people they know. Brainstorm with your team. Is there something unique and special you can do to show them how important they are to you?
3. Talk about helping their families and friends. With another financial year coming to a close, do your clients have friends or family members who might need your services? If you can specifically identify someone in their circles, ask about him or her. If not, ask them if they know someone who might need your help before the quarter’s done.
You can still go ahead and make those cold calls, book those workshops and events, but put your emphasis on existing clients—the people who already do business with you and will be joyous to rave about you to those they love. If you need more tips on serving up the right surprises, contact me. Either way, keep delivering what you do best, and keep REACHING…
GIVE SOMEONE THE GIFT OF SELF/SALES HELP
Send someone a thoughtful and thought-provoking gift this season:
Autographed copies of my books, The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. I’ll even include a personal note that you can customize. There’s no extra charge for the signing, nor for holiday gift-wrapping. Simply click here to order the 2-book package, and make sure to edit the Gift Options and/or Add a Comment or Request to let me know your needs.
Nine coaches, myself included, were sitting in a hotel meeting room in Scottsdale, Arizona, mesmerized by Master Coach Steve Hardison, the guest speaker at our workshop. To have Hardison coach you exclusively, you have to be willing to pay $150,000 up front, plus all of your travel and lodging to, from, and in Arizona (no refunds!) in order to meet him in his office at your appointed time every week.
Extending his fingers out into the room and gesturing above and all around us, Hardison urged: “There is no work to do out there, anywhere…Zero!”
“Our minds complicate the whole thing,” he continued. “Listen to what you say here (pointing to his head) and here (pointing to his heart).”
“Everything is from the inside. Nothing is from over here (pointing to the outside world). Dial the right station. When you tune in to what you really want, it will show up. You are god with a small ‘g’. You are creating your life.”
“What could you speak into the world that would upgrade your thinking from a Ford Escort to the car of your dreams?” Hardison asked. “We are the sum total of what we speak about ourselves and the world. Our entire world is what we’ve spoken and thought. I speak it, and my world begins to occur for me. This is what’s going to happen. Every action we take is based on how the world is occurring for us.”
Hardison then told a story about once attending a movie, right before which he stood up and announced to the entire theater that he’d be giving away his client Steve Chandler’s new book after the film to anyone who promised to read it. The people he’d come to the show with slinked down in their seats in fear of being associated with the crazy guy making a self-help announcement in the movie theater. One friend asked him, “Can you do that in a movie theater?” But after the movie, people lined up at the trunk of his car to pick up one of his client’s new books.
Imagine how successful you would be if the way your world occurred to you was the way the world occurs to Hardison: that you can ask anyone—anyone you choose to ask—to meet with you; you could ask anyone for a referral, or to buy whatever you’re offering. And their answer wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just an expression of a preference.
“Would you like one of my client’s new books?”
“Would you like to upgrade that popcorn to a Large for 50 cents more?”
“Would you like to sit down and talk with me about your financial situation?”
The world-renowned insurance agent Mehdi Fakharzadeh, now in his nineties, asks the underwriters in his insurance company to issue two insurance policies for a new client: one for the amount they discussed, and one for double that amount. When he goes to deliver the policy, he shows his client both and explains the difference in the monthly fee. More often than you might think, the client takes the larger policy. The client has more protection and Mehdi earns a larger commission. Everybody wins.
But this only happens because the way the world occurs to Mehdi, he can comfortably offer a surprise, double-sized policy to his client while he is delivering what he or she expects, and without worrying that he has overstepped.
If you’re not where you want to be in your career (or in your life), it’s probably not because you need more information. What you need is a transformation—an alteration (or, an upgrade) in how your world is occurring to you.
To have me coach you exclusively, you just have to be willing to make the change. Contact me, and whatever upgrade you desire, I’ll help you find the keys. You’ll have to know they’re somewhere inside, but until you’re sure they’re in your hands, we’ll keep REACHING…
I’ve shared a good deal of information with you recently on being willing to brand (and speak up about) the special service experience that only you offer. Consider this a prequel to all of that. Good; so, you’re special! But before we get into it…
The last time you sat down with a prospect, you probably went through some awkward small talk while you anticipated getting down to fact finding, when you could relax a little. After all, you’ve helped clients like this many times before. You’ve listened to them answer your questions and waited patiently until it was your turn to talk about insurance or financial concepts and strategies.
Then, as you got into your prepared interviews and well-practiced presentations, your confidence would grow a little, because now you had the opportunity to show your stuff. You were able to explain what you might do for each of these prospective clients. You told them why you love your work. You told them why your approach is unique—and it is—and that always felt great to share, didn’t it? And they always seemed really interested in the conversation you were leading. So all that was left was for you to ask them to get started—to “close”.
I mean, after all, potential clients only have one decision to make, right? It’s simple: Would you like to work with me—yes or no?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Prospects actually have Three Decisions in front of them, beginning at the time when you first approach them for an appointment:
(1) Whether to spend some of their precious time with you. If you’re sitting down with them, they’ve already made this decision in your favor.
(2) Whether they want to change their status quo. A prospect may have no particular regard for his current advisor, and he may fully recognize the need for more or better insurance or professional advice, but he may still not want to do anything about it. This is the concept of inertia: A prospect at rest tends to stay at rest.
(3) Finally, the prospect has to decide that if he is willing to change, he wants that change to be with you.
If you’ve ever heard the words “I’d love to work with you…” and then couldn’t get the prospect back to hear your proposal, then you were probably short-changing yourself on appreciating the magnitude (and rarity) of the Second Decision. It’s one of the biggest mistakes advisors make in the sales process.
Deciding to change—from no advisor to having an advisor, from one advisor to another, from no insurance to having insurance, from one investment to another—is actually the most difficult of the Three Decisions. The prospect is weighing the status quo against what a change will mean, what the issues are, what his or her competing commitments are and what new commitments (financial, medical, legal, and mental) will involve, and who else might be impacted by this change.
She may have an advisor she doesn’t like. She may actually know she needs help, or more insurance, or some other change in her financial or insurance situation. But she just hasn’t yet made the commitment to do it. If a potential client has not yet decided she is ready to work with someone new, and you charge in with your “solutions” and your “methodology” and your “training, experience, and credentials”, you have launched an irrelevant conversation.
You might think they need to understand the benefits of what you’re proposing, but in the absence of the Second Decision, prospects have no interest in hearing your Third-Decision Discussion—the “why you”. Until a prospect has made the Second Decision, Third-Decision behavior (discussing the solutions only you can provide) is futile.
Talking about your unique services with someone before the person has decided to change is one of the biggest reasons you’ve often heard those positive comments about your work, and then are surprised [yet again] when the prospect cuts off communication. He or she may have truly been enthusiastic about the idea of working with you, even if he or she hadn’t made the commitment to do it. A single contradictory conversation with a brother-in-law, an accountant, or even a plumber could have been enough to send your shaky prospect back into hiding.
Ask questions to make sure the prospect is ready to hear solutions. The reward will be more meaningful commitments to hearing you out and moving into the Third Decision—in other words, fewer wasted presentations, and fewer lost sales.
If you could use help moving your potential clients into their Third Decision, you only need to decide you’re ready to make a change before you contact me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
*This article was inspired by a recent writing shared with me by my coaching colleague, Rich Litvin. I admit to “borrowing” some of his ideas and language.
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