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.