You’ve probably never heard anyone say, “See that baby over there? He’s an amazing salesperson!” You’ve never heard it because the ability to sell is not something you’re born with. There is no such thing as a natural salesperson. Sales is a learned skill. Unfortunately, in a business that’s essentially 90% sales, it’s a skill that is seldom, if ever taught.
In most cases, “sales” training is nothing more than product training. This puts advisors in the unenviable position of having to figure out the most important component of their business on their own, through an arduous process of trial and error. As a coach, it’s my job to help advisors build their business and increase their sales. After 13+ years of talking to advisors all day every day from all over the country, there are 8 common and costly sales mistakes I see even some of the most seasoned veterans make on a regular basis.
Be aware of the following mistakes and do your best to avoid them. It could be one of the easiest paths you can take to a bigger paycheck in 2018.
1. Believing When You Ask Clients & Prospects for Money You’re Asking for a Favor
When you ask clients, prospects or people you know for their business, you are NOT asking them for a favor. You’re doing them a favor.
The moment you’re able to make that mental shift, everything in your business changes. If you believe that one simple statement, you suddenly have more conviction and purpose in everything you do, and nothing sells like conviction.
Studies have shown that people who feel like they’re working for a purpose larger than themselves are far more successful. When you believe it’s not just your job, but your mission to turn as many people as possible into clients, and protect them from some other guy who doesn’t have your knowledge, integrity or compassion, something amazing begins to happen. You start to uncover bigger money more frequently. I’ve seen it happen time and time again as advisors build their conviction in who they are, what they do and what they’re selling.
So how do you make such a mental shift? It’s easier than you might think. All you have to do is make a habit of taking 10 seconds to ask yourself the following three questions every single time you pick up the phone or walk into an appointment:
- Who’s going to care more about them? You!
- Who’s going to do a better job for them? You!
- Who are they going to feel the most comfortable with? You!
This isn’t some feel-good, new-age theory. Everyone knows advisors who win the mental game are far more successful. Start your mental conditioning with the 3 questions above. If you do that consistently, it won’t be long before you start believing it and when you believe it, so do your clients and prospects.
2. Trying to Sell Without Enough Conviction
You’ll hear me talk a lot about building conviction in this article, because nothing kills a sale faster than a lack of it. Prospects and clients take their lead from you. In psychological terms this is called transference, which is just a fancy way of saying if you don’t believe in what you do or what you’re selling, neither will your prospect or client.
You want your conviction to be so strong that if a prospect doesn’t sign on as a client, or someone says no to one of your recommendations, you feel sorry for them, not yourself. So how do you build that kind of conviction in who you are and what you’re selling?
You build conviction in yourself by consistently repeating the 10-second mental conditioning exercise outlined in #1 above. You build conviction in the recommendations you’re making with proper preparation. Will you be right 100% of the time? No but then, no one expects you to be.
What clients and prospects do expect, is that you take the time to understand them, their situation and their goals. They also expect you to have the expertise necessary to build, implement and monitor a plan to help them reach those goals. In other words, they want to feel taken care of by you. That’s all.
3. Being Hung Up on Fees in Your Own Mind
Typically, fees are a much bigger deal in the mind of the advisor than they are to the client. In fact, most clients have no idea how much they’re paying in fees. However, there is a direct correlation between the amount you’re charging, and how much value you believe you bring to the client. When you take the time to consider all you do for clients, you’ll start to feel much more comfortable with your fee structure.
No matter what you’re charging, you must believe you’re worth every penny. Should you ever waiver in the slightest on your value vs. your costs, make a list of everything you do for a client. Although, there are many things you do that the client may never see or be aware of, it’s extremely important that you always maintain perfect clarity on the value you bring to the table. Review this list often.
4. Never Ask When You Can Tell
Asking someone what they think at the end of a sales presentation, is not a close. People left to their own devices, prefer not to make decisions. In most cases, they would rather be told what to do or make no decision at all.
This is why I’m a firm believer in the power of the assumptive close. When using this approach, you simply assume they’re ready to take the next step and tell them what that next step is.
The assumptive close is not a hard sell. Remember you’re on a mission and have a higher purpose and part of that purpose is to protect the client or prospect from themselves.
After you go through your presentation and have answered their questions, you simply say, “So all we need to do to get this going for you is a signature here.” If they’re not ready, believe me, they’ll let you know.
One of the most common responses you’ll hear from a prospect is, “Let me think about it.” When advisors hear this response, in most cases, they acquiesce and ask when they can follow up again.
A better response would be, “I understand. I just want to be sure we’re both on the same page. You said X was very important to you, right?” This gets them to say yes which is always a good thing.
Your next question should be, “So what questions do you still have that I can answer for you?”
Keep in mind that some people just take longer to make decisions and really do want to think about it. However, the more common scenario is that the “I want to think about it” response is a stall tactic. Often, they use it because they don’t understand something or are embarrassed to ask a question they may feel is stupid. It then becomes your job to find out what their real questions are and get those answered.
If they do ask a question, after you’ve answered it, continue to ask what else you can answer for them. If it’s a couple and the husband has done all the talking and asking all the questions, be sure to ask the wife what questions you can answer for her. Acknowledging her and asking that one simple question could one day be the difference between keeping or losing the account, should anything happen to the husband. Always remember, it’s the little things that make a big difference to people.
Once you’ve gone through this question and answer session, they still may want to think about it. However, if you’ve identified and answered their real questions, you are far more likely to get the sale than if you just let them walk out the door and “think about it.”
5. Presenting Too Many Choices
We’ve already established that most people don’t like to make decisions because decisions represent change and humans in general, tend to be change-adverse. Given this a basic tent of human nature, one of the worst things you can do in a sales presentation is present the client or prospect with too many choices.
This is a very common mistake I see especially with advisors who are relatively new in the business. Certain doom awaits the advisor who presents a client or prospect with three or four investment choices and then painstakingly takes them through the pros and cons of each. A client or prospect in this situation immediately hits the overwhelm button and shuts down completely.
Unless someone specifically requests several recommendations, never present a client or prospect with more than two and only present the second if they’re adamantly opposed to the first. Your primary recommendation is primary for a reason and in most cases, it is your best recommendation.
6. Presenting Too Much Technical Detail
This sales mistake is closely related to #5 and is also common among advisors relatively new in the business. Unless you’re dealing with an engineer type who loves data, graphs and charts, you don’t need to explain every nuance of your recommendation. Trust me, your client or prospect will not think you’re any smarter if you do.
Know the person as well as you can, be crystal clear on their goals, timeframe and risk tolerance, do a plan for them, do your research and determine what you think is the simplest way to get them to their goals. Most people are only interested in these 5 things:
- What you’re recommending and the very basic “why” behind it?
- How will it help them to reach their goals?
- Why is it a good fit for them specifically?
- How much does it cost?
- What value are they getting vs. the cost they’re paying?
Virtually every question they have will be related to one of these five aspects of your recommendation. Stick with the basics. Never talk yourself out of a sale by overwhelming them with too much detail.
7. Selling Features & Not Benefits Without Realizing It
This is probably the most common mistake I see even among the most seasoned veterans. A common expression you hear in the business is, “Always sell the sizzle not the steak.”
Intellectually the meaning is clear. When selling anything, it’s critical that you focus on the benefits and not the features. However, it’s not always that easy to distinguish one from the other when you’re putting together a sales presentation.
Here’s a simple trick. When reviewing your presentation if you’re unsure as to whether your points are features or benefits, simply ask yourself, “How does this affect them?”
A common example of selling a feature instead of a benefit is something I hear at least once a week from advisors running through their presentations with me. An advisor explaining a particular investment or platform will often tell the client that this recommendation automatically gets rebalanced for them. That means absolutely nothing to the average person and is a definite feature.
Now ask yourself, how does this affect them? In this platform, your investments are automatically rebalanced to keep everything in line with the level of risk you’re comfortable with. So, should the market become more volatile, you can sleep at night knowing that your investments will stay in line with your specific risk tolerance.
Using the simple “How Does This Affect Them” test forces you into talking to your client or prospect in a way that’s most meaningful to them.
8. Not Having a Structured Drip System for Prospects Who Don’t Become Clients Immediately
You’ve probably heard me say it before but I’m going to say it again. I believe all advisors have a touch of ADD. In fact, I’ve actually dubbed it AADD, Advisor Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s just the nature of the advisor personality.
This condition is most problematic when it comes to business development. When an advisor gets a referral or a new prospect, they usually send an email, call them, they may send them something in the mail and even connect with them on LinkedIn.
However, if they don’t become a client relatively quickly, the advisor tends to lose interest. What may have been a great prospect falls through the cracks and the advisor is on to the next best idea. Have you ever stopped to think how many great prospects you may have had that never became clients for this very reason?
This is precisely why having a highly structured drip system is so important to your long-term growth and success. Although some prospects become clients immediately, far more often, it takes time and sometimes, a lot of time.
Calling a prospect when you happen to think about it is not a drip system. Ideally you want the drip system to be as automated as possible. This is one aspect of your business that you don’t want to have to think about.
I’m often asked by advisors if they can use a simple spreadsheet for their drip system. If your spreadsheet consists of a list of names that you glance at each day and wonder who you should call today, then the answer is no.
If you choose to use a spreadsheet, it should be far more structured. At the very least, it should consist of the prospect name, the date and nature of the last touch, notes about your last touch and the date of your next touch.
Although a spreadsheet may suffice, it’s far better to have some sort of automated system that at the press of a button will generate a list of people for you to call each day, with a place for you to put notes and schedule your next touch. If you’re diligent with this type of drip system, you will see fewer prospects fall through the cracks and far more become clients.
Over your career, any one of these 8 sales mistakes made consistently, could potentially cost you thousands of dollars. Now that you know what they are, be cautiously aware and do your best to avoid them. It could be one of the easiest paths you can take to a bigger paycheck in 2018.
And remember, if you’d like your Business Development efforts to be faster, more effective and more efficient in 2018, keep a close eye on your inbox over the next couple of weeks. I’m working behind the scenes on something that I’ve used with my clients, that can make a huge difference in an advisor’s business very quickly.