If you are in sales, your agenda is simple: You want to make a sale. When you meet a prospect, that's the agenda foremost in your mind. The research I did for my new book, The Smartest Sales Book You'll Ever Read, persuaded me the way I was approaching my goal is completely wrong. While this advice has special relevance to those in the investment advisory business, it's applicable to all sales situations, whether you are selling mutual funds or dishwashers.
Our designation as “advisors” sets us up poorly. “Advisor” means giving advice. We have knowledge and we want to convey it. It seems obvious our prospects will sit passively and listen. The financial services industry emphasizes improving investment expertise, presumably so we will have more and better information to present. There’s no shortage of information, because the industry keeps turning out more specialized and complex products.
Presentation tools like PowerPoint or a whiteboard permit us to deluge our prospect with a dizzying array of charts, graphs, and risk and return data. How could anyone fail to be impressed?
Here’s the stark reality: This is precisely the type of presentation that consigns you to a far lower close rate than you deserve. As part of my research, I asked a group of women about their experiences interviewing investment advisors. Almost all of them had some variation of this reaction: “They never shut up and had no clue what I was about.” I asked one woman who expressed these views how she felt during these presentations. I will never forget her response: “Like they were throwing up all over me.”
Here's my advice:
Ditch your agenda. It's killing your real agenda, which is to get the sale. Replace your agenda with a new one. You want to to get to know your prospect as a person and establish a relationship of trust and confidence. When I am coaching sales teams, I tell them that if any statement they initiate at the first meeting with a prospect ends in a period, instead of a question mark, they have failed.
Try it. You will be amazed at the difference in the tone of the meeting. I would love to get your feedback.