4 ways advisers can improve their sales skills

By Morningstar |  26-12-16 | 

It was 1982. I was fresh out of college with a double major in Economics and English Communications, and I wanted to be a stock broker. A friend introduced me to the manager of a regional financial services firm for an interview. During that interview, my job description became clear. I would need to pass the Series 7 and learn how to cold call. I knew I was hired as a sales person and my job was to sell.

My sales training consisted of six words: See More / Tell More / Sell More.

I got to the office early and cold called people all day long. I was proud of my work, and I loved telling people what I did for a living. The business model was simple: The more people I called, the more money I made. Each month our commission revenues were posted on a bulletin board, making me highly motivated to improve my sales skills. I read books explaining how to sell, improved my communication skills, practiced public speaking, and became more involved in the community.

I learned that great salespeople have a great story to tell. They are passionate, contagious, and highly persuasive. Salespeople understand they must sell their ideas, products, and services, and they must sell using ideas that are simple, straightforward, helpful, memorable, and valuable.

Follow the principles below to instill potential clients with confident assurance that you can assist with achieving their financial goals.

1) Know what you are selling

What do you sell? Ford sells cars, Apple sells computers, and Nike sells cool shoes. These companies sell tangible products that solve specific problems for qualified prospects.

I drive a Ford because my old car had 191,000 miles on it, and I wanted to buy a hybrid car. I purchased an Apple MacBook Air because I wanted a lightweight computer. And I bought Nike shoes because I work out with a physical trainer two days a week, and I wanted to wear cool shoes.

I did not buy a concept; I bought a product. I bought a car, a computer, and a pair of cool shoes.

Do you know what you sell?

I am not talking about creating a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) about why prospective clients should do business with you, or how a prospective client can benefit from the services you provide. And I am not talking about a list of the products and services your broker-dealer sells.

I want to know if you have a written list of products you sell. Do you sell:

1) Comprehensive Financial Plans 2) Fee-Based Mutual Fund Portfolios 3) Annuities 4) Life Insurance

The first step in selling is knowing what you sell.

2) Don't assume people know anything about what a financial adviser does

I recently spoke to someone who has had a financial adviser for over 20 years and literally the only thing he thought an adviser could do for him is help manage a stock portfolio.

If you have been in this industry for a while, it's easy to lose sight of just how much you know and do that the average person doesn't have a clue about. Some call it the curse of knowledge. To remove the curse, talk to some friends who don't have a financial adviser and ask them what they think a financial adviser does. You need to understand the gap between a potential client's perception and the reality of your services to be able to effectively sell.

3) Define your target market

Who can you most help?

Where and how can you connect with these clients?

What are the financial concerns that keep them awake at night?

What are the concerns they should be aware of but are not?

One of the biggest reasons people don't buy from a salesperson is that the potential client doesn't feel the salesperson understands their needs or struggles. You need to be able to speak directly to the needs and concerns of your target market so they believe you truly understand their struggles before they will believe you can help them.

4) Ask for the business

What is the next logical step you could take to do business with a potential client? The next logical step is for you to ask the prospective client to do business with you.

Every good salesperson ends a conversation with a call to action. Sample calls to action might include: "I would like to tell you more about what I do. Are you free for coffee next Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.?” Or, “I read in the paper you sold your company for $15 million. I am sure you will be making a lot of financial decisions in the next year. Are we able to meet at your office Thursday at 1:30 p.m.?”

The bottom line is, make sure you finish your first encounter with the opportunity to continue the conversation and increase the client relationship.

Conclusion: Be Unapologetic About the Products, Services, and Benefits You Offer.

You are an expert, and you have valuable services. For example, your financial advice may make the difference between whether a client is properly insured when a crisis hits or not. You may make a difference between whether a client is prepared to retire or must work longer than they want to. You may help a client save thousands of dollars by presenting various mortgage options. And yet, despite the potential to positively impact people's lives, financial advisers often approach potential clients with hesitancy.

Be confident of the benefit you can make in a client's life rather than dancing around it.

This post was written by Allen Good, senior stock analyst at Morningstar covering the oil and gas industries. It initially appeared on the Morningstar Advisor website. 

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