In the last blog we spoke about the vortex of emotions your prospect is feeling when they sit across from you for the first time. You may recall I said that, as your prospect, I feel exposed, insecure, sceptical, anxious, and threatened. This is by no means an easy start to our relationship. Think of this dilemma from my point of view: As your prospect my concern is how to determine with which financial adviser I want to have a relationship with? You may think that the answer is contained in the promises you make. But remember that I am suspicious and I think that “talk is cheap”. In his article “How Clients Choose”, David Maister provides a couple of pointers to winning me over.
1. Build rapport
Remember that I am suspicious of your motives so your first job us to get me to feel comfortable. Building rapport is basically about getting on with the other person. It’s one of the key interpersonal skills that professionals overlook. Without building rapport the basic goals of selling, influencing, guiding and managing are much more difficult to achieve. Rapport is characterized by a close and harmonious relationship, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity. Look for ways to build commonality such as people you know, schools you went to, former employers, where you live, and the age of your children, shared interests, and hobbies. Take the time to enter the world of the person. People don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care. The person really wants to know that you care about their issues. Match the body language, posture, gesture, and breathing rhythm, tone, tempo, inflection, and volume of a person’s voice, sentence length, energy, and emotional tone. Remember and use their name and be friendly and approachable.
2. Ask questions and listen actively
Ask meaningful and relevant questions and actively listening to the responses. As a rule active listening means talk less and more listening. Don’t interrupt. Maintain eye contact and concentrate on the other person (don’t look around the room) while he is speaking. Make the person feel like he is the centre of attention and the centre of your focus. Don’t act interested, be interested. In the words of David Maister: “If you want me as a client, the best way is to find out what I want, and show me how to get it.”
3. Display sensitivity
Treat me as a person, not just a client. You don’t have to wine and dine me or try to become my friend but I do want you to be sensitive to the fact that I am a person. The first thing that will put me off is if you are patronising or condescending to me. Avoid creating a sense that you are judging me and reassure me that I have made some progress. Avoid coming across as critical and be sensitive about how you speak about your clients. The way you talk about your clients gives me clues as to how you will treat me. Make our meeting a conversation.
4. Provide an education
Be helpful to me right from the beginning. Give me new ideas and suggestions, without pressuring me. If I’m your prospect, treat me as if I were already a client. Tell me about ways the common financial planning problems can be dealt with. Help me understand the advantages and disadvantages of some of the things I have been reading about. Tell me something I didn’t know. If I walk away from the meeting saying “That was interesting, I hadn’t thought of that” you’ve won.
5. Build the relationship
Make your objective one of making progress in our relationship. Avoid being over-eager to impress and spend the whole meeting talking about you or your accomplishments. This will come across as insensitive and reflect no special interest in me. I do not want to hear about you and your firm. I want to talk about me and my situation. I want you to prove that you can listen, by picking up on my comments.
6. Earn the right to solve my problems
Earn the right to be critical. You should keep any criticisms to yourself at our first meeting. It is never a good idea to tell someone at the first meeting that their “baby is ugly.” Similarly don’t start telling me how you can solve my problems until I have acknowledged that there is a problem. The key talent in good selling is being good at getting me, the client, to reveal my problems, needs, wants and concerns. If I’m talking, telling you about my needs, you’re ahead.
7. Avoid pressure selling & closing techniques
This is true for every stage of the process but especially so at the first meeting we have together. Remember this – I hate to be sold, but I may be willing to buy. If you try to rush me, I’ll take it as a sign that you are more interested in making a sale than in helping me. More than likely I am going to consult before I make a decision. So give me reasons and reasoning I can use when I consult with my partner.
The first time we meet is an opportune time for you to acknowledge that I may be feeling exposed, insecure, sceptical, anxious, and threatened. This is also your opportunity to win me over by demonstrating through your actions and the things you say that I am safe by placing my affairs in your hands and that you will treat me and my finances with respect and empathy. As your prospect I am looking for that rare professional who has both technical skill and a sincere desire to be helpful, to work with both me and my problem. The key is empathy and the ability to enter my world and see it through my eyes.