You can have all the technical and market skill in the world. But if people don’t trust you, you’re not going to open new accounts.
It’s just a fact of life in sales: If people don’t trust you, their defensive mechanisms are going to be up during the entire sales process. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you. At least that way, you get to face the trust issue head on. That might give you a fighting chance.
But more often than not, you’ll be met with polite silence, and the dreaded “we’ll give you a call if we decide to do anything.”
If you hear that, chances are you whiffed on the trust issue.
After all, if you had their trust, they’d be looking for ways to talk themselves into doing business with you!
In the old days, salespeople had a great chance of building personal rapport, and gaining trust to build on. We used to close tons of business at clients’ kitchen tables. When you’re in their homes, there are a lot of ways to make a personal connection. “Oh, you have that book! I love that book!”
But these days, with social distancing being the norm, it’s much more difficult for advisors to get in the same room with prospects. You don’t get to use something off of the prospect’s bookshelf to create a connection. The old ways of assessing trustworthiness – a firm handshake, eye contact, polished shoes, etc. — are out the window.
Networking events and mixers and similar events are fewer and farther between. We’ve now got to form most of our new connections on the phone and via a computer screen.
For those of you struggling with self-doubt, I bring good news:
It absolutely can be done.
Generations of salespeople have done loads of business using only the phone. I did it myself! I worked as a stockbroker for years. I had clients all over the country that I had never met – but who eagerly took my call. Because I had a personality, and I had a track record.
But to establish a track record with an individual client, you first have to establish trust, and form a personal connection.
Here’s how you can do it in today’s virtual world.
1. Let your personality show on social media.
Yes, it gives compliance officers fits. But you’ve got to find a way to do it. Post some humor once in a while. Post links to charitable events and causes – and your involvement in them. The more local, the better. Share interesting articles and useful information. Videos. Whatever. Every positive interaction your friends and followers have with your feed counts as a “touch.” And the more “touches” you have online, or via phone calls, emails and newsletters, the more favorably disposed the prospect is going to be when you go for that selling appointment.
2. Present yourself as an educator and coach, not as a salesperson.
Sure, the client knows you’re selling financial products and services. But that doesn’t mean you need to come across that way. Be generous with your knowledge. Go into the sales process with the heart of a teacher, and you’ll get more than your share.
3. Aim to make every prospect better off after every encounter – even if they don’t do business with you.
The people meeting with you are already giving you something that is very valuable: Their time. Provide value back. Help them solve a problem. Help them learn something new. Provide a resource they need. Get them a referral to someone who can help change their lives for the better.
If you provide real value in this way, and genuinely leave every client or prospect better off after they met with you, they’ll trust you on the next visit. If they don’t, you didn’t have a chance with them, anyway.
4. Keep your promises.
If you say you’re going to follow up, follow up. If you say you’re going to call, call. If you say you’re going to send a newsletter, send the newsletter. This does two things: It shows people that you are organized and capable. And it builds discipline and confidence.
It also does something else very important: It gives you a reason to follow up with a phone call. “Mr. Prospect, as promised, I sent you a copy of my newsletter five days ago. I’m just calling to make sure you got it.”
People want to know that you remember them as individuals. That they aren’t just another entry on your business development spreadsheet. If you’re a well-read advisor and keeping up with current events (you are doing that, aren’t you?), here’s a great way to cement a personal connection early on:
Send them an old copy of a newsletter or magazine, with an article specifically addressing one of their main individual concerns.
Sure, lots of people do that.
But try this: Do it by snail mail, and send it in a hand-written envelope. Preferably a large manila envelope. One that isn’t going to get lost in a sea of bills on the kitchen table.
- Enclose the magazine.
- Put a hand-written sticky note: “Dear John and Linda – great to speak with you last week! Was thinking of you both. See page 2. Have a great day!”
- Follow up by email or phone.
6. Invest in “thank you” cards.
Hear me now and believe me later: On an ROI basis, a stack of “thank you” cards and the stamps you use to mail them is going to be the greatest investment you will ever make.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Go to Walmart. When I was young and broke, I remember simply buying a stack of ordinary index cards. I’d write my thank you notes on them, and mail them every night, right after every appointment.
Everybody who met with me, or who took my call got a thank you note.
Once I started doing that, I didn’t stay broke for long.
I made more money with those within a month of sending them than with any other single investment.
It’s simple, but it works.
How many other salespeople do that, in any industry? Just this one thing can set you apart from everyone else.
As with everything else, you have to systematize these practices. Build them into your sales processes and your schedule. Have your personal assistant help you with some of the details. But do the handwritten thank you notes yourself.
Work hard, stay humble, and make those calls you’ve been afraid to make!