Many financial advisors don’t like to be thought of as salespeople. In fact, they despise it. In part because they work hard at earning the distinction of being an “advisor.” Also, the public has been conditioned to avoid salespeople masquerading as financial advisors. But in reality, anyone in the business of building a clientele and offering services has to be able to sell.
To convert prospects into clients, advisors must sell themselves and then their solution. To make money, they must get their prospects and clients to act on their solution, which requires sales skills. Most advisors understand that, but their greatest fear is coming across as a salesperson or sounding too “salesy.”
If that is your fear, let me put your mind at ease. First, it’s important to understand what it means to be “salesy.” That term is generally applied to a high-pressure approach that makes prospects uncomfortable. People don’t want to deal with salespeople who are pushy and don’t listen to them.
That’s not you.
You can’t be “Salesy” if you master your soft skills
Also, the best salespeople are business professionals who have mastered communication skills—the soft skills we constantly talk about here. When we’re talking about soft skills, it’s more about persuading than selling, even for effective sales professionals. Financial advisors who can’t convince prospects to commit to them or act on their solutions aren’t long for the business. So, developing and mastering critical soft skills is imperative for financial advisors.
In the consumer world, salespeople are selling tangible products. In the financial advisory world, advisors must sell the relationship, which requires a personal connection and trust, which is where soft skills come in.
Here are a few critical softs skills to master the art of persuasion.
#1. Listen proactively
“Salesy” salespeople are more focused on talking about their products than listening to their prospects. There’s no opportunity to build a connection and, more importantly, trust. That can only happen when you listen proactively to your prospects to clearly demonstrate that you hear what they are saying.
Proactive listening starts with letting your prospect do most of the talking while giving them your undivided attention. The proactive part is encouraging your prospect to delve deeper, asking open-ended questions to draw them out to reveal more about themselves. All that requires is nodding when appropriate and asking them to expand on their thoughts, as in “That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?”
Finally, you demonstrate that you heard them by playing back your understanding of what they said, such as, “If I understand what you are saying, [replay what they told you]. Do I have that right?” When prospects recognize that you have heard them and you validate what they are saying, they become more drawn to you.
#2. Demonstrate genuine empathy
The quickest path to building a personal connection and laying the foundation for trust is displaying genuine empathy. But empathy can’t be genuine if you don’t listen proactively. When prospects know that you have heard them and are sincerely interested in their concerns, they become more open to a personal connection.
Empathy is best demonstrated through storytelling. People enjoy well-told stories, especially if they are relatable to their situations. While your stories should be about you—such as “Why I do what I do” or “Who I’ve helped,” they should be tailored to your prospects’ needs and concerns. You should have a repertoire of well-crafted and practiced stories to fit your prospects’ circumstances.
#3. Getting to “Why”
Most people make big purchasing decisions based on their emotions—based on how it will make them feel choosing a particular car or house or financial advisor over another. Emotions are the motivating factors that drive people to take action. Absent an obvious motivating factor, people are more likely to dawdle on a decision or decline to make one.
Generally, financial advisors are proficient at discovering what’s important to a prospect. But just because something is important to them doesn’t necessarily mean they will act on it. Advisors need to use their proactive listening skills to dig deeper into the “why,” as in, “Why is that important to you?” When you learn the “why,” you are closer to finding their motivating factor.
The next step is to get them to express their motivating factor by asking something like, “How would that make you feel if you were able to achieve that?” With a bit of probing (proactive listening), they will tell you what will motivate them to act—i.e., peace of mind, self-fulfillment, realizing a life ambition, etc.
That’s what they want to buy—not a product but how the product or solution will make them feel—so that’s what you should offer, incorporating their motivating factor when presenting your solution.
By mastering these soft skills, you are more likely to forge a trust-building connection that will lead to an enduring relationship. That’s what you’re selling, and it’s what prospects want to buy.