The Soft Sell: Establishing Yourself as the Alternative

Sales is often thought to have a lot in common with “Conan the Barbarian.” You pick up a prospect, hit them in the head with an axe, toss them aside and grab the next one. Relationships have a winner and a loser. Think “Glengarry, Glen Ross.” The vast majority of advisors think “I don’t want to do that!” Here’s a kinder, gentler alternative.

Establishing Yourself as the Alternative

Let’s look at a soft sell approach with a long timeframe. Because you need to put points on the scoreboard, you need to deploy it many, many times. You also need to follow up by tactfully staying on the radar.Inertia is powerful. It keeps many people with their financial advisor, even if they aren’t doing a good job. They consider it a hassle to switch. In your own life, consider the effort it takes to change wireless providers. When was the last time you shopped around for homeowner or auto insurance, looking for a better deal?Your new strategy is to establish yourself as the alternative. When you watch courtroom dramas, the plot usually involves the prosecution laying out their case, followed by the defense positioning an alternative explanation of what happened. Their object is to create reasonable doubt, swaying the jury in their favor.Most people you consider potential clients already have a financial advisor. This becomes evident when you are asked the party icebreaker question, “What do you do?” As soon as the words leave your mouth they counter with “I already have an advisor.”

Strategy One:

Wait until they finish saying “I already have a financial advisor.” Now it’s your turn. “I’m sure you are very happy with your current advisor. Here’s my card. If anything ever changes, please give me a call.” Change the subject. Logic:Circumstances change. You are planting seeds.Related: HNW Networking: The Perils of Keep Up With the Jones’s

Strategy Two:

Many people assume one financial advisor is enough. They have one accountant, one barber and one auto mechanic. (Somehow, they forget how many doctors they have!) When they say: “I already have a financial advisor”, reply: “I expected that. Successful people usually work with multiple advisors. You’re obviously successful. How many do you have?” Logic:You’ve aligned “being successful” with having multiple advisors.

Strategy Three:

Head them off at the pass, as they say in the old Westerns. When asked “What do you do?” answer, “I’m a financial advisor with (firm). You probably work with an advisor already.” You’ve taken the words out of their mouth. Logic:This gives you a little extra time to say more or to offer your card.

Strategy Four:

A Texas advisor met lots of people when playing golf. He would be randomly teamed up with other club members. His golf bag had a luggage tag featuring the firm logo. Someone would notice and remark: “You’re with (firm). My advisor is with (other firm).” The advisor acknowledge that’s a fine firm. His next question is “How long have you worked together?” This gets them talking. This is followed by: “What do you like best about your advisor? Would you recommend them?” If they wouldn’t recommend them he asks: “Why do you stay with them?” If they like their advisor he asks: “In what areas do you think there’s room for improvement?” Logic:When people tell you what they aren’t getting in a relationship, they are really saying “This is what I want.”Related: The Ten Commandments of Closing

Strategy Five:

One of your college friends is an accountant. You see each other often and feel they would be a good source of referrals. You are unsure how to bring business into this social relationship. Try the following: Over drinks, ask: “What do you think about financial advisors?” Chances are, they will have a negative experience to relate that has made them cautious. It might be the advisor is a heavy trader, not mindful of the capital gain implications. When the client owes taxes as a result, the accountant must deliver the bad news. You can restate what they said in a positive light: “So, if we ever shared a client, you would want…” Logic:You’ve introduced the idea of working with the same client. You also communicated: “I wouldn’t do the action that caused you so much trouble.”

Strategy Six:

Advisors like referrals, yet friends are often hesitant because of perceived liability. If they make the introduction and something goes wrong, the friend is seen as part of how they got connected with the new advisor. Try to get them looking for someone with a problem relating to investments or their advisor. When people have a problem, they complain. It’s human nature to want to help. By bringing up your name, you are positioned as an alternative who might be able to make the problem go away. “You can’t ever reach your advisor? You should talk with my advisor. I bet she would return your call.” Logic:You are established as an alternative provider of the same service. The referral risk is lessened because the other person has a problem, not fresh money.

When the Call Comes

Here’s the cool thing about establishing yourself as the alternative: The potential client isn’t leaving their current advisor and stepping into the unknown. They are reaching out to you, a known quantity. You will take care of all the details. Most people like “One and done” solutions.When they call, you must immediately spring into action. They might be really upset with their advisor. You need to be on their doorstep with transfer paperwork ready for signature. They don’t want a callback in a few days. They are ready to take action and want to see this problem in their rear view mirror.