Most of us like dealing with others who we feel are competent.

Whether we are buying a home, having our taxes prepared or buying a vacuum cleaner, it gives us peace of mind to deal with an expert.

Who hasn’t talked to a salesman who could not answer our questions adequately? Or walked away from a supposed professional more confused than before?

On the other hand, sometimes we unexpectedly find an expert who seems to know everything about our problem, whatever it is.  They ask pertinent questions and maybe even show us different ways to approach the problem and the pros and cons of each.

And sometimes, a situation seems to fall between those two extremes.

A salesperson actually knows the answer, but they can’t convey it or choose not to take the time to educate a prospective customer.

Make no mistake: Just being an expert is not enough. You have to demonstrate that knowledge or else it ultimately does no good.

I oversee the Rummage Group and we emphasize how advisors can convey a sense of expertise.

Whether you are a sales associate in a department store or a financial advisor, this idea applies: you should demonstrate your expertise and educate your client.

Indeed, how do your clients know your in-depth knowledge of the economy, markets, trade, international affairs and financial planning unless you show them?

Most advisors understand they are not paid to beat market averages.  But there are several common traits clients are looking for in an advisor:  an expert who thoroughly understands the markets and financial planning; an advisor who can create a financial plan and who will review it with them at least once a year;  someone who is trustworthy, likable and compassionate; and someone who can give good customer service.

The world is filled with discount firms that are happy to let the clients make their own decisions. And the clients do it because no advisor has ever proven to them that they need an expert.  Some certainly have met with full-service advisors, but walked away feeling they could do it better on their own.

In the end, a lot of great prospects end up doing business at these firms and make their own investment decisions.

However, any smart advisor knows this is a bad situation for those prospective clients. If left to make their own decisions, they often make rookie mistakes which cost them far more than the commissions and fees they would have paid to an expert for advice. These clients are essentially doing the equivalent of stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

What are some steps a financial advisor can take to win a prospect over in every meeting?  It starts with first dazzling them with your thorough understanding of finance and planning.

This does not mean you should go on a 30-minute rant about everything you know. What it means is taking  the opportunity to illustrate that your knowledge on the pertinent issues is greater than theirs. That’s it. That will begin to make the prospect feel you are indispensable.

Drawing from my own experience, when I was a financial advisor I used to do public speaking and seminars. And I remember one example—a bit extreme, perhaps—that really proves my point.

There was a group of millionaires that consisted of about 30 successful business owners and professionals.  They met each month for social and professional reasons. Each time they met, they would have a speaker come in to discuss various topics. I was invited to talk about investments.  At the time I was only 26 years old, and I remember walking in the room and realizing that I was by far the youngest person there.

The others were middle-aged men and I knew I had to do well with my presentation if I wanted a chance to  win any new business. I had the feeling that they were all staring at me and thinking, “What can this kid tell us that we don’t already know.”

I had a presentation that covered many aspects of investments, economics and markets. Right away the ringleader started interrupting and challenging me on the merits of certain aspects of my presentation. After the third time, I knew what I had to do.  It was time to prove to the audience that I knew more (much more) than their ringleader knew. So I turned the tables and started tossing questions his way—in a polite way, of course.

I started using some jargon terms and asking questions that I figured he wouldn’t understand. Within 10 minutes the audience started to turn on him and told him to stop interrupting.

At the end of the presentation I got a rousing round of applause and, more important, several of them came up afterward to tell me how much they liked the presentation and how impressed they were with my understanding of the subject. (One man said he had never seen anyone put the ringleader in his place before.)

Better than all that, I won a few new clients that day. And it was all because I proved to the audience my expertise could benefit them greatly.

KNOW WHAT THEY KNOW

In any new meeting with a prospect an advisor should first learn what the client already knows. And then, what they need and want.

Ask them questions about why they have made their financial decisions.  Act like a good attorney building a strong case. Prove their knowledge base is insufficient—in a delicate way, of course.

If a client is proud to tell you they just recently bought a stock, ask about the stock’s growth rate and P/E ratio. Ask how much debt the company currently has. And who is the CEO.

If your prospect can’t answer those questions, it may indicate to them that they can use your help.

This same principal can apply to any investment they currently have.  Most clients can’t tell you much about their past financial decisions or why they made them. If they can’t answer your questions, it can help make you the indispensable expert.

Remember the old expression that knowledge is power, and start providing it to your prospects and clients.

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