As a financial advisor, it is vital that you understand the art and science of sales.

What you are really selling is yourself: your knowledge, trust, service and personality.

And when you’re trying to land new clients, it’s not just what a prospect tells you that’s important, it’s also what he does not tell you. Without knowing it, prospects are communicating to you in subconscious ways.

When they answer a question with “no,” often their body and inflection are saying “yes” or “I need more information.” It’s the job of a good salesperson to pick up on these cues, know what they mean and, most important, know what to do with them.

Sales is about asking questions, listening and providing solutions. It is not convincing a prospect to buy a product that’s not needed or wanted. A good salesperson is never pushy, overbearing or cheesy.

Rather, a good salesperson should spend most of her time finding out what the prospect needs, wants, knows and has. It is about matching the prospect with the right product or service.

Most sales trainers will tell you to always ask for the order. Although I mostly agree with this, it is not always true.

There are many situations where it’s inappropriate to go for the close. Sometimes your trust with the prospect will be broken if you try to close the deal.

There are situations where there is not enough time because the prospect must leave suddenly. Or sometimes the prospect truly wants to think about the purchase before they commit. Pressuring them may get you the sale, but could kill your long-term trusting relationship.

If you enter every sales call with the right mind set it will result in more sales and better relationships. Don’t go into a call thinking, ‘I am going to close this sale.’ Rather, enter each sales call with these goals:

• Discovering what the prospect wants
• Discovering the prospect’s knowledge (product, competitors, industry, etc.)
• Discovering the prospects current situation (such as, do they work with an advisor already?)
• Educating the prospect & dispelling misinformation.

Real (bad) examples I used to hire advisors for the training program at one of the big wirehouses, and I had a very intensive interview process. I looked mostly for sales aptitude, because the hardest part of being a financial advisor is convincing a prospect to do business with you.

I was always surprised at the number of candidates who felt they were great salespeople, but were truly awful. And the majority of them had years of experience in sales.

Once they made it to the in-person interview I would ask them to sell me something. The rules were easy: they could sell me anything, ask me any questions and would have as much time as they needed.

While the rules were easy, the results were terrible. Most of them would think for 30 to 45 seconds and then just randomly pick a product they wished to sell me. They would usually ramble on for a few minutes about how great the product was.

After their pitch was completed (and they did all the talking) they would usually ask me for the order. Often they sat there with a proud smile on their face like they had successfully won the day.

I would usually just shake my head and politely end the interview. What should they have done differently? Well, going back to rule number 1 as a salesperson: find out what a prospect wants, needs, knows and has.

In all of the hundreds of interviews I conducted, I only had one candidate pitch me flawlessly.

He first asked me if there was anything I wanted or needed. I told him I needed a new picture frame for my office. He then spent about 10 minutes asking me questions such as size, shape, cost, urgency and material.

Next he spent another few minutes discovering what I knew about the frame market and how much research I had already done. I answered all of his questions in detail. I think he felt I was being too easy on him or trying to trick him. After he got the relevant information, he simply asked me to buy exactly what I had described I needed and didn’t have. Needless to say, he got the order and the job.

The average prospect does not know much about you and your product or service. In addition, the information they do have is often inaccurate.

But they do want to make informed decisions. Obviously, we will always have impulse buyers, but most people like to be more pragmatic when buying a product or service.

Most importantly, no prospect wants to feel they are being sold. They want more information on the pros and cons. If they buy, what is in it for them? How is this service better than the one they currently have?

Proper selling is the ability to fill those needs: educate, inform and close the business without the client ever feeling like they are being sold.

When a prospect says “no” to a product or service, what they are often saying is, “with the information you have provided me so far, I don’t see the benefit in buying your product or service now.”

Sometimes they just need better information to help them see the benefits of the product or service – and maybe the product is your advice.

Once you truly understand sales it becomes much easier to have success. Many of you reading this haven’t had any formal sales training and had to just figure it out on your own. Others were taught the wrong way by the wrong trainers.

There are many sales trainers whose methods primarily focus on the closing process. As a salesperson, most of your time should be spent on the discovery phase—finding out what the prospect needs, wants, knows and has.

Once you do this, it’s all about providing a solution to solve the prospects problems. Focus on the right things and more success will come.

Happy Hunting.

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