How to Go From Product Peddler to Professional As a Financial Advisor

According to Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling, one of the hardest things for many traditional salespeople to do is stop acting like a seller and instead sees the world from the buyer’s perspective. Now, this doesn’t mean trying to manipulate the buyer by seeing things from their point of view. What it means is a shift in perspective. It means abandoning the old views of buyer vs. seller and in its place; you must share the buyer’s concerns. It means shifting your thinking in two respects.

* Shift from persuading to understanding

* Shift from a product focus to a buyer focus

Top salespeople see the world from the buyer’s point of view. This helps them understand the needs of the buyer. So instead of worrying about persuading, they seek to understand. This leads to a natural tendency to ask more questions thereby uncovering more needs. As a result, the top salespeople don’t talk prematurely about product. Their clients see them as sincere which breaks down many of the walls we face when trying to persuade clients before understanding their situation.

Think of a bridge that connects products to consumers. You are that bridge. As a result, you have to understand both — product and customer. Which end is the most important?

* Most salespeople are more comfortable and proficient at understanding their products than at understanding buyers.

* Very successful salespeople have adequate product knowledge, but superior knowledge of customers.

* Salespeople with the highest product knowledge don’t make the most sales.

* If forced to make a choice, buyers are more likely to deal with those who best understand their needs than with those who best understand products or services.

How do you achieve a better understanding of your clients?

* Keep up with business and industry trends that affect your clients.

* Read current business journals as well as product manuals.

* Have a real curiosity about what’s going on inside the buyer’s world and ask a lot of questions about changes in their lives as well as their hopes and dreams.

From Chapter 12 of SPIN Selling, “Sharpening Your Skills”

“Why do we never get an answer when we’re knocking at the door? – The Moody Blues

It could be because we are knocking on the wrong door. Or are we knocking too loudly? SPIN is an acronym for a type of questioning/profiling used by top salespeople. S stands for “Situation”; P for “Problem”; I for “Implication” and N for “Need-payoff.

First let’s take a look at “Situation” questions. These are the type of questions that are essential early in the sales process. If you are meeting the prospect for the first time, you obviously need together data. These are also the type of questions that most new salespeople feel comfortable using. They are typically non-threatening to the client, but there are some risks associated with a “laundry list” approach to profiling with such questions as, where do you work? Do you own a home? Do you have a checking account? The problem with this “checklist” style of questioning is that the prospect will become bored if you ask too many. The thing that separates the successful salesperson from the rest of the pack is how they listen to the answers to these questions and the way they limit the number of questions at a given time. As they gather information they move in the direction of a perceived problem.

If your client or prospect can’t understand the reasons behind the questions you are asking they will quickly grow bored and the likelihood of a sale or cross-sell opportunity quickly dies. Let’s look at the difference between Situation questions and Problem questions.

Situation Questions

Problem Questions

Do you have an investment account?

Have you been satisfied with the performance of your investments?

Do you have a checking account at another bank?

What checking account features does your other bank offer that keeps your business?

Do you own a home?

Are you satisfied with the rate on your home loan?

Are you interested in looking at alternatives to your CD?

What is the purpose of the funds in your CD account? Is it long-term or short-term?

Where are you employed? How long have you been there?

Does your employer offer a 401(k) or other retirement plan?

As you can see, the Situation questions will gather the facts. The Problem questions can gather the same type of information but move you into a relationship mode where the prospect sees you as a problem solver.

“One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

By now we should have a clear picture of how to uncover our clients’ problems by asking questions in a manner that will reveal them. As difficult as it may be at times, we also discovered that we shouldn’t offer solutions until we know what the problem is. This is accomplished through a combination of Situation questions and Problem questions. We can then develop the client’s need with Implication and Need-Payoff questions. If we employ this strategy with all of our clients then we should hear significantly fewer objections and close more sales.

If you find that you are hearing more objections than you like, there’s a good chance that you are offering solutions before you uncover the problem. Many times we are the ones causing all of the objections. A recent television commercial for a health care provider discussed the phenomena referred to as “the real purpose of the visit” or RPV. Doctors have to ask a lot of questions to uncover the RPV because patients just like clients and prospects will reluctantly give up the real problem they need help with. Just as a doctor could be liable for malpractice if he/she prescribes a medication without understanding the problem so can a financial advisor for offering a solution before understanding the need.

Think about the typical CD customer. Given the low interest rate environment we are experiencing it may seem surprising that more of our members with CDs are not flocking into the branches to meet with our Financial Consultants to take advantage of better investment alternatives. So when you call them in the course of your Block Time during the day you probably come away frustrated at their resistance to your great ideas.

Keep in mind; you are not going to sell anything over the phone. Your goal is to get an appointment. When it comes to people and their money they want to have a trusting relationship with the person giving them financial advice. So if you have not uncovered a need, you are not going to get an appointment. And let’s be realistic, there are some CD customers who just won’t budge in spite of the great job that you do. Let’s look at two ways to avoid unnecessary objections.

1. Objections early in the call. The research done by Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling, shows that customers usually do not object to questions unless you become rude or otherwise offensive. Most of the time objections arise from solutions that don’t fit the member’s needs. If you find that you are getting a lot of objections early in the call it means that instead of asking questions you have been offering solutions and features. Try to keep from offering solutions until you uncover the real need.

2. Objections about value. If your members don’t perceive the value of what you are suggesting then you will get objections. It’s a sign that you are not developing the need strongly enough. For example, the CD customer raises the concern about NCUA insurance. You immediately launch into a discussion about how their $300,000 won’t be 100{a16d06abe49b7cb280a391e2908a1c67db5c20e235c835a9ae172b47b18e1709} insured anyway and the NCUA could go out of business just like any insurance company. You tell them the fixed annuity is safe and pays more interest than their CD, blah, blah, blah. You notice that your prospect is even more determined and throws out a number of objections and you find your sale slipping away. What the member is really telling you is that you have not demonstrated value with your proposed solution. Their concern is safety because they need that money for long-term care.

A better approach would be to confirm their concern about safety. Then proceed to uncover the need for that CD money (long-term care) and discuss how your solution addresses both needs by demonstrating how your proposed solution addresses both needs. Cut down on the use of features and concentrate on the use of Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff questions.

Four Stages of a Sales Call

1. Obtaining Commitment starts before the discussion, by setting objectives that will lead to a realistic commitment.

2. Obtaining Commitment is easiest if you’ve developed strong needs in the Investigating stage and have demonstrated the capability to meet them

3. Obtaining Commitment has three steps:

* Check that you’ve addressed key concerns

* Summarize the benefits

* Propose a realistic commitment

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