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"So, What's Going on in the Markets?"

How you answer this seemingly innocuous question can make or break a client relationship.

I've spoken with countless young advisors over the years, and many of them tell me some variation of the same thing: If someone asks ‘What’s going on in the markets?’ I’m going to share with them exactly what I know.”   

This approach is a classic mistake in the art of selling your practice to the affluent. These advisors are understandably looking for opportunities to display their smarts, and in particular, their knowledge about the markets. Unfortunately, today’s affluent aren’t so easily impressed. Nobody likes being around a know-it-all, a braggart or someone who talks too much.

What continues to amaze us is how straightforward and fundamental critical sales abilities are, and how rarely they are properly taught and coached. The majority of these talents are common interpersonal skills like asking questions and listening. 

When giving someone “air time” in conversation, they’ll often provide you with windows of opportunity to sell your services. For that reason, it’s important to keep your antenna tuned in for sales opportunities at all times. That said, your sales attempts should not be painfully obvious to those you are prospecting. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

1. Connect Emotionally -- This is, without a doubt, the most important sales skill to develop. Being able to emotionally connect is an ability that any financial advisor can achieve if they put in the right effort. It all comes down to genuinely caring about the other person's life and connecting with them on that level. It’s here where empathy and rapport building play a critical role. 

2. Humility -- Learning how to put your ego aside and get people to talk about themselves is a skill that will give insight into who they really are -- their needs, wants and concerns. Not only does this knowledge provide you with windows of opportunity, you’ll also have a better understanding of when and how to offer your services. Conversation is a give-and-take situation, and in this case, giving is much more lucrative. 

3. Ask Questions -- A person skilled at asking open-ended questions will control most, if not all, conversations.  As such, a financial advisor needs a prepared arsenal of questions they can ask in a conversational, personal and professional manner in order to successfully guide their client interactions. However, quality is more important than quantity in this situation. We've all been irritated by the individual who asks too many questions, as if you're being interrogated or someone is being overly nosy. Asking a lot of questions isn’t enough to effectively communicate with your client. 

4. Listen & Ask Follow-up Questions -- A skilled questioner is also a skilled listener. Listening to the response of any open-ended question will always eventually provide an opportunity for a comment and then to ask a follow-up question. This is a wonderful thing as it indicates that you’re listening, you’re interested in what your client has to say and you want to hear more.  

5. Be Conversational & Concise - Every word that comes out of your mouth should be conversational in tone. This approach puts people at ease, generates trust and allows for more insight into the person you’re having a discussion with. Again, demonstrating how much you know about a given issue by talking too much is a sales turn-off and a common mistake. This tip may sound obvious, but striving to be both conversational requires both self-awareness and practice on your part. Take notice of other financial advisors and you’ll discover that this isn’t the norm. 

6. Exude Relaxed Confidence -- A constant within every personal interaction is an energy transference. Everyone has heard of the terms positive energy and negative energy.  We’ve all been around people that made us feel uncomfortable (negative energy) and people who make us feel comfortable (positive energy). The best way to ensure that you’re consistently transferring positive energy in conversation is to develop the skill of relaxed confidence. To do so first requires learning how to be comfortable being yourself. If you find difficulty in staying relaxed, it helps to learn how to use diaphragmatic breathing to settle any nervous energy, and to understand how body language impacts both your energy and your presence.       

7. Answer Questions Without Showing Off -- Questions are a two-way street. Yes, you’ll control most conversations by mastering the skill of asking questions, listening and asking follow-up questions. That said, you need to be prepared to answer questions coming your way without trying to showcase your knowledge or becoming defensive. 

Let’s take the proverbial “What’s going on in the markets?” which many young advisors see as an opportunity to showcase their knowledge. Good sales skills will enable you to answer that question succinctly and create a window of opportunity for what we refer to as a mini-close -- 

“We’re seeing ____ right now in the markets.”  Then redirect -- “Here’s what we’re focused on with our clients.”  Pause and then mini-close -- “Maybe you and I should be having those conversations as well. Would you be open to talking with us?”

The sales skills I've mentioned above all come together in directly and concisely answering a professional question, redirecting the conversation and then mini-closing for a professional meeting.   




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