Learning from Little Johnny: Kindergarten Sales Skills

Learning from Little Johnny: Kindergarten Sales Skills

The Inner Game

The other day it dawned on me that financial advisors are making too much of the sales aspect of their job. Now don't get me wrong; mastering the art of affluent sales is one of the most important skills an advisor needs. However, the mastery of this skill isn't as otherworldly as many would have advisors believe.

Recently I was in a situation that had me observing a young child interacting with his mother. The crux of it was that “little Johnny” wanted a particular game he saw advertised on television. Reflect on your own children or grandchildren and you will easily relate. When they want something and set their mind on having it, without one bit of sales training they go into their sales pitch.

I'm not certain of his exact age, but from my vantage point “little Johnny” looked like a kindergartener. And talk about buying into a goal! This kid was all over it — he wanted this game, and he was bound and determined to convince his mother to his way of thinking.

For the purposes of this column, I thought it might be helpful to break down the child's sales process in a manner that creates a context for financial advisors' sales success:

  • Goal

    You need a target, an objective, something that you want with your heart and soul. This might appear obvious, but how many advisors are as committed to bringing in 15 new affluent clients in 2012 as “little Johnny” was to getting his game? Not many.

  • Desire

    You must buy into your goal with your heart and soul. In other words, minus the kindergarten-class tantrum, your desire needs to be so strong that you're operating as though your professional life depended upon achieving this objective.

    “Little Johnny's” desire was etched into every aspect of his being. Body language, facial expression, even the continual tugging on his mother's pants. There was no questioning his desire to have this particular game.

  • Persistence

    We've all heard that old cliché, “If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again.” Well, welcome to the mindset of a child who really wants something. There is no ego interference, no embarrassment associated with hearing the word “No!” And you can rest assured, those casual brush-off lines — “Maybe,” “We'll see,” “Not now,” “Let me think about it” — are all interpreted in that young, fertile mind as, “Yes!”

    Imagine the rainmaking results financial advisors would enjoy with a similar attitude: “Mr. Big is going to become a client this year. Just because he can't meet me for a drink tonight, this type of brush-off is getting me one step closer to turning him into a client.”

  • Creativity

    Many are familiar with Einstein's definition of insanity: “Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.” Very few children fit this definition. Why? Because in their persistence, if their direct approach isn't working, they change tactics and get creative. “Mom, I'll eat all my vegetables.” “I'll help carry in the groceries.” “If you let me get that video game, I'll clean my room every night.” And so on.

Being able to shift gears and approach a prospect from a different angle is an essential skill for financial advisors approaching today's affluent investor. We refer to this as “creative points of contact,” and it can be as simple as, “Oh, you can't make lunch; well, how about a drink after work?” Nothing fancy, just creative persistence to get that introduction, set a second appointment meeting, or whatever your specific sales objective is. There is so much affluent skepticism that if advisors aren't persistently creative in both contact and approach, they will fall into that black hole of allowing brush-offs to mask opportunities.

Before you become fully immersed in “little Johnny's” sales approach, I must warn you that he doesn't have the entire package. Dressing for success, and mastering personal hygiene and interpersonal communication skills like listening have yet to enter his sales world. Yet the fact remains, “little Johnny” gets what he wants far more often than many professional advisors because of the power of the four techniques outlined above. Go do likewise!


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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