COLUMBUS — “I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but I know more about financial planning, estate planning, and tax consequences than most CPAs and estate attorneys,” Stephen professed rather self-consciously, then added “but I’m not comfortable selling myself.”
My initial reaction, to myself, was “Get over it!” But it’s a refrain I’ve encountered so many times in my career that empathy quickly overrides cynicism and I responded with the proverbial “glass half empty—half full” narrative.
To be clear—Stephen must learn how to sell his expertise. However, our affluent research is also clear that today’s affluent need and want the services he’s capable of providing (assuming he was being forthright) and they don’t like pushy sales people—but they don’t know how to go about finding a financial advisor of his ilk.
As I explained to Stephen that his glass was most definitely “half full” because today’s affluent want a knowledgeable worker overseeing the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s financial affairs—not a pushy stockbroker pretending to have the expertise they’re looking for. He’s what they want. As far as the requisite sales skills he needs to develop, my guess is that he was 50 percent of the way there and that he’d be able to master the other half in a fraction of the time it would take another advisor to acquire his level of knowledge and expertise.
The following is what I worked through with Stephen—the objective being for him to both assess and then develop his affluent sales skills. As I explained to Stephen, you’re essentially serving as your own coach in this exercise, so it’s critical that you’re brutally honest with yourself and then commit to working on any weaknesses—areas you rated as 3 or below.
Affluent Sales Self-Assessment
Key: 1 = poor, 2 = needs improvement, 3 = inconsistent, 4 = good, 5 = excellent
- I empathize with others which enables me to connect on an emotional level.
- I ask questions that others enjoy answering.
- I listen proactively to what is being said and ask natural follow-up questions.
- I can communicate my differentiators in a simple conversational manner, without bragging or hyperboles.
- I recognize opportunities where someone could benefit from my services.
- I am proactive when recognizing opportunities (mini-close, suggesting a follow-up meeting).
- I consistently put myself in a position to be able to recognize opportunities.
- I don’t take “Not interested” (rejection) personally.
- I am consistently expanding my comfort zone.
- I commit to ambitious sales goals every year.
Bingo! Stephen excelled at 50 percent of my self-assessment. His challenge begins at No. 6—in being proactive when recognizing an opportunity. That in turn highlighted the fact that he needs to become more social with his affluent clients and circles of influence in order to be in a position to uncover more opportunities. I then explained that by doing all of this, he’ll find himself expanding his comfort zone, which is where he’ll learn how to handle rejection. As far as client acquisition goals are concerned, my parting words to him were: “None of this conversation will be of any value without serious client acquisition goals.”
As the dust begins to settle in the world of financial services, advisors who lack the expertise and professionalism to consistently provide comprehensive wealth management to their affluent clients are being exposed. Regardless of their sales skills, word-of-mouth-influence is weeding them out—these advisors are finding it increasingly more difficult to service and retain today’s affluent client.
That said, possessing the necessary expertise and professionalism is a hygiene factor for today’s affluent. It’s expected. Stephen’s differential advantage, which is true for every advisor who is the complete professional package, is that he is—you are—what today’s affluent are looking for.
Stephen’s challenge, like that of many advisors, requires him to improve his weak sales areas. The idea is that by refining your sales skills, you make it easier for affluent prospects to discover you.