Selling skills for the brave

FP Adance | Advise Better, Live Better

Revisit your first meeting skills

How are your first meetings going with new prospective clients? Only you’ll know the answer to this, but here are a few questions to help you focus:

  • Are you converting as many clients as you’d like to?
  • Are you able to set up a situation where you can charge (well) for the discovery/fact-finding work and initial planning work you’ll do after the first meeting?

If for any reason these things have gone off the boil of late, please read on.

I work with a range of advisers, from emerging talent right through to the very experienced. You’d be amazed, but a slump in your first meeting success can happen to anyone; including the very experienced.

Typically this shows up in the two questions I asked you above; conversion rates are down, or you are struggling to charge appropriately for the up-front work.


So what’s the real issue?

I have to be honest and say it comes down to some simple reminders:

1. Are you talking too much?
Everyone knows they shouldn’t talk too much. I know you know it too. Yet most advisers will fess straight up to me that they do it.

I was with a very experienced, high-quality financial planner recently who was telling me that he listened back to a meeting that he recorded (he records all client meetings). His exact words to me were, “Brett, as I listened, I actually wondered if there was a client in the room with me.”.

Basically, he had identified that he was doing all the talking.

If you’re doing the same thing, this is likely to be reason number one for any form slump.

How do you fix it? See point 2 below.

2. Are you asking Interesting Questions?
The first step in getting off the ‘talking too much’ treadmill is to have at the ready what I call your List Of Interesting Questions. For anyone that has done our Selling Skills workshops in the past, you’ll know that I recommend simply having this list sitting on the desk in front of you as you conduct your meeting.

3. Are you shutting up? 
It’s all well and good to ask interesting questions, but the key to success is to shut up and let them answer. Surprisingly, this can be very difficult to do.

We often rush to fill the space when the client takes more than a few seconds to answer. But if you’re asking great questions, that require some deeper thought, then the client is going to need some time to think.

It’s a confidence thing, and you might well need to practice it with some role plays and drills. Inexperienced advisers or those lacking in confidence just can’t sit there and listen. Twenty seconds might feel like two hours waiting for the client to answer. Yet this is what we must do.

Shut up and let the client fill the space when they’re ready.


Does any of this actually work?

You bet it does.

One advisor who has revisited their selling skills very recently is Marco Vallone of Brighton Financial. In fact it was his experiences that prompted me to write this piece. You can read a bit more about his experience below.

Many readers of my blog will have attended the Selling Skills workshops we ran a couple of years ago. If you were there I’d ask you to revisit some of these simple skills, which are easy to overlook or forget as time goes on. You might find they are the answer to some of the challenges you’re facing in your first meetings.

Good luck with it and let me know how you go.

marco-valloneCase Study: Marco Vallone

Brighton Financial

How did you become aware of the need to revisit your first meeting skills?
I was finding that my initial meeting-to-instruction ratio was not good. I felt that I wasn’t connecting with people during the initial meeting. The agenda for the meeting was becoming my own rather than theirs. I talked too much and allowed myself to get bogged down in technical stuff.  Basically, I found myself doing all the things that I shouldn’t be.  But I fessed up and am getting back to the ‘right’ way to do things.

What did you do to get reacquainted with some skills that you already had, but had maybe stopped using?
I revisited the videos from your Uncover Your Business Potential course, which were a big help. I also tried to free myself from the baggage of feeling as though I had to stick to a rigid agenda. In doing so, I felt better and more free about allowing the conversations to flow, without feeling as though I had to lead them in a particular direction.

What was it like when you used the questions and let the client do the work? What happened that was good?
It depends on the context within which I asked them. If the environment wasn’t ‘safe’ for the client, because I hadn’t created it sufficiently, the questions seemed very out of context and were poorly received. Now, I give the clients lots of time, ask just a few questions, but build them up gently so that, by the time I’m asking the biggies, we’re all feeling comfortable. The clients are getting an ‘experience’ rather than simply sussing out an IFA.

How did you feel afterward?
When it worked, I felt empowered. As though I had made a significant mark on the clients and that they had left feeling like something special had just happened.

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