I’ve been in the sales business for 30 years, and our firm, Lone Beacon, has worked exclusively with financial advisors for over 10 years. In those years, I’ve seen some of the best advisors struggle with their sales process. I’ve seen smart, genuine, financial experts with state-of-the-art investment products and financial services struggle greatly when it comes to conveying their excellence and capabilities to their prospects. For advisors who find it difficult to get their prospects to make that final decision to work with them, the following rules are ones to live by to help you improve your sales. 

Establish the Fact That We’re All Here to Solve a Problem 

Your prospects are taking time to visit your office because they need financial guidance in some form.  You are meeting with them because you are in the business of building a client base by guiding individuals to a path to financial well-being. Having established this fact, try this opening line: 

“Let me be clear that we should have no presumptions and no pressure regarding the outcome of this meeting… But we’re both here for a reason. You’re here because you’re LOOKING for financial guidance… and I make a living by growing my practice which provides that very same guidance.  Call me an optimist but wouldn’t it be great if we could help each other today?” 

This opening is an honest statement; it instantly establishes a general reason for connecting.  It allows you the right to “presume” that they are in front of you to do business.  And it’s an easy question for them to say “yes” to. This also makes it much easier to operate under an “assumptive close” strategy which aims to reassure and encourage a buyer who is expected to make a purchase or has already made the purpose but is apprehensive about it. 

Establish the Specific Reason(s) Why They Are in Front of You 

The reality is that you’re competing with someone or something.  But what is it? The answer: it depends.  At the very foundation, are they trying to move from doing their retirement financial planning themselves and looking for their first advisor, or do they already have an advisor and need to break up with them before deciding on continuing with your services? These two types of prospects differ greatly in terms of their needs, concerns, and goals, so understand the equally different ways you should cater to each. 

Create Trust and Ease: The Strategy for First-Time Advisor Hunters 

The truth is that picking an advisor is difficult and no one really knows how to do it.  In the end, what we’ve found time and time again is that it’s about trust and ease… but how do you break through to the first timer? Teach them what they should be looking for and why.  Assume that they will be talking to others who might have very different philosophies than you, which to a novice “buyer” might sound really enticing and destroy your chances of moving them along in the sales process.  Follow these questions to establish trust and create an easy experience for someone looking for an advisor for the first time: 

  • Establish that an educated consumer is your best client. 
  • What are the (up to 5) top things they should be looking at with an advisor? 
  • What are the (up to 5) top things they should be looking at within a retirement plan? 
  • What is a tangible realistic outcome they can expect? (Obviously, there is a range based on market fluctuation and risk tolerance). 
  • What is an emotional outcome that they could expect? 

The more that you can “set the rules” the better the relationship, the better the trust, and the more you’re in control of the competitive battlefield. 

Why You Versus Anyone Else: The Strategy for Your Prospects Who Need to Break Up with Their Advisor 

At this point, assuming that they’re the right type of prospect, the entire process is about why you versus any other option. That requires you to educate them in regard to the specific reasons why you can solve their problems better than their current advisor, as well as any other options. To do that properly, you have to be aware of who it is you’re competing against and if there’s a competitive clock ticking.  

Defining and articulating why your financial advisory service is different and better than any other option out there might sound daunting. It’s a commoditized field with a lot of people offering the same products and services. It’s not easy to pinpoint the unique qualities, capabilities, services, products, and decision-making abilities you and your team bring to the table. But know that what’s much more daunting is the decision for a prospect to trust their life savings with someone. 

In addition, when you’re asking your prospects to switch from one advisor to you, remember that breaking up is really hard to do. When it comes to business, it can be especially hard. Most of your prospects have never terminated anyone. Remember the first time you ever had to let someone go? Could you have used inspiration? If you’re in a conversation with someone who may want to switch advisors, ask if they are prepared to let their current advisor go and guide them through that process actively. 

At the end of the day, if you truly want to understand your unique value proposition, you need to know who and what you’re competing against to increase your chances of connecting with your prospect.  Do you offer a boutique independent firm? Is it the allure of an institution? Are some of your prospects do-it-yourselfers and are they your competition? Is buyer apathy your competition? Once you answer these questions for yourself, you can articulate the sellable nuances to your potential clients. 

Use these questions to help you understand your prospect’s needs and concerns, who your competitors are, and so that they know you are capable and committed to providing them with the highest quality financial services: 

  • What exactly brought you here today? 
  • What are you not getting from your current advisor that you wish you were getting? 
  • What do you like about your current advisor? 
  • What’s most important to you in making this decision? 
  • What other types of firms are you talking to?  And if you don’t mind me asking, who are they? 
  • What is your time frame for making a decision? 
  • “What would be your ideal outcome in regard to finding the right financial partner—emotional, financial, logistical, or otherwise?”  (relief, stability, peace of mind, more time, joy, etc.)  

Of course, you’ve got your own process and have other items to cover with your prospects… but until they answer these questions, it’s nearly impossible to separate your business from your competitors in the eyes of your prospects. 

In the end, you must be able to tell the person on the other side of the desk why your firm makes more sense than any of their other options. And this message can be delivered more subtly than you might think. This isn’t about sales; it’s about helping someone make the right decision. It’s about saving time. And it’s about making that decision easier for people. Obviously, there’s a lot more to your sales process, but establishing the rules at the start—and even better, educating the prospect as to what the rules should be—puts you in control and ahead of your competitors.  

About the Author: John grew up in Schenectady, NY & received a scholarship to Norwich Academy. He began his broadcast management career at WOR, learning spoken word marketing from the best in the business with a specialty in financial and long form. John managed broadcast sales for some of the best known sports teams in the world, at the most legendary stations. However his true passion is in the world of direct response advertising to baby boomers and their parents. In this space he has worked with some of the best brands in America. John lives in Boston with his wife, Melissa who is also a broadcast executive, and French Bulldogs Lou and Sal.