Selling is a fact of life if you want to grow your business. Some financial advisors look at “sales” with negativity. You do not pursue a CFP, or a CFA or any other financially oriented credential, because you want to be a salesperson! In fact, in many cases the core skills necessary to be successful as a financial professional are in opposition to those needed for professional sales.
There are ways to learn how to sell successfully even if you are a non-sales professional. Once you learn how to think about selling, and how to incorporate it into your daily activities, you might even find you enjoy it.
Here are five keys tips for any non-sales professional:
(1) Define your goals. Yes, it sounds basic but this is the first important step – and the one most often overlooked. An advisor might say “I want to grow!” but they haven’t defined what success really looks like to them. Grow in what area? Client referrals? New prospecting opportunities? Through alliances? What about specific products and services? It’s important to define goals very specifically and write them down.
(2) Have a plan. This one also seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? Financial advisors create plans for their clients, so they must have plans for their own selling objectives, right? Unfortunately it’s a rare situation to find an advisor with a clear selling plan – who will do the selling, what are their individual goals, what compensation is associated with selling, how will the sales effort integrate with client service and investing, how will the efforts be measured, etc., are all necessary questions to be asked … and answered.
(3) Selling is an extension of meeting needs. Instead of thinking of sales as “pushing” something, think of it as offering a solution to a problem, or meeting an unmet need. The best salespeople are those that are passionate about what they sell, but realize that what they sell isn’t for everyone. Instead of thinking “sales”, think “understanding other people”. How can you learn more about someone so you can truly offer a solution? What kind of needs do you best meet? What problems do you solve? Change your thinking on the process to make it less about pushing and more about filling – an unmet need.
(4) Learn to qualify! Even the best salespeople struggle with this area. Not everyone is a good prospect. Do not spend too much of your valuable time with people who will simply never buy. Learn to ask probing questions such as “Why are you interested now instead of six months ago, or six months from now?” “What would success look like to you in 2 years if everything was going well with our relationship?” “What obstacles might you face in making a decision?” The more you question, the more you learn.
(5) Be yourself – but learn to adapt. In the end, the buyer is buying you – after all, you are your services in the financial advisory arena. You want to be genuine and show the real you. At the same time, understand that most people listen best and understand others when they have similar communication styles. Become an observer – watch the style of someone you are speaking to and modify to meet their approach. People buy from people they like, and we like people who are like us!
Incorporating any one, or more, of these five tips will start you on the path to being a successful selling professional.