The Practice Doctor is IN
Inspiring Action — the Sales Process
by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant
It's the start of a new year and a good time to sharpen the saw in anticipation of a good year's production. Our practice management process encompasses eight business systems. The first four, called the "Core Four", include Client Acquisition, Client Management, Sales, and Case Development systems. These are the "Core Four" in that they directly contribute to your income and productivity.
The "Infrastructure Four" business systems are the Time Management, Communication, Education, and Financial Management systems. Even though these four are behind the scenes, they are prominent when addressing team dynamics.
We will be taking a monthly look at some of the key best practices in these eight business systems. This month, I'd like to focus on the Sales system.
There are nine steps in a good sales process. Yours may vary, naturally, but nine elements should all be present. The term "sales process" is shorthand for the series of stages that go into "inspiring a prospect or client to take action." We are in a kinder and gentler world of persuading people to act on our advice versus the old days of the hard-sell. I recall learning to take seven no's from a prospect before giving up....we had the "objection overcoming" replies memorized. This was very uncomfortable for both advisor and prospect and eventually led to the establishment of our friendly compliance departments.
Let's take some time to look at your method of systematically inspiring people to take action.
Step 1 — Initial Contact and Confirmation
This step occurs prior to meeting a prospect for the first time. Once a name is obtained, do you simply pick up the phone to set an appointment? Do you send a communication (email, text, letter) prior to the call? Do you have an assistant make the initial call, or have the referral source reach out to the prospect first? Remember how first impressions work. Always be sure to confirm an initial meeting. A couple of best practices:
- Encourage the prospect to do due diligence about you. Most articles written for consumers about finding an advisor will suggest researching the advisor. My take on this is to be sure to include a link to a web page where your bio can be found. This is usually placed in the signature line of an email. It directs the prospect to a specific place versus having them wildly Google you.
- Give the prospect homework when appropriate. Ask them to bring specific documents or information that may be relevant to the reason they are coming to see you. If it's a first meeting to establish why or how you will work together, no homework is necessary.
Step 2 — Initial Meeting
A good first face-to-face with a prospect should include the following:
- Dialogue — elicit their story and then share yours.
- Values talk — what is it that you can bring to their life, and how?
- Compensation — this is another area where the columnists warn consumers to be careful. So bring it up as part of your first meeting, whether it's IA fees, commissions, and/or planning fees.
- Agreement to work together — most advisors do an "assumed close" at this point and simply agree to the next appointment. Be sure there is clarity that this is a business relationship, not just free friendly advice.
- Segue into discovery — give the prospect a checklist of necessary documents to gather for the fact-finding phase.
3 — Discovery Period
- Have a consistent tool for fact/feeling finding. This is especially important in your role as a fiduciary.
- Gather all necessary information and documents needed.
- Anticipate problems, whether they are for underwriting insurance or identifying stubborn companies when moving money.
- Identify key people in client's fiscal life: executor, trustee, guardian, powers-of-attorney, benefits person, attorney, accountant, business associates. These are people who may be instrumental in the long run.
4 — Education
- What conceptual client education materials do you use for term vs. perm insurance, fixed vs. variable vs. indexed annuities or investment portfolio construction?
- When a specific product is discussed, what materials are used to convey its complexity in a simple manner? If the client doesn't understand it, they shouldn't be buying it.
5 — "Bridge Communication" (sample available — just let me know)
- A letter or email between the discovery and the presentation is recommended.
- This letter shows appreciation for working together.
- It reiterates that you understand the client's priorities.
- It verifies the next meeting.
6 — Case Development Period
- Tools used — hopefully you feel good about the capabilities of your diagnostic and recommendation software and programs.
- Tracking progress with a checklist as the case moves forward so no stone is left unturned and money left on the table.
7 — Presentation and Close
- Keep it crisp, clear, and uncomplicated.
- Have a well-documented solution ready for deeper inquiries.
- The presentation should be rehearsed — anticipate any questions.
- Know when to ask for the affirmative — closing.
8 — Underwriting, Rolling Money, and Issuing New Business
- Have a method for keeping track of pending business and each step required.
- Have a heads-up on any hiccups or problems.
- Track estimated revenue expected vs. what actually hits the statement.
9 — Delivery (There should be a "closure" to the sales process, ideally face-to-face)
- Reinforce what was done and why — especially in the client's own words.
- Plant the seeds for what comes next in the financial plan.
- Cover the service and communication expectations and introduce your staff.
- Bridge into possible introductions to others who might benefit from your services.
The Doctor is OUT
© 2015 Al Depman
Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is MitchAnthony.com's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool and materials and has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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