When you sit down with a prospect or a client, you probably open the conversation with a brief comment about the weather followed by a discussion about families, or work, or a news headline. At some point, the conversation shifts, and you discuss some aspect of the client’s finances or portfolio—perhaps listening to their ideas or giving advice from research you’ve performed.
To the untrained eye, this is just an advisor and a prospect having a conversation. But, look closer and you’ll discover powerful selling forces going on below the surface. Understanding these selling forces can help you convert more prospects to clients as well as help you do more business with your clients.
The Three Objectives of Every Conversation
Every conversation you have with prospects and clients has three objectives:
- To build rapport
- To communicate information
- To persuade
Depending on the relationship you have with your client, and what you wish to achieve with the person in the long-term, each conversation might have more of one objective and less of another.
Conversations about the weather are mostly about building rapport. There tends to be more rapport-building at the beginning of relationships and at the beginning of conversations, although the process does continue throughout each conversation in any given relationship.
Rapport-building conversations tend to be very “surface” conversations—seeking mild opinions on topics that are relatively well-known and where some agreement probably already exists. This is why you don’t use topics like religion or politics when rapport-building, unless you and the person you’re speaking to happen to belong to the same religion or political persuasion.
The goal here is to find further common ground. Some rapport-building will simply touch on topics that have no long-term significance (such as the weather) while other rapport-building will touch on topics that do have long-term significance (such as families).
Conversations should also communicate information. You communicate financial advice information to your client, and they communicate back to you with their feedback.
For example, conversations about family and work build rapport but, if you’re paying attention, they also communicate valuable information by hinting at opportunities that allow you to better serve your clients. Perhaps the birth of a new child or an impending retirement suggests ways that you can provide more helpful advice to your client.
The goal here is to ask great questions and to listen closely to the answers. You can build off of some of your rapport-building conversations, but go deeper and ask about the other person’s future plans. Then, listen actively to the response.
Persuasion is part of your job. Unfortunately, the term “persuade” is often misunderstood to mean aggressive sales or pushiness. However, professional persuasion is how advisors grow their business. You persuade prospects to become clients, and you persuade clients to take a sensible course of action by following your advice.
Good persuasion presents the best choice to make, and outlines the reasons why someone should make it. Persuasion grows out of rapport-building and communicating information. If you haven’t built rapport or communicated the right information, your persuasion will fall short.
Financial advisors’ practices are built around conversations. Master these conversations by understanding the three key objectives you’re striving for. Prepare before each conversation to help you convert more prospects to clients and to help you work more effectively with your clients as well.
- List a number of topics that you can use to build rapport. Think of topics that you feel comfortable discussing because some mutual agreement already exists.
- Memorize a list of questions that you can draw from to show that you take an interest in your prospect or client.
- Reflect on the ways that you have persuaded prospects and clients in the past. What results have you achieved with the persuasion methods you’ve used?
- We’ve simplified the concept of “selling” down to this one concept: Persuading presents the best choice to make and outlines the reasons why someone should make that choice. Prepare for your upcoming conversations by thinking of two or three specific prospects. Identify the best choice you’re going to recommend (i.e. become a client or invest in a particular investment), and then list as many reasons as you can for that person to follow that course of action.