What separates top performing advisors from the rest? In a crowded marketplace, advisors tend to sound like each other. I have attended countless trainings across the country and heard dozens of “coaches” talking about the importance of having an “elevator pitch.” While it may be important, you are actually bragging about yourself and the features and benefits of working with your firm when you rattle off your pitch. Top performing advisors know that you need to make it all about your prospect or client by asking great questions and paying close attention to the answers.
“Asking the right question and listening to the answer is a great relationship builder, which is important to the persuasion process.” – Zig Zaglar, Selling 101
How Can Asking Great Questions Lead to Increasing your Closing Rate by 72.3%?
Since 83% of all statistics are made up on the spot, you will improve your closing by some percentage – be it 25%, 50% or even 72.3% – if you ask great questions.
Before we dive into what questions to ask, we need to understand why we are asking them. As Zig Ziglar stated above, you could be asking questions as part of a relationship building process, which is critical to earning a new financial services client. People do business with people they like and can trust and making the conversation all about them by asking great questions helps build that trust and relationship.
The other reason for asking questions is to identify your prospects’ buying emotions. Sandler Training, which is a global leader in sales training, classifies buying emotions into four categories:
- Pain in the present
- Pain in the future
- Pleasure in the present
- Pleasure in the future
Consumers act more quickly when they are trying to fix some-thing that brings them pain vs. purchasing something that will bring them pleasure.
Of the four categories, a consumer acts most quickly when there is some sort of pain in the present. When a patient goes to the emergency room with a broken arm, they don’t interview the doctor, gather information, and then take time to think it over. They get their arm fixed immediately!
A consumer may be slower to fix some sort of pain in the future, but they are still going to be very motivated to act.
When meeting with our prospects, we can use this concept to help create a sense of urgency. For example, if I am meeting with a 35-year-old and stressing the importance of saving for retirement, that is a pleasure in the future and the least motivating buying emotion. If I talk to them about basic life insurance coverage and how it will protect their young family if something were to happen to the breadwinner, that’s a pain in the future that they will want to act on immediately. Talking to them about how I can save on their taxes this year is a pain in the present.
Get to your Prospects’ Pain
Identifying pain is one of the most important steps in the qualifying process, when prospects are determining whether they want to work with you. If prospects aren’t experiencing pain that can be alleviated by your products or services, there is no sales opportunity to pursue, and the sooner you discover that, the better. On the other hand, if there is pain that your products or services address, and you can help your prospects connect unique elements of your products or services to specific aspects of their pain, the qualification process continues.
Pain exists when there is a recognizable and measurable gap be-tween prospects’ desired or required outcomes and the outcomes they are currently experiencing.
In the financial services industry, we diagnose pain by asking our prospects some probing questions. Their true pain is reflected in one of three ways:
- They are not currently aware of the problem
- They are aware of the problem, but don’t know what to do
- They are aware of the problem and potential solution, but need help implementing
When you and your prospect are clear on their true pain, incredible opportunities are created with the knowledge and products that we offer.
One of the biggest challenges we face as experienced financial professionals is that we tend do one or more of the following:
- Skip questions (intentionally or unintentionally)
- Jump to conclusions
- Move into the solutions we want to sell before we truly gain our prospects’ perspective
When advisors have a process for identifying and addressing pain with their prospects, not only does their prospect-to-client conversion increase, but cross-selling opportunities will appear.
Redefine the Fact-Finding Process
Fact-finders are usually built as a “to-do” list of items that an advisor needs to know in order to provide recommendations. Early in our career, we were taught to use a fact finder because we didn’t know the important questions we needed to ask. As our experience grew, many gravitated away from using one in exchange for a good old-fashioned legal pad. In truth, even the most experienced financial advisor still misses questions if they are working from memory vs. having a fact-finder to guide their meeting process.
At Clarity 2 Prosperity, we view the fact-finder as a progressive tool comprised of the best, thought-provoking questions we’ve gathered over the last 20 years of attending meetings like MDRT, Top of the Table, Forum 400, Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor Group, Strategic Coach, The FPA, and countless broker-dealer, asset manager and insurance marketing organization conferences. The tool is not designed to get every question answered within the first meeting, but rather to use as a guide throughout all your appointments with tips and techniques on when to ask certain questions to show your prospects why they need to hire you.
We have found that one of the best questions to ask within the fact-finding process is:
“Would you mind sharing with me, if we were sitting here three years from today, looking back to today, what would need to have happened for you to feel happy about the progress that you have made?”
Those of you familiar with Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach® will recognize that he is the master-mind behind this brilliant question. We can’t do it enough justice here, so we recommend purchasing The Dan Sullivan Question book for further commentary.
A follow-up question would be, “Are there any concerns, fears, or dangers that may hold you back from reaching these goals? Hypothetically, if there were something keeping you up at night, what might it be?”
Between these two questions, your prospect is going to tell you exactly what you need to do to make them a client.
To help advisors facilitate this type of questioning with prospects, Clarity 2 Prosperity created The Concerns & Priorities Worksheet.
By using The Concerns & Priorities Worksheet during your fact-finding meeting with a prospect, you will ensure that questions aren’t skipped, you won’t jump right into your sales pitch or agenda, and you will get the prospect thinking about concerns (pain) that they might not have recognized before going through this exercise. It also creates a prioritization guide of what you need to do to convert them to a client.
After attending the Holistic Planning Academy, an advisor had a first appointment with a couple in their mid-sixties. In the past, the advisor would have jumped right into his sales pitch about being a retirement income planning specialist, along with all the benefits of hiring him.
But now, after going through some small talk and making a personal connection with the couple, he sat back in his chair and asked, “Bruce and Peg, are there any concerns, fears, or dangers that you have regarding your financial situation? Hypothetically, if there were something that kept you up at night, what might it be?” Bruce and Peg stated that there really weren’t any major concerns that they had, at least none they could think of at the time.
The advisor simply said “That’s great, but I have been asking this question for a long time and have written down some of the biggest concerns that people just like you have told me over the years. Would you mind taking a few minutes to complete this worksheet individually and rank each of these concerns with a number 1, 2, or 3: 1 if it actually is a top concern of yours, 3 if it is truly not a concern, and 2 if it is a concern, but maybe not a top concern.”
Bruce and Peg proceeded to complete the worksheet, and then all three of them reviewed their responses. They found that when Peg got to the concern of “Nursing home, assisted living, and home health care wiping out estate” she ranked it a #1, but Bruce ranked it a #3.
The advisor asked one simple question: “Bruce, you ranked this as a #3, not concerning to you, but Peg, you ranked it a #1, one of your top concerns. Can you tell me more about that?”
Peg explained how her mother had to receive in-home healthcare after she fell, then moved into assisted living because she never fully recovered, ultimately transfer-ring into a nursing home before she passed away.
The advisor offered his condolences and then asked, “Can you tell me more about that experience?”
Peg talked about how her mother and sister lived in Florida, while Peg was in Texas, so Peg couldn’t help with the day-to-day caretaking of her mother. With the cost of care, it didn’t take long for Peg’s mom to spend through all her assets. Peg’s sister wasn’t well-off financially, so Peg was paying a lot of the bills, while her sister was providing a lot of the day-to-day support.
Again, the advisor expressed how difficult of a situation that must have been, and asked, “How did that make you both feel?”
Peg began to tear up, stating that it ended up causing resentment between the sisters, each thinking they had an unfair burden of their mother’s elder care. She said it has caused them to drift apart and she never wants that to happen to her three children.
Bruce immediately spoke up. “You know, now that I think about it, this is a #1 for me as well.”
This is a perfect example of exposing pain. Peg was aware of the problem, but not how to fix it. Bruce was not even aware of the problem until Peg expressed her concerns. If the advisor had skipped this critical conversation and jumped right into retirement income planning, he would have missed this incredible opportunity to gain his prospect’s perspective of the importance of a good long-term care plan and the non-financial impact it can have on a family, like dividing two sisters.
In the end, the advisor was able to put a plan in place that addressed their concerns through leveraging asset-based long-term care products. In subsequent meetings, they completed Bruce and Peg’s retirement income plan and provided tremendous value to the lives of these new clients.
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