Friday, February 26, 2010

Research. Research. Research. You’re on deck and getting ready to face the pitcher…

No wealth manager with any experience would go into a sales engagement without knowing some facts and making some fact-based assumptions about the prospect, for without this preparation he or she wouldn’t have been in the field long-enough to get any experience. These facts or assumptions would require you to assume the prospect’s stage in the wealth life cycle (roughly: accumulation, maintenance, distribution). For without this knowledge, you don’t know whether to prepare to discuss savings and investment strategies, asset allocation, or how to maximize estate and charitable-giving, or intergenerational wealth transfer strategies.

First, remember the basic fact of wealth management new business: it’s all about “money in motion”

Understand that most new wealth management business comes from “money in motion,” life events such as inheritances, sale of a business, divorce (ugh), settlements, etc. Rarely, very rarely, does new wealth management business come from a “take-away” unless the former advisor gave terrible service (portfolio performance ranks far lower in reasons for switching advisors - don't fall for that faulty "performance" argument). And, it’s more rare that a “take-away” comes from persuasional strength, or sales pitch quality. Let’s not fool ourselves.

Research deliverables and how to get them

For many of you, this is pretty basic, but it never hurts to revisit what we already know.

Prospect demographics – facts you can discover – such as age, gender, occupation, place of employment, civic and professional activities, education, etc. What once required researching volumes of “Who’s Who” publications, city directories, public tax records, newspaper morgues, etc. ad nauseum, is now replaced simply with two sources “” and “”

No only can your discover the demographic information to help your structure your product emphasis, you can find interesting tidbits to discuss in that very first few minutes in the sales engagement, where you are building a cursory relationship. Like, “I understand you’re a runner, too…” (you found her race times in your Google search), or “I really appreciate your leadership of the Alzheimer’s Association…” (again, easy to find on the web), or “How about those Jayhawks (or Longhorns, Huskies, Trojans, Sooners, yada, yada)...” found because the prospect’s information on Google includes their alumni activities.

Buyer behavior – yes, you can often find what financial products they already own and even approximations of their existing asset allocations. This is the study of their “buyer behavior.” It gives you the ability to laser-target your sales engagement. How?

If you “own” identifying customer data, for example you are in wealth management of a bank, you can see if they rely heavily on debt, the size and types of their deposits, durations on their CDs, you can even delve into ACH data payments into and out of their accounts. Shocking, but it’s true, you can do that. There are federal regs which must be, and are easily, abided by, but the data is mostly available.

Whether being in a financial institution’s wealth management function, or you own the data through some sort of prospect relationship and purchase (insurance, for example) or an inquiry, you can “bounce” your own data against external sources (again, comply with federal regs). Those sources can then apply estimates of “income producing assets,” or “specific investment products and values.” Some of those estimates rely heavily on geo-coding, but they are close enough to pre-qualify your prospect and help target your sales effort.

Psychographics – Projected psychological needs which prospects would hold and the financial products that may meet those needs can be determined through either “bouncing your list” (see above) or purchasing very expensive, highly selective, lists from vendors. Of course, the latter, buying lists, means you’re cold calling and that’s a very inefficient, very difficult and not-too-productive way to sell. If you’re good at it, congratulations. That’s not something that I’d advocate, save for the entry level broker and that’s not who this blog is devoted to.

If you know their demographics, which are easy to discover, you can study-up and use your own application of psychographics to fashion your pitch. If you find someone that is male, 68, lives in a $750,000 home, he would likely be seeking “self actualization” (look-up “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” if you don’t understand) and likely would find interest in intergenerational transfer or charitable-giving strategies, not the “security” of a retirement plan.

Next blog, those “dozen ways to help craft your pitch.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comment from Mubai...

Tonight I'll post the promised "researching your prospect and a dozen ways..."

I'm appreciative of our growing group of wealth management professionals following our blog. What I'd like to see is more two-way conversation, via the comments sections. We all have valuable insights to complement my thoughts. Please do comment, and do share the blog site with those whom you think could benefit.

I received this email today:

Hi Ron,

I have been a wealth manager for the last 8 yrs of my life. I happened to come across your blog by chance. I must say that the lucidity of your thoughts were absolutely fantastic and it made for a great reading.

Do keep the blog flowing.

Thanks and regards.
Arijit Mukherjee
VP - Anand Rathi PCG,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Putting "Context" into the Wealth Management Sales Engagement Process

Thus far in our new blog’s short life, we’ve been addressing the wealth management sales engagement process – how to plan what happens once you’re in front of the prospect. We started with the most important - overcoming objections before they are brought up (those five questions to answer in any consumer’s mind), and the differences between soft-close questions and hard-close questions.

In a few weeks, we’ll have completed the sales process and will start looking at segmentation, targeting, positioning (though the sales process is, indeed, part of positioning) – other components of the marketing mix. For clarification, the “marketing mix” are those things which you can control in acquiring and keeping clients.

Sales Engagement Process

Now, it’s time to put this all into context with the outline of the sales engagement process, then a step-by-step primer to maximize effect. Meanwhile, don't forget to use the "five questions," and the "soft" and "hard" close techniques discussed earlier.

PRIOR: Research, research, research your prospect. There is a wealth of preparatory data available for you. More on that next post.

Here’s the actual process with a couple points on each of those items which we haven’t yet discussed:

1. “Greet and Meet” Introducing yourself, building a cursory relationship, sharing your personal branding statement, fact-finding.

2. “Building Desire” Pre-empting those “five questions,” asking need-discovering/probing questions, confirming the need for problem-solving.

3. “Overcoming Objections” Specific ways to overcome verbalized roadblocks.

4. “Closing the Sale” Making the deal, setting the plan of action. Use those “hard close” techniques.

Starting next blog, we’ll dissect each step and help you get to what most financial advisors enjoy and benefit from most: gathering assets and client relations.

Next blog: Researching your prospect. A dozen ways to help craft your pitch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Three More Effective Sale-Closing Methods

Last post, we discussed two very important means of closing that wealth management sale. They included:

Direct method: Summarized as simply, ask the question, ask for the business. Refer to the previous post for details.

Minor point method: Ask a what, when or how question that involves client commitment. Again, this point in detailed with examples in the previous post.

Three more effective methods to close the sale...

Alternate close method: Chose an alternative to asking for the entire relationship, it's almost a salami-slice method - one slice at a time. Ask something like "you mentioned that you're thinking about selling your business to your son. While the market is up since last year, it's still far below highs, and still provides discounting opportunities. May I arrange for a valuation?" Or, "without a financial plan, you may have difficult balancing your retirement and gifting goals. Why don't we work together on a solid financial plan for you?"

Buy Now Method: This encourages the agreement because of a concern for the future, and certainly everyone of wealth has a concern for what the current Administration and Congress are going to do to us about taxes. "We know that Congress is going to raise taxes, but we don't know how and when. The way things are going, we could wake-up tomorrow with horrendous changes in the tax laws. It's time, now, to start on the tax-advantaged strategies we discussed..."

Summary Method: Almost like a legal brief, summarize your points and get to your conclusion as to why your proposal is valuable and needs to be consummated. Answer those "unexpressed questions" discussed earlier and ask for the business.

So, there are the five "hard" closes to getting wealth management business. The questions you ask and the strategies that you take using the various methods depend on your style, the prospect, and the actual engagement dynamics. If you've used "soft" close techniques in your presentation and end with an appropriate "hard" close, you'll stand a great chance of getting the businesses.

Next: Working backwards from soft and hard closes and overcoming objections, to "creating desire." Following that, we'll put the segments into an actionable plan you can review prior to and during each and every sales engagement process.
Please, let me know your thoughts...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The 'Soft' Close and the 'Hard' Close - a time and a place for each
In helping the prospect to overcome objections, we've been asking affirming questions (called a 'soft' close). It's somewhat like affirming "are you with me?" when speaking in a group, but specifically focused on potential objections to the wealth management sale.
Going to a 'hard' close entails leap forward. First, you've got to be certain that the prospect's objections have been overcome, and, even prior to that, that you've created a desire on the part of the prospective client for you to manage their wealth.

Before getting to the close, do this: expect to win-over the prospective client
You've got to have the proper closing attitude. Expect to close. Assume that the prospective client wants to be on your team, a winning team. Then, and only then, can you select the "right" closing method. Remember, they all end in questions.

First two of five closing methods
Direct method: For many advisors, this method takes a lot of courage. Simply, ask the question, ask for the business. Like, "may I put together our team to work with you?" Or, "shall I start on your financial plan?" Or, maybe, "do you have an inventory of your assets such that we can get started?"
Minor point method: Ask a what, when or how question that involves client commitment. Maybe something like "When may you and I meet with your accountant (or family, or spouse)? Or, perhaps, "How soon do you want me to get our engagement agreement back to you?"

Next post: Three more 'hard' closing methods...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Putting "Soft" and "Hard" Closes Into Your Wealth Management Sales Engagement: Using the "Soft Close" to propel you along in the closing process

So, you've done a good job at overcoming objections before they are made. You've answered the "five questions/objections" before they were articulated. You can now build a series of "soft closes" into your discussion.

The purpose of a "soft" close (or "trial close") is, while building desire to engage you, get the prospect's reaction to your benefits. Using a soft close while handling objections is to determine that those objections have been overcome. Don't continue on in your sales process until you know that there are not lingering objections - they'll ruin the deal and waste an opportunity.

Soft close questions in the sales engagement process for wealth management can include such as:
"So, does that clearly explain why a fee-based advisor is best for your needs?"
Or, "Could you please be more specific about your current costs, like the commissions you're paying?"
Or, you can directly, in the soft close process, address objections and move toward a close. Use "soft" questions like:
"Knowing who else I serve, does that address your concern?
Or, "Have I resolved that concern about the real benefits of a fiduciary?"
Or, "Does this performance review approach make good sense?"

Notice, you have not asked for the business - the hard close - rather you're making sure that you've overcome objections and opened the door for the prospect to ask you to engage.

(Next issue: "Hard Close" techniques)