There are two main types of prospects in the wealth management industry: those entirely new to the process, and those who are replacing an existing practitioner relationship. Every growing firm has the challenge of filling its sales pipeline, or client acquisition, with both types of prospects. Some prospects will come through referrals; others will be produced by a firm’s marketing efforts. Regardless, all prospects enter a selling phase in which the salesperson attempts to persuade the prospect concerning the value of the firm’s solution. The more effective the salesperson, the higher the prospect-to-client conversion will be and the steeper the revenue trajectory.
In reading the term “salesperson,” what reaction did you have? For many professional services practitioners, identification with “selling” brings negative thoughts: anxiety; discouragement; inadequacy; superficiality; rejection. The fact is, for most small- to mid-sized professional services firms, “selling” or “sales” is one of the practitioner/principal’s required roles. Yes, amidst your other duties, you are a “salesperson.”
The Prospect’s Frame of Mind
Let’s first understand the mental and emotional framework your prospect possesses as they come to meet with you the first time.
Inadequacy: “It’s so hard for me to judge substance from fluff.”
Foreboding: “I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake in this decision and lose money.”
Anxiety: “I’m at the age where I don’t have a lot of time to fix problems.”
Aspiration: “It will be wonderful to have a plan that will bring our dreams to fruition.”
Bewilderment: “Everything is so complex that I can’t make sense of it.”
Frustration: “All these brochures and websites say the same thing from one firm to the next, but how will I know if this adviser will really understand me?”
Determination: “I’m no longer going to put myself in poor financial situations.”
Note the preponderance of negative ingredients in this stew pot of emotions. The father of loss aversion theory, Daniel Kahneman says, “Organisms that treat threats as more urgent than opportunities have a better chance to survive and reproduce.” In a nutshell, we are motivated much more from a fear of loss than the hope for gain. Kahneman’s research suggests that the hope for gain must be three times the risk of loss to shift our natural, motivated-by-fear inclination.
A Prospect’s Hiring Criteria
We hold to the premise that a prospect has three main criteria when considering hiring a wealth-management practitioner:
In a 2013 CFA Institute study, it was found that financial services was the least trusted of eight industries. Yet, among hiring criteria, by more than two to one, trustworthiness was the dominant factor.
Trust, as the top criterion, directly connects to the fear of loss. In other words, if you didn’t fear bad things happening from working with someone, trust wouldn’t be an issue!
The Ideal Sales Personality
Many of you might be thinking, “I’m uncomfortable in selling because it doesn’t fit my personality.” In saying this, you no doubt have an image of the gregarious, back-slapping, fun-loving extrovert that excitedly works a room of strangers.
What our industry needs (and what clients demand) in a “salesperson” is the confident introvert. Let’s look at these two words.
“Confident” reflects on the practitioner’s belief in his or her skills and expertise; there’s not a fear of encountering issues or problems beyond one’s capabilities. “Introvert” has taken on negative connotations of shyness when, in fact, it simply reflects an internally focused orientation. However, what an asset it can be in projecting your trustworthiness to your prospect!
Psychologist Elaine Aron estimates that 70 percent of introverts are highly sensitive. And, of those who are highly sensitive, Douglas Eby identifies these associated characteristics:
- Sensory awareness
- Nuances in meaning
- Emotional awareness
- Greater empathy
Putting it together, these five characteristics line up nicely with the relationship qualities needed to build trust. The “confident introvert” demonstrates the necessary ability to listen to the client’s surface and deeper needs along with the expertise to do something about it.
To win new clients, listen for their fears, attend to their needs, and confidently propose solutions. This simple linkage—germane to the confident introvert—offers an appealing response to the prospect’s requirement for a trustworthy relationship.