Bernie strode confidently toward the table at the restaurant on the ground floor of the financial company’s office building, hand extended and a warm smile across his late middle-aged face. The financial advisor had cold-called Bernie and scheduled this lunch meeting to discuss his retirement and estate-planning.
The advisor rose from his chair, straightening his pinstriped suit jacket. He managed a half smile. They talked as they ate a light lunch. The advisor asked questions from an arsenal learned during a variety of training sessions.
“When do you hope to retire?” “What are your biggest fears when you think about retirement?” “Do you have life insurance?” Good questions to ask.
The advisor also spoke about his role and philosophy. He sounded forced and a little overpracticed. His version of superprofessional. Somewhere along the way, he asked Bernie what he did for a living. “I’m a sales trainer,” he answered. The advisor made some wisecrack and they both laughed.
At the end of a reasonably satisfying lunch meeting, Bernie got up to leave. He leaned in toward the financial advisor and said, “Take a look around and notice how there are many others dressed like you, likely having a similar meeting to the one we just had. In my experience, you all ask the same questions and behave in a similar way. What are you going to do to differentiate yourself?” With that, he turned and left.
The best sales professionals, those with long-standing relationships and consistently successful careers, have traits and characteristics that set them apart. They have great “presence.”
What is your presence? Do you know? How do you make other people feel, not just about you but also about themselves, when they are in your company?
Presence Transcends Process
There is no doubt that as financial advisors, following a process in your interactions with clients is a good thing. Having a prepared agenda, a time frame and a set of objectives are necessary components of effective meetings. However, these components of a typical sales process are not the artful magic that helps close deals.
The magic is your presence. Your ability to connect with your prospects and clients in a way that makes them trust you enough to be transparent about their business or personal objectives, challenges, hopes and desires, makes them open to hearing your insights and solutions, and keeps them engaged as you navigate objections and negotiations.
Your presence can create a willingness to collaborate. It’s a quality of interrelationship that puts both client and advisor on the same side of the table, working together to achieve the client’s financial goals.
3 Ways To Improve Your Selling Presence
1. Know yourself. The foundation for improving your presence begins with increasing your self-awareness. For sales professionals, this relates to your ability to monitor your emotional state and correctly identify it in any given selling situation.
It is not just noticing your behavior, but becoming tuned in to underlying emotions. Emotions drive behavior, and your clients respond to the ways in which you behave toward them. Being able to tune in to how you feel will help form the work you need to do to consistently behave in the right way.
Here are some tips on building your self-awareness:
Tune in to yourself by consciously noticing what’s happening internally. As you wait in the lobby before your first meeting with a prospect, notice how you are feeling. Are you relaxed and appropriately stressed or too stressed and distracted?
Any number of factors can influence how you feel. These factors include your confidence level as it relates to your technical job skills, your excitement about the particular opportunity, how well you are doing against your sales plan, what’s happening in your work or personal life or how well you are sleeping. However you feel and whatever the reasons, start to notice them more. Practice nonjudgmental awareness. This simple technique can begin to help you regulate your emotions and alleviate anxiety.
Ask for honest feedback about your presence from people whose opinions you trust and respect. The source of the feedback can be a boss, peer, presence coach or a loved one. Receiving constructive feedback and actually making changes in behavior can be difficult for many people.
Sometimes the initial work is to get better at being open to receiving feedback.
Taking an assessment is an effective way to help increase your understanding of what you do, why you do it and how it may be perceived by others. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator includes a measurement of where you lie on the introvert-extrovert dichotomy. Since most sales professionals are extroverts, understanding how you are perceived by more introverted clients can help you emphasize behaviors that will allow you connect with them more deeply. This might include being comfortable in silence.
2. Improve Your Ability To Manage Stress. Long working hours, work overload, high-pressure deadlines and personal conflicts — sound familiar? There is irrefutable evidence of the negative impact sustained, excessive stress has on our brain function, heart health and overall well-being.
Excessive stress also affects your presence. It limits brain function, thereby diminishing your ability to listen, appear confident, empathize and be comfortable in your own skin.
Consider some of the following ways to manage stress.
Become a corporate athlete. Jack Groppel, author of The Corporate Athlete, highlights the need to help people in stressful jobs improve their health and performance. He frames his work around the need to become a “corporate athlete.” Corporate athletes learn to be fully engaged in what matters, so they are able to perform at a peak level in demanding, high-stress situations. Groppel encourages us to build healthy practices into our daily routines and maintain a sense of control and balance in our lives.
Practice meditation and mindfulness. This is an effective way of restoring calm and inner peace. Focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Focus on your breathing. Almost everyone in sales experiences excessive stress at one time or another — working to close the deal, meeting your goals, the big final presentation and so on. One of the most accessible and impactful relaxation techniques is diaphragmatic breathing, also called deep breathing or abdominal breathing. It is the one aspect of your unconscious of which you can gain conscious control simply by bringing your attention to it.
3. Participate in a sales presence workshop. Attending a training workshop to develop your sales presence is the ideal solution if you are looking for broad-based training with some individualized coaching. The duration of these workshops ranges from two hours to two days; the breadth of presence skills and behaviors taught will be influenced by the duration of the workshop. Individual presence coaching is also available instead of or subsequent to the presence workshop.
Remember, in a commoditized industry where a product-based competitive advantage can be marginal, you are the difference. How well you show up, engage, inspire and persuade your prospect will be the difference in whether they choose you or your competitor.