Today’s top-performing advisors have learned that it takes more than sales skills and top-notch marketing techniques to build a long-term practice. You must understand a client’s mindset and goals to be successful. The best way I have found to develop a relationship is to treat clients not just as “clients,” but instead as friends. If you want to influence your clients’ decisions, you need to give them the same advice and counsel you would give to your best friend. Developing professional relationships on this level creates trust and openness, which can help you retain clients and generate referrals. To help you on your way to developing long-term relationships, try this easy-to-use, two-appointment sales strategy.
The first appointment with the prospect is an introductory meeting and features only the use of a pad of paper and some general information about your company. The appointment is typically an hour, and only 10 minutes of it is business-oriented. It’s important to keep the business portion of the discussion very simple and brief, if you lose the prospect with technical information, the sale is lost. The rest of the hour is spent discussing the prospect’s interests, dreams, goals, etc., as well as sharing what you bring to the table to meet this prospect’s specific financial needs. Make sure you do not bring anything product- or sales-focused into the conversation. Your goal at this meeting is just to get to know each other – similar to how friendships are built. After that hour, you will be one step closer to establishing a level of trust, and the next time you meet, it will be to find the right product for the needs you discussed.
Although the second appointment is generally considered to be the closing appointment, the sale is still not the main focus. Making sales is a vital part of our business, but the nature of the financial industry allows us to keep our clients’ best interests in mind and the sales will naturally follow throughout the development of the relationship. During this meeting, re-establish the lines of communication and catch up on current events and any personal issues that might have been disclosed during the first meeting. Review your specific proposals, and make sure to get forms signed and help the client understand what the underwriting process entails. Again, try to keep the information very simple. After everything is signed, explain to the client who from your office will contact them to follow up on items and expectations. My staff and I follow up at least once per week by email or phone so our clients know we are taking care of their concerns. Treating our clients as friends is a simple tried-and-true principle that makes the two-appointment sales strategy a success.
I have found that a “friendship first” principle will result in repeat business across all sectors of a practice. Usually clients will have you solve one need first, but as they gain trust in you, the additional business keeps building. For example, I have one client who calls us every few months to give us referrals. These referrals happen over time, but when they come up, they are usually effective because the trust is already established with the referral from the original client.
Creating a practice based on trust can help you retain clients and generate referrals that will continue taking your practice to new heights. Often as the relationship deepens, clients will look to you for more financial needs and even call upon you socially. Many of my clients invite me to attend sporting events, industry conventions and their company holiday parties. In a business that often can be ultra-competitive and frantic, the ultimate reward is helping your clients achieve their financial goals while continuing to develop the success of your own personal business. This is not something that happens quickly. It takes time, but if you are patient, the rewards are endless.