“How to close new business.” What an inconsistent and conflicting phrase!
Among the many meanings and idioms of the word “close” that you can find in your dictionary is the definition that applies to completing the final details and negotiations of a deal, e.g. to close a deal. Yet for successful financial advisors, there is nothing ‘final’ about establishing a financial relationship with a new client. Indeed, it is hoped that the financial advisor is OPENING a relationship that will grow and thrive for many, many years.
A Brief History of Selling
As human behavior, selling goes way, way back. It predates recorded history. Anthropologists note that bartering existed among non-literate cultures, and even among non-human primates. [Coaching Challenge: Have you ever closed a deal without using your words?]
Much more recently, there have been four iterations of selling models:
1) Traditional Selling. Most readily seen in the Pulitzer prize-winning play/movie, Glengarry Glen Ross “The leads are weak!”) Here the sales rep delivers a pitch that focuses on features and benefits that are intended to convince the client to buy. Emphasizes closing, i.e. getting the order, and relies on aggressive techniques to manipulate the transaction towards this end.
2) Presentational Selling. Focus is on presenting the product first, without regard to knowing much about the client. Salesperson presents the product, handles objections, and closes. The assumption is that clients understand their problems, and the role of the sales rep is to clearly present their offering and get the order.
3) Consultative Selling. This starts with the salesperson asking questions of the client’s needs. The role of the salesperson is to understand those needs and to present their products/services as the best solution. The underlying assumption is that clients can diagnose their own needs and describe their desired outcomes.
4) Diagnostic Selling. The salesperson does not assume that the client has a complete understanding of the problem, or that a problem even exists. The sales person examines the situation, locates the root problems, and proposes solutions to work with the client to address the problems. The result is a designed solution that the client would not create or think to ask themselves.
Within the past 50+ years, there have also been two additional seismic changes in selling behavior, as driven by technology:
- With the advent of the telephone, selling moved away from the episodic exchange of letters and face-to-face meetings, and towards an ongoing relationship between salesperson and client. In response, sales professionals were expected to master new skills like continuous and repetitive cold calling.
- More recently, with the explosion of information on the Internet, the “information delivery” role of the salesperson has become obsolete. Ironically, the wealth of information on the Web has created a smog of data glut. Social psychologists refer to this as the “tyranny of choice”, whereby too much information makes buying decisions MORE difficult.
Indeed, we observe that successful financial advisors take full advantage of the preponderance of choice by helping their clients (affluent and otherwise) to organize and manage their increasingly complex financial life, which requires correspondingly sophisticated and strategic solutions. This means that, more-and-more, the financial advisor is shouldering the burden of diagnosing the client’s issue/problem, designing solutions, and providing assurance that the solution works well in the client’s ever-changing world.
- Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Walter A. Friedman, Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America
- David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross
- Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling
- Jeff Thull, Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High
- Jeffrey Gitomer, The Sales Bible