There are particular challenges for those responsible for selling financial planning services.
The very nature of the business - asking about and expecting prospective clients to discuss their financial affairs - can be a problem without a high degree of trust.
We're all told from an early age that talking about money isn't acceptable, and that can make it a taboo that many people find hard to move past.
To overcome this ‘trust barrier’, it's vital to change four engrained behaviours.
1) Fear of rejection
Most of us have been taught to avoid and fear rejection, with the result being that we have negative emotions when talking about anything that may lead to failure.
There is a real fear that the taboo of talking about money will lead to rejection from a would-be client when discussing fees and costs. The same goes when asking for a straight yes/no decision to buy.
But the truth is the person who has the confidence to raise these issues appears strong. Being open and honest and even a little blunt around difficult topics can bring about respect and trust.
A great solution to gaining the necessary strength to talk is to journal. Be honest with yourself and write down at the start of each day about why you need to do the hard tasks.
Repeat this each day and you'll find that the baggage surrounding that activity fades away a little more each time you confront it.
2) Not getting referrals
This connects with the fear of rejection.
You work in a sector where a high degree of trust is paramount to winning a client, and being recommended means trust exists even before the first conversation.
Our latest survey shows that less than 18 per cent of people in the profession ask for referrals - even when a referral process exists.
Many of us have a self talk narrative that says: "If I ask for referrals and the client says no, I'll look foolish." There's a sense that it will somehow harm the relationship.
Then if we do ask, there can be two issues is.
We ask in the wrong way and, because of our embarrassment, we ask without conviction. So it’s often a lousy question such as "do you know anyone I can talk to?" This will get the inevitable "no".
The solution is to identify where your problem lies:
If it's tactical then it's worth taking a three-staged approach:
- Ask permission: “Would you mind if we took a couple of minutes seeing if you could recommend me to anyone? If you'd rather not I understand.”
- Be precise in who you want: “I find that the people who benefit most from our services are people like you, professionals in their 40s & 50s who have had multiple workplace pensions.”
- Indicate what worries they may have heard that suggest you may be able to help: “What we hear from people in that situation is a dream list of what they'll do when they retire, but it’s always couched with an ‘if only’ or a ‘I should be so lucky…’
If you are facing a barrier to asking for referrals in terms of your own attitude, then work on this, potentially through journaling.
Helpful daily phrases might be along the lines of: "I know I make people's lives better, so I have a duty to find those who I can really help" or "people want to help, so why am I so scared to ask for it?"
3) Time management
Most people waste 30 per cent of their day. And time, once gone, is lost forever.
People fill their ‘pay time’ with administration and reviews as an excuse to avoid doing the more challenging tasks.
The solution is a ‘to do list’ but with time slots for each.
If you don’t finish a task on time it gets put aside and you do the next one on your timetable. You can control your behaviour but you need to plan it.
Split your day into ‘pay’ and ‘no pay’ time.
For example, you can call and ask for referrals only during the working day but you can plan who to ask, do administration etc outside of the 9-5. Don’t let no pay time activity stop you from putting food on your table.
4) Selling features and benefits
You know the benefits of your service, but people don’t buy products or benefits.
They buy emotionally, and justify the decision logically. Trust is built through talking to people about their dreams and desires.
The solution is if you are selling intellectually, stop doing this.
Having a good pension is an intellectual concern. A client being able to treat their children, or pursue that expensive hobby in retirement is emotional.
This is why great planning conversations are geared around real life issues and pains. The things that are the output of a good investment, rather than the investment itself.
This allows clients to really focus, and make decisions based on what they really care about and understand.