(This blog can also be found at the FPA Practice Management site: http://practicemanagementblog.onefpa.org/2014/12/29/create-a-choice-by-asking-for-the-prospects-business/)
Prospect Theory tells us that the fear of loss (objective: wealth preservation) is greater than the hope for gain (objective: wealth creation). This fear dominates when it comes to financial circumstances, especially among those with accumulated wealth.
A wealth management business can only grow with clients willing to take a risk that the likelihood of the proposed solution’s stated benefits are greater than the easier choice, keeping the status quo. In other words, getting a new client requires the prospect to believe strongly in the hope for gain. While alternatives are in front of the prospect, a choice doesn’t actually arise until a question is posed to make a decision.
Confirming Proposed Benefits
Today, with e-commerce, the sales process is shifting from personal persuasion to objective evaluations.
The marketplace accesses a wide array of expert and current-user opinions about a service/product’s advantages and disadvantages. While other customers’ opinions have always mattered, no longer is it the neighbor down the street who weighs in on a product’s merits, but people scattered near and far, with structured star ratings accessible by a mouse click.
There’s a four-step evaluation process at work:
Benefits are presented
Current customers are sought to confirm the validity of these benefits (i.e., ratings, references, recommendations)
The proposed benefits’ value is either believed or dismissed
A decision must be made
A Decision with Life-Changing Implications
Wealth management in all its forms has one underlying pressure on the prospect’s mind: “The adviser I choose can change my life and even the lives of my children and grandchildren.” The implications of a bad choice weigh heavily—and justifiably—on the decision and the necessity for thoughtful due diligence. The prospect only needs to read the headlines to appreciate the catastrophe that befalls those who pick the wrong practitioner.
This weightiness leads to inertia. To break inertia requires a more powerful force.
Asking Is a Force
In the absence of choice, people will stay in an existing comfort zone. However, when we’re asked to do something, a choice emerges between the comfort zone and the new path. Only a “Yes!” decision ignites the benefits from the new path.
Placing a decision point in front of someone forces a conclusion. Either the prospect believes in the hoped-for benefits and says “Yes!”; the prospect believes that other options are more attractive and says “No!”; more information is needed or the timing isn’t right and the prospect says “Not now.”
Regardless of the answer, achieving a response brings clarity. The following are basic principles that form the foundation for advancing the sales process to a decision.
1. People want to be asked or invited. Our social nature, combined with a fear of rejection, makes people appreciate being invited to belong. Directly asking for business can be a relief to the prospect: “I want you as my client. Are you ready to move forward with me?”
2. Asking in person. Holding a face-to-face closing meeting conveys confidence, importance and stature to the prospect. This also intertwines the solutions’ benefits with the practitioner (see my blog “Your Product Is You”).
3. Closing the process. Selling wealth management services involves many steps. A practitioner who closes the process sets an expectation for action. For example: “We’ve learned a lot about each other through our meetings. I strongly believe the X, Y and Z benefits I’ll deliver are key to your long-term success. Is there anything standing in the way of you choosing to hire me?”
4. Getting to a final answer. A practitioner in a sales relationship has invested time and advice with a hoped-for revenue payoff. Therefore, it’s vital to get a final answer—“Yes” or “No”—as quickly as possible. (A “Not now” answer after the sales process has concluded puts the onus on the practitioner to make one of two business decisions: (1) continue investing time to remove obstacles, or (2) close the process and move on to other opportunities.)
The social dynamic of asking for something and the corollary fear of being rejected operates strongly for most people. What’s often lost in the practitioner’s personal anxiety are other important business advancements such as investing time wisely, seizing opportunities, reaching objectives and meeting client needs. These advancements require the practitioner to believe that his or her hope for gain is greater than the risk of rejection. If this belief isn’t strong enough, a business won’t thrive.