Consumers today are more sophisticated than ever before. They have many tools at their disposal to educate themselves about financial services products and investments. The internet makes it easy to do research and comparison shop. The 24/7 financially focused T.V. networks barrage the public with financial news and information. Often times, the information presented is confusing and even contradictory. It's no wonder that our prospects can become skeptical about our claims and suggestions.

Prospects don't want to be sold on what to do. They want to secure the advice of a trusted advisor. One who has their best interest at heart. But, "I am a trusted advisor," you say. What I have discovered in my coaching practice is that more often than not, while the advisors sentiment and desire to be a trusted advisor is there, their actions and questions to their prospects don't line up with their belief about how they sell.

In broad terms there are two types of advisors, those who are product focused and those who are customer focused.

Product focused salespeople have the attitude that they have a product solution they want to sell and their sales process supports that solution. The questions they ask their prospects are ones that are designed to illicit the responses that will support the identified product sale. Their questions are often viewed as manipulative. Consumers know when your questions are more geared to making the sale than having a sincere desire to understand them and their needs and goals.

Customer focused advisors have the attitude that they want to understand their prospects as unique individuals that have needs, wants, and goals. The customer focused advisor may or may not be able to satisfy all of their prospects objectives and aren't afraid to say so. Great customer focused advisors make a difference in their clients' lives. How do they do this? It's more about the questions they ask and their ability to connect with their prospects and clients.

Customer focused advisors are great listeners whereas product focused advisors are just waiting for the prospect to stop talking so that they can tee up the next leading question. We advise that advisors should listen 80% of the time and only talk 20% of the time during the all important data gathering session. Salespeople in my courses tell me that they thought they were great listeners until they attempted to institute this 80/20 rule. Active listening is a skill that is well worth pursuing.

Coaching Case Study
Jed is a coaching client who wanted to become a trusted advisor to his clients. He told me that he used a multiple interview approach. I asked him how he prepared for his client interviews. He told me that he didn't prepare in advance and that he used a standard fact-finder to gather the appropriate information. I asked Jed to select a recently completed fact-finder for a client to review with me. He scored high on getting all of the factual information about the prospect. However, he failed miserably at getting the answers that spoke to the core of who the prospect was and what was important to the prospect and his family. Here are some questions that Jed could not answer about his prospect.

What was getting in the way of achieving his most import financial goals?
What would the consequences be if his most important financial goals were not met?
What were the benefits or rewards he would enjoy if his financial goals were met?
What does his ideal life look like?
In what way(s) do he and his spouse differ on financial matters and financial goals?
What is one dream goal that if achieved would make all the difference in the world to him and his family?
To help you to develop deeper trusted advisor relationships with your prospects and clients try incorporating these steps into your sales process:

Prepare in advance for each interview-what is unique about your prospect? What questions can you ask that would be meaningful to them? What follow up questions can you ask?
During the data gathering interview focus on the prospect-clear you mind of everything except giving your prospect 100% of your undivided attention.
Make your prospects feel comfortable; adapt your style to theirs.
Get them talking about themselves and what's important to them.
Listen to what they say and how they feel.
Hold eye contact
Take notes
If you would like to sell more, stop selling and start listening!

Good luck on your journey to success.