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Say This, Not That

Ever have those moments when you say: if only I said things a little differently, I would have made that sale?


Finding the right words to tactfully get your message across is an art the insurance industry has developed over decades. For example, prospects don't die, they are "no longer in the picture." After 10 years of doing research and meeting excellent agents and advisors who share ideas, I've learned many tactful ways to get your point across.

At a party you're asked, "What do you do?" If you say, "I'm a financial advisor," the temperature might drop suddenly. If you come out with a marketing statement, it might feel contrived. Consider replying with, "I'm a financial advisor with [firm]. You probably work with a financial advisor already." Stop talking. Logically, they will say yes and feel they are not a prospect. This gives you the opportunity to draw them out about the quality of their current advisory relationship.

Prospects and clients see value in teams. You are a sole practitioner. Does this put you at a disadvantage? No. When presenting your proposal, you could add, "If you become my client, I will handle your account personally. I will not hand it off to another advisor in the office or send it to a customer service area across the country." You've turned a potential liability into an advantage.

You're playing golf and discussing each other's job. They say, "I already have a financial advisor." You could respond with "What do you like best about your advisor? Would you recommend them?" If they wouldn't, you could follow with "Why do you stay with them?" If they like them, ask, "In what areas do you feel there's room for improvement?" When they tell you what they are not getting, they are also explaining what they want in a relationship.

You're at a party making conversation. Asking about where each other lives is usually a safe topic. Instead of asking, "Where do you live?" consider these two options. First option: volunteer information to get information: "Jane and I live on North Main Street. Where do you live?" It softens the question.

Second option: another approach is just two words: "Where's home?" Soft approaches put the person at ease as you get deeper into conversation. While at a community event, you see a high-profile person across the room. You want to meet that person. Take a moment and make a mental list of people you know that might know them. Think religious institution, golf club, chamber of commerce, etc. Walk over, introduce yourself and say, "I think we may have a friend in common" or "I believe we know some of the same people." It's likely they will ask "Who?" You volunteer a name. They agree and ask how you know them. You explain and ask the same question. Bridge is in place; conversation is started.

Most agents and advisors seek highnet- worth individuals or wealthy people as prospects. Most people are uncomfortable with those terms. "High net worth" sounds like "more money than you've got." Saying "Yes, I'm wealthy" reminds you of the guy who said the Titanic was unsinkable. Consider using the word "successful" instead. You work with successful business owners. People identify with the word successful. No one says "I can't work with Steve because I'm a failure." Most people feel successful at something. Say you are on a nonprofit board. The "third rail" is soliciting business from fellow board members. It's not done. On the other hand, they seem to do business with each other. Two strategies to consider: First, approach your mentor who got you there. Confirm you understand the rule. Ask if they do business with fellow board members. If they say yes, ask how that came about. "Did they approach you or vice versa?" Another strategy is to ask your mentor or a friendly board chairman, "I would like to raise my visibility. How do I do that?" In most cases they understand the message between the lines. They may have a quiet word with other board members who might be in the market for what you do.

A client's investments aren't working out. Service goes wrong too. They aren't complaining but are establishing distance. You feel you are going to lose the account to a competitor. An advisor in New England invites the client (and spouse) out to dinner. After settling in, the advisor says to the clients, "Things haven't been good lately." He stops talking. The clients build up momentum and angrily vent. The advisor handles the situation calmly. When they have finished venting, the advisor looks them in the eyes and asks, "What can we do to move forward?" It's very difficult for clients to say they can't move forward after the advisor has initiated the meeting and been the target of their venting. You have a professional designation. Maybe the prospect isn't impressed. Isn't everyone at least a vice president? Those titles are honorary, aren't they? Explain: "I'm a certified financial planner. I'm qualified to hang my shingle in any part in the country." Now they realize it's a professional designation (like a CPA) and it's portable.

Closing the sale can be tricky. They're not going to say "Stop talking. You've convinced me. Where do I sign?" However, you can't ask "Are you going to buy or not?" Here are a few ways to "ask for the order," as shared by advisors in the field:

• Are you ready to address the issues?

• So what do you think? Can we proceed with the plan?

• Can you see yourself benefiting from this strategy?

• I want to work for you. I need the go-ahead from you.

Notice how "you" is central to each statement. They are yes or no questions. "No" is the uncomfortable answer. Obviously, once the person agrees, you will repeat back exactly what you will be doing (reading back the order) and afterward confirm that the order has been completed. You are at a party and it's getting late. You've met interesting people. They could be great friends. They might be prospects. You want to stay in touch. Let me give you my card has a "this is all about business" feel that could put the person on the defensive. Here's an alternate strategy: circle back to the person you met earlier. Let them know you enjoyed talking with them. Mention that you have a lot of shared interests. Name a few. "I would like to stay in touch. How do I do that?" Stop talking. They will probably offer a card. Personally, I like to take my card, write "Bryce and Jane" along with our home phone number on the back, and present the card handwritten side first. It communicates that this is a personal connection. They also have my business information on the other side.

"It's not what you say but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages." This quote from William Carlos Williams (American poet, 1883- 1963) sums it up well.

is president of Perceptive Business Solutions in New Hope, PA. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" is available on He can be reached at [email protected].

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