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Opening time

I was working with one of our IFAs last week who had a problem, or challenge, as we sometimes call it.

He had been calling new customers to follow up on insurance quotes after his advice assessments where they had expressed an interest. One issue was why those quotes had been posted in the first place to clients on some occasions, the other was the key one – they were telling him they have not had time to look at the proposals or are not ready to make a decision.

At this early stage, we should define a customer and a client. A customer is someone who has bought once from you, either a service, advice or a product. A client is someone with whom you have an ongoing advice relationship.

The interest with these customers was supposedly there in the first place but he was only completing with 20 percent of those interested people. He was big enough to be concerned about this and ask for assistance or coaching. We wanted to find out what the underlying reasons were for this position.

Let us start with a basic premise. If you are implementing only 20 per cent of your opportunities in front of new customers, then 80 per cent of the people you are working with are not taking the advice. Over 80 per cent of your time is wasted.

Think about this – if you only wasted 60 per cent of your time, in the above example, then you would double your new sales – an area worth working on then.

If you are focusing on improving your closing skills, you are focusing on the wrong problem. Improve the quality of your opening skills and you will implement more sales from the advice you give.

Let me explain. Our IFA said: “The interest was supposedly there in the first place.” But there is a difference between having an interest and having a need.

If your customers, or clients, have a need and they want to do something about it, they buy. If they do not, there is no sale.

In every advice or sales opportunity, you must know the following:

What is the customer&#39s situation or problem?

Why does the customer need your product or service?

Who are the decisionmakers?

How do they go about making decisions?

What is their financial situation?

If you do not have answers to each of these five questions the sale never gets to a conclusion or a close. You may think you have an opportunity, but you do not. It is a mirage.

You call every few days – or weeks – and are always told: “We&#39re still thinking.” Thirty, 60 or 90 days later, after placing a dozen phone calls, you are finally given the bad news: “Thanks, but we are not interested.”

Ask better questions

Instead of being in a hurry to have face-to-face meetings and create proposals, take more time to ask better questions. Ask qualifying questions, need development questions, and economic consequences questions over the phone so you can pre-qualify the customer before you meet with them.

If the prospect gives answers that match what you think they should be, it leads to an appointment and then it is down to the adviser to gain the trust of the customer. If the answers do not measure up, there is no reason for getting together.

To make this work, you have got to have great phone skills. The goal is not to have lots of face-to-face meetings. It is to have meetings with interested prospects. Furthermore, the goal is not to create advice proposals, it is to gain happy clients who take the appropriate advice, and pay for that advice.

Do not be in a hurry to create illustrations and suitability letters. Ask questions to learn about their goals, dreams and desires. What problems do they have that you can help them solve? What keeps them up at night?

Once you have received satisfactory answers to your questions, create your suitability letters and make your presen- tations. You will see fewer people but you will close a much higher percentage of them.And with your newly freed time, you can get on the phone with your existing clients and look for more prospects.

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