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Scott Gallacher: Why sales skills still matter

Sales skills in themselves are not a bad thing. It comes down to whether they are truly being used for the benefit of the client, not the adviser.

As a professional adviser, I am naturally delighted the hard sales culture of the 1980s insurance company sales rep has largely disappeared. Good advice and technical competence has replaced objection handling and the ‘always be closing’ mantra.

Many great advisers have outlasted the slick sales patter of the 80s. Hit by increasing qualifications, regulations and historic complaints, a lot of the salespeople and less competent advisers have retired or moved on to other areas.

We are also increasingly seeing the next generation of advisers emerge. Typically technical bods, having worked their way up from administration or paraplanning, there are some great younger financial advisers.

Despite being in my early 40s, and definitely not one of the next generation, I am still in that second category. I joined Rowley Turton in 1997 knowing little or nothing about financial advice or planning.

Despite having achieved AFPC, I expected to remain behind the scenes as a paraplanner, fearing I did not have the confidence or sales skills to be an adviser.

Over time, though, I noticed at various seminars the somewhat questionable technical knowledge of some advisers. With an “if they can do it, so can I” revelation, I become an adviser in 2003.

I was aware technical knowledge on its own is not everything, and people skills and sales skills are important to an adviser’s success. Consequently, I read and listened to a lot of good material from great salespeople and advisers, such as Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Nick Murray and so on. More recently, I have become a big fan of the work of Inspiring Advisers’ Paul Armson.

While I would not want to turn into Alex Baldwin’s sharp suited Real Estate salesman in the film Glengarry Glen Ross, equally I would shudder at the prospect of becoming The Simpsons’ unfortunate Gil.

Recently, a potential client rang me to ask about the competitiveness of the annuity offered by his existing pension provider. I explained that, although the rate was about right, I expected to be able to increase his annuity income by £100 per month.

Unfortunately, he felt the additional £100 per month was not worth his time or effort. However, by reframing the position, I was able to present the idea of matching the existing provider’s annuity income but, in getting a better rate, using this to increase his lump sum by £20,000. Clearly worth his time.

Was this excellent advice or simply great sales skills? I would suggest it was perhaps a combination of both. Either way, we now have a delighted client.

It is important to remember that sales skills in themselves are not a bad thing. It comes down to whether they are being used for the benefit of the client or simply for the benefit of the adviser to achieve a sale.

Scott Gallacher is director of Rowley Turton 


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  1. No, not sales skill, but being able to communicate technical knowledge in an understandable way and letting the customer make up his own mind by seeing the logic.

    What is (and has always been) lacking to a great degree is a commercial approach. Far too many have had no other experience outside financial services which makes for a somewhat myopic view. Cynicism is often a very valuable attribute when assessing what is available on the market and perhaps even a brief course from the Institute of Purchasing might assist when advisers recommend a product to their clients.

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