The Steel Hand in the Silken Glove
Soft Selling versus Hard Selling
As financial advisors, especially junior advisors, we tend to favor hard selling as we are focused on closing the sale. However, the best and most effective sales technique is to use a combination of your soft selling skills and hard selling skills. I share some insights on why below.
We are often taught about how to do the hard sale, how to make sure that you have the right type of tools, how to make sure that you can do a proper financial needs analysis with your client, how to make sure that you do your client risk profile, and follow all the right protocols. This leads to us focusing on ticking all the boxes and adopting a one size fits all approach instead of engaging with our individual clients. This often results in us losing clients.
Here’s an example of this in action; I was speaking to one of my colleagues who is an accountant. He mentioned that when he sits down with his clients, he is really good at telling them the numbers and everything they need, advising them on how to utilize the tax efficiencies around retirement annuities, etc. He “number crunches” his clients into a corner. The downside of this is that in the process of number crunching his clients to a corner, he loses his clients.
When I asked him a question around what the client wants, he answered that the client wants insurance. I advised him that clients don’t just want insurance, they want empathy, they want you as their financial advisor to engage with them on a level that they understand. While hard skills are great to have, it is still imperative to have soft skills as well! This can be referred to as The Steel Hand in the Silken Glove.
Digging and asking the right questions:
We have to focus on the fact that we have to “dig” with our clients. While asking our clients the hard questions, we have to be conscious of how we ask them. We have to make sure that we ask in a way that is soft and empathetic, and understanding of their needs and requirements. Hard skills will get us to the facts and the figures, but it is the soft skills that will get us to the sale.
One of the questions I love to ask clients is WHY. Why do they want what they think they want? Why do they need the products that they do? I often also ask questions along the lines of permission questions, such as: Is it okay if…? Would you be okay if…? Would this be a good idea if we went…?
You can even ask fact finding questions around: How much life cover do you think a person in your situation would require? What is your date of birth? Are you a smoker? These questions help led us on to other questions as well.
There are a wide variety of questions that we can ask our clients to better understand their financial needs and come up with unique solutions that work for them. There are “feeling finding” questions where we can ask about our clients’ feelings such as how they would feel if something would happen to them and how that would affect their families and loved ones left behind. Would their families become destitute and how would that make them feel?
Marrying the Hard Skills with Soft Skills
As financial advisors, we have to understand that the sale is made by marrying our soft skills and hard skills. The Steel Hand in the Silken Glove method! When engaging with our clients, we have to always remind ourselves that our clients are humans too. They want an advisor who can walk the journey with them, not just someone who can tell them about the numbers. Our clients are also aware of the fact that the advisor, you and I, are also human and we can make mistakes too. In the last 17 years of my life, I’ve made my share of mistakes as an advisor. The ONE thing I always do after making a mistake, is go back to a client, tell them about the mistake and apologize. I then chat to the client how we can fix the mistake. This has led to even better client relationships for me.
Be aware of the fact that there is a huge difference between hard skills and soft skills. We must be able to marry the two. This is vital with regards to understanding our clients, closing the sale and helping make sure that our clients get what they need.