All’s well that starts well

By Jim Ruta | January 28 2014 06:41PM

How can I waste less time in my sales interviews?What you say at the beginning of a sales interview can make a big difference to what happens at the end of it. Start it right, and you end with a sale. Start it wrong and your prospects could be “thinking about it” for a very long time. Is there anything worse?

But, there is a perfect way to start every sales call. It works whether you are a life insurance agent, financial planner or investment advisor. It can work for anyone. It’s so simple you’ll wonder why you haven’t been using it all along.

Your first meeting with a prospect can make or break your relationship and the sale. If your approach is on target to their needs, you prove you are interested in them and their issues. That builds trust. It attracts interest. When you get trust and interest quickly, you are building a better relationship. An on target approach means you are helping your prospect with their issues, not yours. It’s what every prospect wants most.

The best way to do this is to ask a simple question at the very beginning of your interview. Ask it after you’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way. But, definitely ask it before you say anything else. It’s that valuable.

Here’s the question: “Mr. Smith, there’s a reason that you agreed to meet with me today – you likely had some interest or issue on your mind that you hoped I could answer. Would you mind telling me what that was?”

This simple question has extraordinary value and power. I call it “The Golden Question”. I use it myself and am always struck by how it helps both me and the prospect move forward together. It’s an easy question easy to ask. It fits into any style of business. It’s client-centered. It gets prospects talking about themselves. It’s simply the ideal way to start and sales interview.

Getting a prospect’s primary reason for meeting with you at the start tells you the most important things you have to do to help them get what they want. It tells you what’s important to them. Essentially, their answer tells you how to sell them.

It’s their “hot button” and that’s not a bad thing. It’s everything – to them. Address their reason for seeing you and custom tailor your presentation to answer it. Answer the question before you move on to what you want to do. At least, be sure that you do by the time you are done. Their interest or issue could even become your entire interview. No problem though. Then for sure you’re on target.

There’s no better way to start a new or existing client relationship than with The Golden Question. Don’t ask The Golden Question and you could end up way off target and waste a lot of time regardless of how talented you are.

You don’t have to do a lot of work for nothing with prospects or clients. Ask why they agreed to meet with you first and you’ll always do better.


How do I provide one level of service to my clients like you recommend and still “wow” my clients?

You don’t have to segment your clients to “wow” them. It’s not impossible and the answer, as usual, is simpler than you might think.

“Client segmentation” is the alphabet game you play with your clients – designating them as As, Bs, Cs and even Ds depending on their business with you. It’s serving them according to their value to you. The most valuable get the best service. Those who provide less value, get less service. The plan is easy. But is it right?

I don’t believe so. The trouble is that no one wants to be your D client – it even sounds awful. What would your clients think if they knew? Plus, what about the surprising number of small clients that do grow great? Segmenting misses them completely. You’ll hand those great new prospects over to the competition.

“Wowing Everyone” is simple. Leave enhanced service decisions to clients. Yes, everyone wants service, but “great service” means different things to everyone. You don’t have to decide on your own. Give your clients the choice. That solves the problem without resorting to arbitrary segments and a brand-busting, discounted service strategy. Here’s how:

First: Decide on your basic client service. This likely includes: prompt answers to questions, annual portfolio reviews, regular business updates and housekeeping changes. Be sure that if it’s on your list you do it. Not delivering on a promise is much worse than not promising in the first place.

But, don’t include things like sending holiday cards, birthday cards, special event cards and appropriate recognition. Clients shouldn’t decide if you are going to be friendly. These unspoken enhancements create “value added” – the value that comes from doing the unexpected. Everyone should get these.

Second: List your additional, enhanced service possibilities. These can include – in person annual or semi-annual reviews, quarterly or monthly phone calls, enhanced reporting, client newsletters, client events, educational seminars or workshops and anything else you offer to impress. There really aren’t that many possibilities.

Then: When you acquire a new client or, at the next contact for an existing client if you are changing over, present your “Client Service List” and ask for their direction. “Mrs. Client, I want to be sure that you get the service you expect. Here is my list of optional services. Let’s take a minute to review this list so we can customize your service.” Help them to create their personal service level – it’s exactly what they want. It may even be less than you would have prescribed. But, with custom service, you’ll meet client expectations directly and not have to discount anyone. Email me for an outline of the “Enhanced Service Plan” template.

Finally: CRM and computerization makes this easy. Each of your clients is “wowed” by exactly the level of service they want. Then, you surprise them with the simple extras for “value added”. You get more value for your resources because of this transparency.

You don’t have to segment your service to “wow” your clients. Instead, “wow” everyone the way they want to be wowed by getting them involved. You’ll be a better advisor and more referable for it.