Ask yourself why you made the sale

par Alain Thériault | February 18 2011 03:39PM

Coming back to the office after an unsuccessful appointment, you ask yourself what went wrong with the client. We all do it. But have you ever asked yourself why you were successful with someone else? That’s the approach that allowed Yvon Poudrier to turn the tide after a difficult start.

Yvon Poudrier easily earns annual commissions in the six figures, but he has not forgotten where he started. The founding president of Victoriaville, Quebec’s Groupe Poudrier Planification makes no bones about it – he had a hard time in the beginning. At the time, one of his faults was lack of self-confidence.
Speaking at the Insurance and Investment Journal’s most recent annual conference in Montreal, Yvon Poudrier told the audience that his professional life underwent a drastic transformation once he decided to change his attitude. He decided to persevere.
That is no understatement for someone who has been focusing on the small business market since he began in 1975. To succeed, Mr. Poudrier built his vision of things on three basic levels, namely philosophy, theory, and practice. He has applied these principals to his professional, family, and social life for 35 years, and his business is now ready to be handed over to the next generation.
The system has served him well. His love of reading has nourished his philosophical side. He took his favourite motto from Raymond Hull’s 1969 book How to Get What You Want, where Hull suggests that in order to succeed, a person’s attitude is more important that his aptitude. “The book shows that it’s what goes on inside one’s head that’s important”, says Mr. Poudrier.
He went on to recommend an exercise to help audience members improve their attitudes. It was one that he used during difficult times when he was starting out. “After a failure, I found valid reasons for why I had not made the sale. I did the opposite for a month. I asked myself why I had made the sale. Take the time to write down the patterns you find in doing this exercise. They will help to spur you on during difficult periods.”
Since the beginning, Mr. Poudrier has gained success by three beliefs, namely the need to express his gratitude, to visualize abundance, and to live in the present.
He is thankful to the mentors he says helped him to persevere, including Seymour Rimer, Gilles Lefebvre, the motivational speaker Jean-Marc Chaput, and Normand Lavoie, whom he calls his spiritual father in the business market.
To those who are tempted to throw in the towel when they meet with a “no”, Yvon Poudrier points out the virtue of perseverance. He even recommends that people feel gratitude when they meet with difficult prospects. “Because one can learn from them too,” he comments.
He also suggests that if people believe in their inner wealth, it will manifest itself in their environment. “Do this exercise with your eyes closed, telling yourself: I visualize what gives me the most pleasure and gives purpose to my life,” says Mr. Poudrier.
But the most important thing in Yvon Poudrier’s life remains the present moment. “Be present with a client,” he says. “After 35 years, I have found that the ability to listen is an advisor’s most important attribute.” Advisors should be bold, and make use of the present moment according to their beliefs, their goals, and aspirations.
Understand your clients
Poudrier’s theoretical side ties in with his practical side, for he is a pragmatist. It is important for him to become better acquainted with his clientele. He asks prospects questions in order to understand how they think. He segments his clients. He stays current with his professional development. He obtains quality referrals rather than a simple list of names.
He always asks three questions when he meets with business people. “Is it important for you to know the financial impact of your death or of the sale of your business? Is it important to spread out the taxes payable at death or at the sale of your business? Is it important to have a compendium?” Mr. Poudrier says that the compendium is a tool that sums up the business’ overall plans, such as its growth targets, for example. If the client replies yes to these three questions, he continues. If not, he moves on to another prospect. “At this stage, the most important thing is to create interest, to sell oneself, and to get to know the prospects' priorities as well as his resources,” he adds.
Mr. Poudrier analyses his methods objectively. In 2009, he discovered that one segment of his clients was taking up 60% of his time but only accounted for 20% of his revenue. As a result, he focused more on his key market. The result was that his interviews to sales ratio increased by 40%.
“Remain open. I open doors in business thanks to my open attitude. Someone once offered me a three day training program to improve my business. Who wants to sacrifice three days of work? But it was this way that I discovered a tool that still serves me well, the compendium.”
When he started, Mr. Poudrier would make 40 contacts, set up 10 appointments, make three sales, and obtain 10 referrals. The quality, however, was not there. “I had names to burn. I learned that the important thing is not the situation of the person who has been referred, but rather the quality of the relationship he has with my client.” He encourages advisors to develop the habit of asking for  referrals while keeping the relationship aspect in mind. “It’s a sure recipe for growth,” he says.
On the practical side, he emphasizes time management and succession planning. In 1980, he took part in a training program where he was required to make a note of his activities every 30 minutes, for 15 days. The exercise showed him that 20% of his activities generated 80% of his revenue.
“Try the exercise and you will see that we shuffle a lot of paper in our business,” he says. To reduce this shuffling, he suggests hiring a marketing or administration student. “Try this out, and your productivity will increase. Look at it as an investment rather than an expense.”
As for succession planning, Mr. Poudrier has a twofold question for baby boomers. “Do you want this transition to take place? If yes, how?” He recommends that advisors ask themselves the same question about their own succession, and clarify their plans. After that, he says it is all a matter of accepting what has been decided and clearly communicating how events should unfold.
A proud Mr. Poudrier told the audience that his son Patrick was in the room, and that he is part of his succession plan. But why is it that baby boomer entrepreneurs are reluctant to pass the torch? He asked this question to one of his clients, a chartered accountant who was very active in the business market, but who only has about six months left to live because of a serious illness. “It is because they think they are immortal,” replied the accountant. Mr. Poudrier says that advisors should forget about immortality and start to plan for their succession today.