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Have you earned the right to ask for the business?

One of the phrases I often heard leaders recite at the bank was: “Bring your swagger, you’ve earned the right to ask for the business.” I often wondered, had we really? If the team really had the confidence and believed they earned the right, the natural effect would be to extend an invitation to a client or member to work together. If they had it all going on and were the best thing since sliced bread, then why did they struggle asking for the business? There are three things you can do to “ask for business” in a better way that helps you reach success. Continue reading to learn how to “ask for business” the right way. 

Why People Don't Ask for Business

I believe people don’t ask for business because they haven’t earned the right, and they know it. They don’t have the swagger or whatever moves that word alludes to (thoughts of Elvis come to mind), because they don’t think they’ve offered value or have something valuable to offer. But then you say your firm, bank or credit union has best-in-class NPS scores, has won JD Power awards, and has competitive products and services, that surely should be enough to assure your team they’ve earned the right to ask. But it doesn’t.  Even though as an institution you have an exemplary reputation and solid credibility on the street, that isn’t enough to give your team the conviction to ask for the relationship.

Your team is struggling to ask for the business because they don’t know how, they aren’t prepared, and they fear rejection. They don’t believe they’ve earned the right because they don’t know what makes them different and why you’re better than the alternative. They don’t have swagger, because they’re new to the role and aren’t up to speed on product, process, and policy. Even though clients have banked with you for years, it’s been a hot minute for an advisor landing a new portfolio.

Be it capability or credibility, asking for the business is hard. Even uttering those words drums up images of a guy wearing a big collar shirt, buttoned down three holes too many, completing each sentence with “Eh, oh.”  This is not the business you’re in. You’re here to bring value and help people, and just so happen to be in financial services doing it.

Here’s my proposition: you don’t have to wait until your people are fully trained, or have been on portfolio for years, or have unshakable confidence to make the ask. It can happen today, no matter where you’re starting.

Reframe How You Ask for Business

Your mindset plays an integral role in how you sell. Reframing is a strategy you can use to replace default ideas, thoughts, images, and memories of what it means to sell or ask for the business. Reframing provides a more balanced, generative, and realistic perspective. This is not about putting on a positive, naïve, or overconfident spin—it’s about reassessing the real intention behind your actions.

Let’s take these three phrases:

  • Bring your swagger.
  • You’ve earned the right.
  • Ask for the business.

…And reframe them so you are energized and excited to invite more clients to work with you.

Reframe 1: 'Bring Your Swagger to 'Deliver Your Brilliant Difference'

As we’ve highlighted, swagger has a brash, boasting kind of energy. It has you lead with ego, rather than the natural confidence embedded in who you already are. It’s important to be confident when selling and in client conversations; however, you need to be aware of where that assurance is coming from. When it comes from a place of inadequacy because you don’t know enough, aren’t prepared enough, or worry about getting a no, you twist and contort yourself to fit into who you think your clients want you to be.

Instead, here’s an alternative. What if you’re already enough? What if you have everything you need to razzle and dazzle your clients? Even though you may be new to a role or portfolio, you already have something brilliant and meaningful to offer. It’s your Brilliant Difference™. Your Brilliant Difference is how you, in your unique way, bring value to your clients. It has nothing to do with how much you know and everything to do with who you already are. When you come from this place, anchored by the strength of your Brilliant Difference™, you stop hiding, invite partners to support you, and are confident even when you tell your clients you don’t know. You may have a short-term knowledge gap that you circumvent by being resourceful, however at no time does this gap question or compromise your worthiness.

Reframe 2: 'Earned the Right' to 'Request Permission'

Earning the right also encompasses this haughty posturing. It’s subtle, and its intent is to build someone’s confidence in believing they’ve done enough to ask for the business. But we all know intention does not equate impact. The truth is, if you haven’t put the work in or invested in the client relationship, you put your brand and relationship at risk by leading with this mantra.

What if instead of earning the right, you request permission? Asking for permission makes it an autonomous choice for your client and puts them in the driver’s seat. They get to tell you if you’ve earned the right to make an offer, prepare a proposal, or have a discovery meeting. Requesting permission creates a collaborative conversation your clients say yes to being part of and is not something you believe you’re entitled to. 

There are two other cool things that happen when you request permission. First, it opens up your clients to being more receptive to your offer. Think of it as a key to a door in your client’s mind, that enables them to be willing to hear what you have to offer because they’ve said yes for you to come in. Secondly, if you get a no, not now, or not yet, you’ve learned you have more work to do to “earn the right.”  You now have the opportunity to find out what you need to do to get a yes next time.

Reframe 3: 'Ask for the Business' to 'Deepen the Relationship'

No one wants to be sold to. Asking for the business has an “ick” factor associated to it. The reason being that your attention is on what you’re getting out of the deal, more than on your clients. Be it meeting a sales target or looking good on your next sales call, this term tends to tune you right into WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). You feel it and so do your clients when this added pressure is on to make a deal happen.

Even though asking for the business is a brazen move, it can arrive prematurely. This doesn’t mean you need to wait to have five meetings with a client to make a request. It can happen on your first call. Instead of thinking about the business you’re getting from a client, reframe it into the relationship you are cultivating by deepening this connection.

Deepening your client relationship happens in a moment, not over time. It’s the collection of these moments that build a long-lasting connection, that turns indifferent customers into devoted advocates. These moments are available when you help your clients find solutions or achieve their goals.  You’re not selling, you’re solving. You’re not demanding, you’re delighting. You have ideas, products, services, partners, and a myriad of ways to help people. Deepening your client relationship is how you serve them and help them get more of what they want

How Will You Reframe Your Ask-for-Business Approach?

There you have it: three ways to approach your clients so you can grow your business and sell with integrity. Now it’s over to you. Which reframe struck a chord with you? Which one will you implement?

To help you strengthen your selling techniques even more, read my latest book Transformational Selling: A Playbook for Financial Professionals where you will learn how to become a Transformational Seller so you can deepen client relationships and grow your business. 

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