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The 5 Permission Slips You Need to Earn a Client’s Business.

Would you ask someone to marry you on the first date? Probably not. Then why do so many people expect they’ve earned the right to immediately “ask for the business?” Is it because we’ve been told that sales are a numbers game, that the more you ask, the better shot you have at getting a yes? Or is it because no matter how hard you try to forget old-school sales techniques like “always be closing,” they crop up uninvited during client conversations? Or does the pressure to hit your sales target make you do and say things you otherwise wouldn’t? Fear of not making a sale and stress of needing to get one can trigger out-of-date and inoperative sales methods that spoil client conversations and outcomes. But there’s a right way to earn a client’s business with five permission slips. 

A Personal Experience

I was arranging an appointment to meet with a financial advisor to discuss our investment portfolio and financial planning needs. We had an exchange over email to book a time for our first “date.” However, even before we had a time scheduled in our calendars, she asked me to send in our statements showing our investment holdings across various FIs. As a seasoned banker myself, I understood the objective. She wanted to review our holdings to be better prepared for our meeting so she could point out pitfalls and add value. But the ask came in too early. We hadn’t yet walked through the door and she was inviting herself into our bedroom.

I don’t fault her; I know her intentions were in the right place, as are yours. But think of how personal that information is that you’re asking clients to divulge! You want to offer a second opinion to ensure they’re invested appropriately and are not being gouged on fees. But the problem is, you’re so enamored with their investment portfolio and the chance to gain their business that you’ve lost sight of what is truly important. If you haven’t laid a foundation of trust and requested your client’s permission to move forward to the next stage in your relationship, you’ve made an assumption that may not have a recourse.

You're Not in the Banking Business, You're in the Dreams Business

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” 

There’s a new normal that has nothing to do with the pandemic we all just went through. Clients are looking for more than a banker, RM, or advisor — they want a financial well-being partner. They want someone to help them spend less, save more, borrow better, and plan for their future. According to a Gallup Industry Banking Study, customers who strongly agreed with four or more financial well-being statements had a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 94%.  For customers who strongly agreed with two or three, the NPS dropped to 69%. However, when customers couldn’t strongly agree with any of the statements, that rating plummeted to -26%. This is not where you want to be.

When you champion your clients’ goals and priorities, they reward your attention with their business, loyalty, and advocacy. When you put precedence on the transformational impact you bring over the transactional solutions you provide, you stop being a banker and like the Wizard of Oz, you become the person who helps dreams come true.

Advice is also an effective prospecting and client growth strategy. Gartner for Financial Services revealed that the most effective RMs and advisors do not spend more time prospecting than their peers.

“Regardless of performance, advisors and RMs spend 13% and 20%, respectively, of their time engaged in prospecting.”

What separated top performing RMs and advisors was that they invested more time delivering advice than their peers. Clients who received effective advice were “significantly more likely to exhibit revenue-positive behavior than other customers.”

You instinctively know this: spending more time deepening your relationship with clients wins you more business and referrals. This is a huge opportunity standing at your doorstep. Become your clients’ financial well-being partner, focus on advice, and show how your solutions help them become financially healthy, wealthy, and wise. What awaits you both? Emerald City at the end of that Yellow Brick Road.

Conversation Quality is a Huge Differentiator

Conversation quality is a huge differentiator among financial institutions that may otherwise offer similar products and services. In fact, Gallup’s 2021 Retail Banking Study showed that when a customer has a high-quality conversation with a banker compared with a low-quality one, a sales conversion is 4.2 times more likely, especially when the employee initiated that high-quality conversation. 

What makes one conversation low-quality and the other high-quality? Gallup’s research uncovered three types of conversations bankers are having with their clients:

  1. Basic assistance conversations that focus on the bank, its products, services, features, and price.
  2. Holistic conversations that focus on the customer and their needs relative to their specific life stage. For instance, matching early career with home financing solutions, mid-career with wealth accumulation, and retirement with asset preservation solutions.
  3. Financial vision conversations, I will argue, are not happening often enough, if at all. These conversations are Transformational Selling conversations. They focus on the person who’s feeling overwhelmed, confused, and uncertain about the markets and where to invest their money. They want someone to help them be confident with their plan, optimistic about their future, and secure that their investment habits and behaviours will help them achieve their goals.

The risks are high when your conversations revolve around product, service, and price. You erode trust, disconnect clients, and shortchange results. More than that, you reduce yourself to a transactional seller when what you really want is to help people fulfill their dreams.

That’s what happened when the FA asked for our investment statements before she had a chance to understand who we were as people. Her attention was on our investment products, when we needed her eyes on our financial vision.

How to Earn a Client's Permission With 5 Permission Slips

You know how hard it is to get a client on the phone, let alone into your office for a meeting. This is a milestone in and of itself. Getting your clients’ attention away from the “life tornado” of meetings, overstuffed inboxes, weekend backyard chores and kids’ hockey tournaments is gold. Don’t mar this moment with petty product pushing; count yourself lucky for an opportunity to go deep with your clients.

Instead of jumping right in with the big ask — whether it’s for their statements or business — you need to confirm that they’re on the same leg of the journey with you.  As a Transformational Seller, you shift your mindset from “asking for the business” to creating conditions for invitations to happen. As you build rapport and strengthen your relationship, you request permission along the way to move to the next stage of the journey. Ultimately, through these milestone moments you’re led to an opportunity to work together that feels more like an invitation to a great party than an appointment in a dental chair.

Requesting a client’s permission to ask for their statements, to present them options, or to propose to work together is a sign of respect and how you uphold your relationship to the highest regard. Using the Transformational Selling way, there are five permission slips you are wanting to earn from your clients:

  1. Request permission to uncover needs.
  2. Request permission to discuss options.
  3. Request permission to present a proposal.
  4. Request permission to set agreements.
  5. Request permission to design follow-up.

How Will You Earn a Client's Business?

In my example, the advisor jumped right to permission slip 3 — she wanted to prepare solutions before she understood our needs or discussed options we’d be interested in. Are you skipping over permission slip 1 and 2 too?

Even though this seems like a longer route home, consider it a scenic journey that won’t shortchange you or your clients.

There you have it. Now it’s over to you, which permission slips are you skipping over? How is it affecting your clients?

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