Why Advisors Must Be Persuasive

November 14, 2012

By Linda Koco

ORLANDO, FLA. – Financial advisors are not teachers, says Terri L. Sjodin. They are independent business people who must be persuasive with clients.

She plans to deliver that message to the Women in Brokerage event Wednesday at the 31st annual meeting of National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA).

Persuasion is an important piece of the advisory process, said Sjodin in an interview in advance of her talk.

However, all too often, advisors spend too much time informing rather than persuading, she maintains.

The principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, Newport Beach, Calif., Sjodin says she has been taking that message to advisor groups at carriers all over the country. She has also put it in her book — Small Message, Big Impact — which has been distributed to women who signed up for her NAILBA workshop in advance of the session.

It’s not that client education is bad or something to avoid, she says. Financial advisors definitely must clearly inform their clients, be compliant, be ethical and provide advice.

Advisors must sell

“But advisors must also sell,” Sjodin stresses.

That means they must be both informative and persuasive, she says. “That’s their job as financial advisors. You are not paid for disseminating formation. You are not a teacher or a philanthropist. You are a small business person.”

That job entails selling something, not just talking and not doing data dumps on clients.

Every solid presentation requires a certain amount of data, she concedes. But many professionals deliver overly informative presentations and spend too much time on talking about the data.

A key reason for that, according to Sjodin, is that it is easier to deliver informative presentations than persuasive ones—because “a prospect typically won’t say no when you’re only disseminating information.”

The problem? “They don’t say ‘yes’ either!”

Her suggestion for advisors is to prepare for client meetings like a debater or an attorney. “Debaters and attorneys win cases based on persuasive arguments and supporting evidence,” she explains. “Focus on your most compelling arguments with each client or prospect.”

Another suggestion: Evaluate whether the advisor’s presentation creates a true need for the product or service, including products and services about which prospects may not even be aware.

And “don’t just deliver a standard list of features and benefits,” she says, pointing out that a feature is what something is, while a benefit is what something does.

“If you are too informative,” she reiterates, “nothing happens. If you are too aggressive, nothing happens. Find a balance, and you’ll see results.”

You don’t have to be pushy

That last point, about finding a balance, is pertinent to advisors who do not want clients to perceive the advisor to be a pushy sales rep. “The pendulum doesn’t have to swing all the way back to hard selling,” Sjodin says. “You’re looking for the lovely place in the middle.”

Will that increase the amount of time that advisors need to spend with clients, if they devote time both to informing and persuading? Typically, she answers, it takes less time than presentations that focus on data dumping.

“But it will take as long as it takes,” she adds. “And that depends on the people involved, the product or service, the amount and type of data, the timing, the needs, and all the other factors that go into a sale.

“Regardless of the time, our responsibility, when presenting, is to create clean, concise compelling communication, not just a discussion of feature and benefits.”

She tells of one woman who, upon hearing Sjodin’s message, realized she had spent too much time sharing and consulting with sales prospects without completing transactions. She had been focusing on providing more information than her competitor, in the hopes that prospects would like her more or feel obligated to buy from her because of her thoroughness.

By focusing more on brevity and tailoring her strongest points to her prospects’ needs, Sjodin says, “this young professional eventually became a consistent producer in her organization.”

Linda Koco, MBA, is a contributing editor to InsuranceNewsNet, specializing in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda can be reached at [email protected].

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