22 Keys to Sales Success: How to Make It Big in Financial Services

22 Keys to Sales Success: How to Make It Big in Financial Services

by James M. Benson, Paul Karasik

In the past few years, the financial industry has undergone dynamic structural changes that have deeply affected the sales process. Bruised by market volatility, today's consumer is skeptical and demands more for less. A business needs fresh approaches to sell in today's tough marketplace.

Here are the 22 Keys that can help any financial professional make more

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In the past few years, the financial industry has undergone dynamic structural changes that have deeply affected the sales process. Bruised by market volatility, today's consumer is skeptical and demands more for less. A business needs fresh approaches to sell in today's tough marketplace.

Here are the 22 Keys that can help any financial professional make more money, work less, and maximize his potential. Industry leaders James Benson and Paul Karasik combine their personal experience with the shared wisdom of the masters. Each key contains proven, actionable sales guidelines, including:

  • The four primary fears that could destroy a sale—and how to help prospects overcome them
  • The nine most effective strategic approaches to "target marketing" success
  • Five guidelines for qualifying prospects more effectively
  • Sixty-five ways to snap a sales slump
  • Ten ways to get clients to say yes
  • Four simple steps to generate new business with current clients
  • Five guidelines for overcoming objections
  • Six sample scripts to make closing ratios soar

Whether a company has been in business for years or is just beginning, each key will unlock a new door on the path to sales success.

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Product Details

Publication date:
Bloomberg Series, #40
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.79(d)

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22 Keys To Sales Success

how to make it big in financial services
By James M. Benson Paul Karasik

Bloomberg Press

Copyright © 2004 James M. Benson and Paul Karasik
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57660-149-8

Chapter One


Take Control of the Sale

If you don't sell, it's not the product that's wrong, it's you. -ESTÉE LAUDER

There are no professional prospects. There are professional salespeople. It's up to you to take control of the selling process and guide the prospect through the sale to its conclusion. If you give up control, by letting your prospect dominate the sales presentation, you are letting an amateur take over. The first key to selling is to always maintain control of the sales process and to monitor the prospective client's reactions and responses, as well as manage any obstructing behavior, all along the way.

The prospective buyer is not trained to know the twenty-five best questions to ask a financial professional. Remaining conscious of this will eliminate your frustration if and when the sales presentation wanders and will endow you with the patience you need when the prospect gets off track. You need to be part psychologist as you work with your potential clients to move them through the sales cycle. The psychological aspect of the sales process is to anticipate the reactions of the prospect and be prepared with solutions thatwill keep the selling discussion headed in the right direction.

You must understand the prospect's mind-set. If you don't understand and address the prospective client's mind-set, you will find that successful selling becomes difficult, if not impossible. Most people spend the better part of each day thinking about themselves: their worries, their goals, their daily tasks. During the sales discussion the mind of every prospect is preoccupied with the two Big Questions:

1. What's in it for me?

2. Do I trust this person?

From the moment of contact, the single most important objective you have is to provide both logical and emotional answers to the Big Questions. Relationship building and the sales process will progress as long as you continue to answer these Big Questions. Thus in any sales discussion it's essential that you always anticipate the prospect's concern for the personal payoff. Trust is a more elusive goal to achieve. The best way to approach this Big Question is to present your capabilities as well as pointing out where you can't help the prospect, to continuously ask the buyer if he or she has any questions, and to offer reassurance through frequent references to past experiences involving similar issues and solutions.

Although there is no one sales personality, salespeople share one common trait: selling is always ego-driven; it involves a strong desire to take control. The glaring paradox is that successful selling requires the salesperson to make personal ego secondary to the prospect's needs.

Selling is not the place to get your needs met. It is the place for you to meet the needs of your potential client and for you to then go to the bank with the results. So control your ego's desire for conquest and defer to the prospect. Remember, the ultimate goal is to make the buyer comfortable-to put him in a mind-set to trust you and then to buy!

It would be nice to believe that human beings purchase financial products and services based purely on information and logic-that is, the features and benefits of the product they are considering buying, its economic value, and its relevance to their financial circumstances. Although you cannot make a financial sale without providing these details, your success in closing the sale will be determined not by the logic of your presentation but rather by your ability to control your prospect's emotions. These emotions can be difficult to detect, bring to the surface, and resolve. Fear is the predominant emotion you must learn to detect and control, although the prospect will rarely disclose it as such. It is your responsibility to uncover, understand, and allay the various fears that drive your prospect to indecision and threaten to destroy your sale.

How can you tell when fear is holding back your prospect? If she is stalling by asking extraneous questions or otherwise not choosing to move ahead with a decision, you can safely assume fear is part of the problem. Fear is also displayed physically, so be alert to body language. Signals of fear include crossed arms or busy hands, a leaning-away posture, grimaces or pained facial expressions, and the failure to stand or sit face-to-face with you. If you observe such signals, you need to address the prospect's fear before you can move ahead. Below are the four primary fears that threaten to destroy your sale and suggestions for helping your prospects overcome them.

1. Fear of making the wrong decision. The buyer of financial products is continually being offered conflicting advice by financial gurus on the radio and television. Ads for financial products and services pelt consumers everywhere they turn. Telemarketers call relentlessly with investment opportunities. The buyer is overwhelmed by myriad products and services from which to choose. Uncertain and volatile financial markets erode confidence in the financial products and services you offer. It is no surprise the consumer is confused, indecisive, and even terrified.

The solution. The financial professional must assume the role of an educator. Your intention is not to make your prospects experts in financial planning, insurance, or investments. Rather, you must interview your prospects, gather information about their goals and knowledge, and then, based on this information, carefully explain how a particular investment opportunity or financial product will meet their needs. Don't teach them how to make a decision, but do teach them why they should do so. The best way to control this aspect of fear is to support your claims with simple, neutral, factual information, such as newspaper articles, investment service reports (ValueLine, for example), and charts that show investment performance against a well-known index (such as the S&P 500). By providing factual information for the buyer to use in making a decision, you highlight your role as an educator and downplay your image as a salesman.

2. Fear of change. The buyer knows that any financial decision is a step away from the status quo: that is, what is comfortable. Change of any kind is disturbing. The fear associated with taking action, often into unknown areas, can keep a buyer frozen in place. This fear is amplified when your potential client is presented with the prospect of a major decision and lacks experience with the product or service you are offering. For example, someone who has never purchased insurance will fear buying it more than someone who has bought it in the past. Such fear is a powerful inhibitor of the sales process and yet, as has been noted, may be hard to detect because it is so easily disguised.

The solution. Provide prospects with a road map for the decision making process. Let them know what to expect. It's like a trip to the dentist. If the dentist said you had a problem and immediately began injecting, poking, scraping, and drilling in your mouth with big chrome instruments, your fear level would be 100 percent. On the other hand, if the dentist first took X-rays, showed you a model of the tooth or a videotape of the procedure, and carefully explained what to expect during each step, your fear level would be much lower. Information is the greatest antidote to fear.

In a similar fashion, the prospect needs a plan of the selling process and what will take place. This plan could include information such as the length and content of the fact-finding interview, where it will take place (a comfortable location), the agenda of follow-up meetings, and how each of you will decide if the relationship is a fit. These steps are critically important to establishing credibility and trust with the prospective client, and describing them is the best way to handle fear of change.

3. Fear of giving up control. Buyers walk into any selling situation with the need to feel in control. They want to establish the ground rules, direct the process, and feel they have the ultimate power over the seller. Fear of giving up this control is reflected in a variety of behaviors. The prospect may not return phone calls or may delay returning them. Sometimes the prospect may force you to set appointments with little regard for your schedule. He may reschedule or cancel appointments, disregarding the inconvenience to you. Or he may stall or delay the process, calling you back several times before making a final decision.

In addition, the buyer may demonstrate fear of giving up control by asking impossible questions that are intended to reveal lack of expertise on your part. Psychologically, these actions give the buyer the feeling of having the upper hand. The problem is that such behavior is counterproductive to a mutually trustworthy relationship and ultimately to a sale.

The solution. The secret to overcoming your prospect's fear of giving up control is to ask for permission and agreement. Ask for permission to question. Ask for agreement on how you will set and keep appointments. Ask for an agreement that each of you will keep your word. Ask for agreement on how to proceed with each step of the sales discussion. By asking for agreement and permission, you reduce, and hopefully avoid, the obstacles that can be created by the fear of giving up control. These tactics allow you to manage the selling process while giving the buyer equity in the relationship so that he remains comfortable.

4. Fear of losing self-esteem. Many people who are self-assured in other areas feel quite inadequate when discussing financial products and services. People have emotional and ego attachments to money. When their egos are at stake (they may truly feel incompetent to manage their financial affairs), their self-esteem is threatened.

Making a purchase decision intensifies this fear, because poor financial choices threaten self-esteem. At a cocktail party, some people are quick to share the incredible returns of a successful investment, but most people are a little shy about discussing the investment pick that failed. Lack of expertise and insufficient knowledge about your products and services will also contribute to a potential client's feelings of inadequacy. A perceived threat to your potential client's self-esteem is probably the most serious emotional factor you will encounter. It initiates the strongest defense mechanisms and derails your sales presentation.

The solution. There are two parts here. First, always do the right thing. Always sell the right product to the right person at the right time. Second, always communicate in a way that makes your prospects feel good about themselves. How and what you say must communicate concern, respect, and patience. Make your prospects feel good about doing business with you: they made the right choice.

* * * The first key to success in selling financial products and services is to maintain influence over your potential client's state of mind. If the sales process does not go the way you would like it to, it is probably because you have relinquished control or the prospective client's fear has taken over. You are the professional in this relationship. You must lead and control every aspect of the sales process. Give up control and allow your prospect's fear to creep in, and you give up the sale. Be acutely aware of the emotional reactions of your prospective client to the sales presentation. The four fears can ruin a sales discussion by creating undisclosed mistrust and lack of confidence in the potential transaction. Be on the lookout for signs of hesitation by the potential client. They reveal a fear that you will need to address to keep the sales process on target.

**ACTION STEP Use Power Phrases

Start using the following power phrases to take control when you are selling. Adapt and modify them to fit your selling style and your buyer's demeanor. They will help you take control and defuse the unspoken fears that can destroy a sale.

* "The truth is that if you weren't feeling a little uncomfortable about making a big decision, I'd wonder about the seriousness of your intentions."

* "I know how you feel. A lot of people have felt the same way. What I have found helpful is ..."

* "What you are feeling is quite normal. It makes a lot of sense to me. Here are some things to think about: ..."

* "From my experience, your concerns are quite typical. Most of my clients ..."

* " What do you need to know to make you comfortable with ...?"

* "Don't worry about understanding this immediately. It usually takes a little while for most people to grasp ..."

* "That's an excellent question! Many of my clients have asked the same thing."

* "Let's use this meeting to create a plan on how we can move forward. Does that make sense to you?"

* "Probably the best way to find out if we are a fit is for me to ask you some questions and for you to ask me about anything you need to know. Does that sound right?"

* "If it weren't for this issue, would there be any other reason you wouldn't start this program today, or begin the transfer process?"


Which of the following roles reflect professionalism in the sales process?

a. Consultant

b. Educator

c. Doormat

d. Psychologist

e. Antagonist

f. Coach

g. Hockey puck

Chapter Two


Focus on Clients, Not Compensation

If you want to win the game of selling keep your eye on the ball, not the scoreboard. -Anonymous

Very few people go to college thinking, "ah, one day I'm going to sell financial products and services." Yet each year, attracted by the benefits of a career in the financial industry, tens of thousands of people get licensed and enter the business.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of newcomers to the business leave it in a matter of months. And sadly, many of those who generate enough sales to stay in the business fail to achieve anywhere near their potential because they have made a critical mistake in their focus. They are more attuned to the rewards than to the clients.

The secret to long-term, unlimited success in the financial products and services business is to focus on clients, not commissions or fees. A client is defined as someone who has bought products or services from you in the past, is willing and able to continue buying from you in the future, and can refer you to other potential clients.

The terms client and customer are used carefully here.


Excerpted from 22 Keys To Sales Success by James M. Benson Paul Karasik Copyright © 2004 by James M. Benson and Paul Karasik. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Jim Benson and Paul Karasik have written an easy-to-read-and-understand, cram-packed guide to proven successful selling techniques. I would categorize this book as a 'must-read' for new sales professionals and a 'you better read' for seasoned sales professionals."
—Albert J. "Bud" Schiff
CEO, NYLEX Benefits
Past President, Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU)
Past Chairman, International Top of the Table

"This is one of the best-written sales books I've read. The action steps and skill builders help put words to action. This belongs on the shelf of every sales professional in the financial services business."
—Robert B. Plybon
Plybon & Associates
Past President, Million Dollar Round Table

"22 Keys to Sales Success makes a great educational text for the financial professional. It presents new ideas for the experienced adviser while also reinforcing historical best practices. For the less-experienced adviser, it serves as an effective primer on how to build a successful practice. Don't miss the resources guide in the back of the book—that alone is worth the price of admission!"
Barry G. Knight
Senior Vice President and Director of Sales Development, Pioneer Investments

"With this book, Jim Benson and Paul Karasik share their expertise on a number of important skills—such as developing client and professional relationships, ascertaining and serving client needs, and formulating, implementing, and adjusting multifaceted plans—in a clear, articulate, and practical way. 22 Keys to Sales Success provides the next generation of producers and leaders the tools they need to be successful in this ever-changing industry."
—David Stertzer
Executive Vice President, Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU)

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