As you know, it is important to have an opening statement that is compelling, one that will engage your potential client in a conversation. One strategy to accomplish this is by using open-ended questions. Closed questions, or ones that can be answered quickly, with a “yes” or a “no” can quickly bring a potential sales call to a grinding halt. However, a good salesperson will understand that every time a conversational door is closed, there is the possibility of another opening. For example, a person selling stocks might ask the other person “Have you ever been in the stock market before?” It’s a simple yes or no question, a closed question, but the salesperson should be able to recognize the path and tactics that each response should bring about.
Undoubtedly you’ve been where I was yesterday. I was on the phone, trying to make a sale, and my potential client simply would not talk to me. I felt that I would have better luck selling insurance to my dog. No matter what I did, no matter what I said, all he would respond with was monosyllabic answers. Plus, I could tell that I was starting to irritate him, so I decided to cut my losses. Hanging up the phone, I shook my head. What just happened?
I was reminded, however, of a call that I received just a few days ago. I wasn’t in a very talkative mood either, and a lot of it had to do with the approach of the salesperson. Sure enough, my approach had been just as ill conceived as that sales person. Here’s what happened.
I received a call from a Financial Advisor, employed by one of the many local investment companies in the area. Right off the bat, the caller started into his set routine. “Hi! This is Mark Robins from JKL Investment Firm. I work with individuals just like you to help them plan their investment strategy. Is this something that you would be interested in?” After blinking a few times, I answered “No.” Without missing a beat, he asked if I worked with someone. I answered “Yes,” a mental image of him checking off a list forming in my head. He then asked “Are you happy with what you are doing?” This question was hard to answer, since I really didn’t have anything to compare it to, but I answered “Yes”, just the same. The financial advisor thanked me for my time, and politely ended the conversation.
As I hung up the phone, my financial strategy, or lack there have was definitely in my mind. I hadn’t spoken to my own advisor in at least seven months, and I really had no idea what was going on in my portfolio. Was I still in the black? Or were my investments getting uncomfortably close to that red line? So I made a quick call to my advisor, and he advised me to keep a good portion of my money in cash, and to stop automatically investing in mutual funds. What would have happened if I hadn’t thought to call? How much closer to the red zone would I have gone? It’s amazing how much we think that everything is going smoothly, especially if we don’t take the time to investigate.
Truth is, the financial advisor from JKL Investments could potentially have made a sale or piqued my interest if he had approached the call a little bit differently. Instead of asking closed questions, or those requiring only yes or no answers, he could have asked open-ended ones. For example, after introducing himself, he could have asked the following:
- Who are you currently working with?
- When was the last time you sat down with your advisor and took a look at your investment strategy?
- What are your biggest concerns about your financial future?
- When are you planning on retiring?
These few simple questions are an easy way to engage the prospect in a conversation, and learn more about what their needs are and how you can possibly fill that need. By keeping your questions open, and the conversation flowing, there is more of a chance to get the appointment, and answer any objections that they may raise.