Sales is a Contact Sport

4 September, 2008 (20:09) | Blog | By: admin

By: John Connors

Tell the truth now: when you first read the title of this article, an image flashed through your head. Maybe it was an NFL lineman tackling a would-be client, or perhaps it was an Olympic wrestler, grappling a sales prospect into submission.

It’s a funny image, but at its core is a serious thought: many people – perhaps even you – think of sales as an essentially coercive activity in which the sales person manipulates other people into buying things they don’t want or need. Certainly there are some sales people who operate that way.

But that is not the way you need to – or should – conduct sales in your financial institution. Here’s the thing you need to realize: sales – the kind of sales that produces loyal clients who come back again and again – is a helping relationship. That’s right, a helping relationship. There are people out there who need – and I mean that in a literal sense – what your financial institution has to offer. Your job, as a sales person for your institution, is to connect with those people, find out what their needs are, and present your institutions products and services in a way that they can make an informed decision whether to take advantage of those products and services or not. It’s just that simple.

At the heart of that process is contact, human contact between your institution and the prospective client. That’s why sales is a contact sport. And here is why you are essential to the process. Every institution has infrastructure – IT, branch offices, and so forth. On top of that, every institution has products and services, which frankly, most people don’t understand very well. The only way that the majority of people can make better decisions about your products and services is by contact with you   who can explain how your institution’s offerings can meet their needs. Contact is the critical glue between you and your clients.

Let me give you a quick example. A colleague was a client at one institution, and he received a direct mail offer from another institution that seemed very attractive. He went to his current institution and announced his intention to change to the competitor. The manager was sharp enough to ask, “Why do you want to do that?” My friend explained the alleged advantages of the account the competition was offering.

“We have something exactly like that,” the manager said.

“You do?”

“Absolutely,” the manager replied. “If you like, I can switch you over; you can keep all your existing checks, and we’ll be done in five minutes.” Just a few minutes later, they shook hands, and everyone walked away satisfied. Note well: there was no coercion in this interchange high level of friendly, helpful, and sincere contact.

This brief encounter also demonstrates a key point that anyone who is involved in selling for any financial institution needs to know: it is at least five times harder to win a new client than it is to retain an existing client.

Some time ago I created a training program, called “Solution Selling,” that teaches people how to sell that result in strong client relationships and with integrity by meeting people’s needs and offering solutions to their problems. What follows is a brief overview of the key points.

The sales process is divided into four key steps.

Prospecting – is identifying new potential clients and maintaining a healthy sales pipeline. These could be new clients currently not with your organization or existing clients who are in need of other products or services you currently offer. Sometimes this means reaching out through mailing lists, business periodicals, business associates, or community organizations. But the sad truth is that most financial institutions do a poor job of mining a superb source of prospects – their own client list!

Needs Discovery – involves finding out what the prospective client’s needs are. Usually all this requires is talking to them and asking some questions, doing significant probing to ensure you understand your client’s needs. Too often the sales representative is focused on the transaction and not the relationship. If a relationship exists, you truly understand the client’s needs. Understand the clients needs and you secure loyalty. For example, if you have a client who has several high-dollar money market and CD accounts, it’s a reasonable bet they might be a good prospect for your investment services group. Or that couple who just were approved for a mortgage could potentially be prospects for life insurance. By understanding client needs you prevent them from seeking these products elsewhere or allowing your competition to suggest a product to them that you already have but failed to mention.

Demonstrate Product Value –  is really just showing the client what the value of the product or service is to him or her. For example, that individual with the high-dollar money market and CD accounts would probably appreciate knowing that he or she could potentially earn a higher rate of return with other investments.

Overcoming Objections – revolves around identifying objections the prospect may have and creating ways to respond. This is not coercion or arm-twisting but listening and responding with the appropriate facts or solutions.

Sometimes the four steps happen all at once. For example, when someone comes up to your desk and says, “I need a checking account,” you might go through all four steps in a single encounter. At other times, the process might stretch over hours, days or weeks. When that happens, your CRM software will make sure you maintain contact, keep any commitments you may have made, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Along the way, you may find that reaching out to people, discovering their needs, showing how your institution’s offerings can meet them, and creatively responding to their objections is not only a contact sport, but also one that you enjoy and be successful. Stay in contact with your client and you will stay in contact with your their needs. You see it truly is all about contact.

John Connors is the CEO of the Center for Corporate & Human Development and creator of Solution Selling. He can be reached at;; or 518-399-5872.

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