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Ten Critical Questions Your Client Wants to Ask—But Probably Won't

Shorten your sales cycle by having the answers to the questions your clients are thinking, but not asking.

By Maggie Leyes

A factfinding meeting. A discovery meeting. A proposal meeting. Does it feel like you are in one eternal stream of client meetings to close a sale? How would you like to close in the first meeting? Max Bolka, of Nationwide Consulting and Investment Services, is ready to help you do just that.

“To shorten the sales cycle,” says Bolka, “you must be able to provide your prospects with clear, accurate and succinct answers to the ‘Big 10’ questions they have.” By preparing the answers to these questions and practicing them until they become second nature, you can make quantum leaps in your sales and marketing efforts.

Are you ready for Bolka’s Big 10? Then let’s go.

1. What do you do for a living?
“You cannot say to your prospect, ‘I am a financial planner,’” warns Bolka, “that is a label, not what you do.” At a loss already? Start by using active phrases that describe the benefit of what you do, such as: “I create zero estate-tax plans.” “I help clients retire earlier than they ever thought possible.” Bolka calls these client-oriented benefit-laced mission statements.

2. Who do you do it for?
This means going beyond the income and occupation labels you have for prospective clients. “People do business with people they like and trust, and this is due to perceived common value,” says Bolka. He suggests connecting with clients on a level of common values, which can be things like hobbies, religion or sports—watching or playing.

3. How do you do it?
Now it’s time to create what Bolka calls a descriptive narrative. Expand on the answers to the first two questions. Think about how you are going to deliver on the promises made. If you tell a client, “I help people retire five to 10 years earlier than they ever thought possible,” then you need to add, “I help you define a plan, monitor your progress and I do this in three ways …” Think solutions, not products. Think relationships, not transactions.

4. What are your services?
Delineate in financial terms exactly what you do. This means list the specifics. Remember, Bolka says, that clients may not need a particular service, but they cannot recommend you to others if they don’t know you perform it.

Then, describe the process you go through: exactly how your plan works and how you work. This is about managing clients’ expectations of what is going to happen after they sign up. According to Bolka, clients are really saying, “Take away my uncertainty. Make it easy for me to say yes!”

5. Why are you in this business?
With this question, clients are telling you: “Show me your passion, and I will buy from you.” Bolka recommends that you let them see who you are and how they can connect to you through your shared values. If you try to be someone you are not, you come across as insincere.

6. Why should I do business with you?
This question is a veiled version of, “Why should I hire you and not the advisor down the road?” Bolka says you can differentiate yourself in four ways: your technical expertise, the market niche you work in, your specific services and, perhaps most importantly, your nonfinancial services—the way you deliver your products or services.

7. How do I know I can trust you?
This is something you cannot say—you must prove, stresses Bolka. It all comes down to how you market yourself. Make sure you have a system in place for processing your clients from the minute they contact you. “No one gives you half a million dollars without getting to know you. So use a lot of ‘we’s’ and feeling words,” he adds.

8. Why do you want me as a client?
This answer comes down to knowing who your typical clients are. Be sure you can describe them in nonfinancial terms. “Make them understand you understand them,” says Bolka. “Educate your client.”

9. How do you charge?
Be specific; give full disclosure. Show what you charge for each part of the process so clients know what they are getting. Calculate it for them, says Bolka, so they don’t make a mistake.

10. What can I expect when I become a client?
Tell them exactly how your relationship will unfold; detail everything. Bolka gives an example: “You get a quarterly newsletter, a phone call checkup four times a year, two more in-person consultations …” And then make sure you deliver on what you promised.


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