Many insurance and financial professionals aspire to become the go-to advisors for affluent clients and prospects. Without a strong command of what makes affluent prospects and clients tick, however, they will fall short of their goals.
Matt Oechsli is president of Oechsli Institute, a consulting firm specializing in attracting, servicing and retaining the loyalty of affluent clients. In his book, The Art of Selling to the Affluent, Oechsli draws from the results of his firm’s 2004 Affluent Purchase Decision Research to develop 12 Commandments of Affluent Selling. He commented on the commandments during a recent conversation with Advisor Today.
1. Be totally committed.
“You can’t just sort of wing it in the world of the affluent. You can’t stumble into an affluent opportunity and expect to do very well with it or do very well with any type of long-term success. These people are hard chargers; 93 percent are self-made; they work 50, 60-plus hours a week; and they are high-level corporate execs, upper management, self-employed business owners. They are totally committed to what they do, so you need to be totally committed to them,” he explains.
“YOU MUST MAKE THE COMMITMENT TO PROVIDE RITZ CARLTON SERVICE WITH FEDEX EFFICIENCY.”
2. Be as advertised.
The affluent are very cynical, says Oechsli, so it is very important that you are everything you state in your marketing materials—from the features and benefits of working with you to keeping the promises you make. “You have to remember that you are the product,” says Oechsli, “and make sure that what you do is absolutely congruent with that advertising.”
3. Be a problem solver.
Oechsli’s research revealed that one of the top criteria for gaining repeat affluent business and ongoing introductions and referrals is to solve the problems of the affluent quickly and solve them to their satisfaction. “You are a solutions provider to the multidimensional aspects of their financial affairs. The affluent are busy people, and they want a quick and professional resolution to any of their [financial] problems,” he says.
4. Be a servant.
Right behind being a problem solver is high-level, personalized service. “You must make the commitment yourself to provide Ritz Carlton service with FedEx efficiency. That’s the benchmark that the affluent use,” explains Oechsli. “And because service in general has become so mediocre at best, what the affluent want and what really sets you apart is specializing in this personalized service. You’re giving an affluent client 24/7 access to you.”
5. Be a trusted source of information.
Because the affluent will use their advisors as a source of information, you must know your products and services in depth, as well as those of your competitors. “You’ve got to know as much as you can about the competition and the alternatives they may have, because you are there to guide them and make decisions,” explains Oechsli. “They do not like to be sold, but they do like information. The more you are viewed as their information resource, the more you enhance the stickiness factor.”
6. Provide value that exceeds price.
Oechsli’s research illustrated clearly that when it came to loyalty and repeat business, discounting price was almost insignificant among the affluent. But, he says, “price relative to value is very significant.”
7. Disclose all costs.
This is a biggie with the affluent, according to Oechsli. “Affluent consumers are skeptical,” he says, “and they don’t like surprises, especially when it comes to any form of hidden cost. They’ll make a fuss on 50 cents on a $100 or $50 on $10,000. They’re willing to pay, but they need to know exactly what they’re paying for.” Having said that, Oechsli offers this caveat: Never discuss price with an unsold prospect. It isn’t until the point of sale that all costs need to be disclosed.
8. Stand by everything.
“Anything you do is considered something that must be backed up. You can’t just sell a product and be done with it. If there’s a problem with the product, you’ve got to stand by it,” says Oechsli.
9. You are the firm.
Because the products and services you work with are intangible, you become the tangible entity in the mind of the affluent client, says Oechsli. You are the product, and you are the firm. “With that in mind,” Oechsli says, “you have to be totally aware of your presentation, your personal energy, how you dress, your nonverbal and verbal communication.”
10. Be covetous of your reputation.
All aspects of your reputation count, cautions Oechsli. “Your personal reputation is as important as your professional reputation. This reputation is built one client at a time, one center of influence at a time, one strategic alliance at a time, one affluent client at a time—over time.“
11. Become internet-savvy.
You have to be savvy beyond just having the ability to send email. “You have to be able to help your clients do research, and do research yourself.” It is important, also, says Oechsli, that as an advisor to the affluent, you have a personal website that is not just a walking, talking brochure but is truly useful.
12. No hassles.
“Everyone who is targeting the affluent must understand that these people are hard chargers. They live in a world of stress. To cement their loyalty to you, you need to eliminate all hassles associated with their involvement with you,” says Oechsli.
Follow these commandments, according to Oechsli, and you will thrive in the world of the affluent.
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for the 2004 Affluent Purchasing Decision Research Report.