For the foreseeable future, face to face client interactions will not be an option, especially with the risk to immunocompromised and elderly clients. Unfortunately, online web and video conferencing, as well as phone conversations, are lower forms of communication. Keep in mind 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken, so meeting virtually drastically changes how we connect with one another.
Becoming a virtual advisor has great promise by unlocking the potential to become location independent and far more efficient with time, allowing for a more profitable client book of business. And whether we like it or not, the current pandemic is forcing the issue to do more client work virtually, which will sway some clients to continue that way after the stay at home restrictions are removed.
Here are the best practices to have success meeting virtually with clients and prospects.
ACE the Call Opening
Calls need to be conversations and not 1-way sales pitches. The client needs to know they have control, and their concerns addressed. For this, use the ACE method:
Appreciate – Thank your client or prospect for taking the time to speak with you today
Check for Time – Confirm they are still good with the scheduled duration for the call
End Goal – State clearly what should be the meeting outcome. For example, “The end goal of this meeting is to understand your financial situation to see how we can potentially help, and if you think it’s a good fit, we’ll discuss next steps”.
Once your client is in agreement about the end goal of the meeting, it’s time to make a quick 30 second introduction of your background. For example, “As a bit of context, my background is in…”
This is key for 3 reasons:
1. This phrase humanizes you as an advisor. It paints a story around your journey as a professional and a person. Don’t shy away from including personal details about your family, upbringing, or education.
2. You can establish subject matter authority, which is one of the six universal principles of influence in psychology. People will be most persuaded by you when they see you as having knowledge and credibility on the topic.
3. Introducing yourself is a ‘social bid’ to allow your clients or prospects to return in kind, giving you a chance to learn more about their world, passions, and views.
Pause after your introduction so that your clients and prospects can introduce themselves. Be sure to listen, and take notes – these will come in handy throughout your future conversations.
Your company’s vision and philosophy are the highest level opinions you can share with clients and prospects. It’s an immediate opportunity to get buy-in over whether or not your prospect agrees with your view of the world. If right out of the gate your prospect disagrees with your high-level statements, you either need to cut them loose or convince them of the market trends you and your company are seeing. Now is your time to shine as an industry expert and trusted advisor.
Now that you’ve ACE’d the opener, completed introductions, and got clear buy-in about your vision, you should be 5-10 minutes into the call with plenty of dialogue back and forth. Now it’s time to get to work with the agenda you have.
The only catch is, this is where the healthy balance of talk time can go out the window. With face to face interaction, it’s okay because you can literally see them getting bored or losing focus and adjust. But even with video conferencing, and especially over the phone, that luxury is gone.
This is where the psychology of sales kicks in:
“Do you agree with that?”
“Is that the right way to approach this?
“Is that what you were thinking about?”
“Am I using the right logic when I think about this?”
“Am I off base with that?
Many advisors do not realize just how massive consistent buy-in is from a prospect or client. Do not commit the cardinal sin of assuming what you’re showing is clear and evident in value. Here’s the psychology they didn’t teach you (or me) about getting buy-in during a sales call:
1) Foot-in-door technique: when people agree to something small, the likelihood of them agreeing to something big skyrockets. For example, agreeing to your company vision makes them more likely to agree to your proposal.
2) Consistency theory: we have a natural desire to appear consistent, as part of our self-image. In fact, psychologically we find it satisfying to be consistent.
3) Liking principle: we’re more likely to say yes to a request if we feel a connection to the person making it. Asking if I agree will increase how much I like you, leading to better outcomes.
With consistent buy-in, you’re tapping into core fundamentals on how the brain works. Do not make any claim, statement, demonstration, or proposal without finishing with a question asking for buy-in.
Stories Matter Most
If there’s one thing our brains are good at, it’s forgetting things! Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70% of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims on average of 90%! Yeesh…
How exactly can you overcome that while dealing with a lower form of communication like video or phone?
One word: Stories
Stories are the cornerstone of culture and the most basic form of conveying meaning. Our brains are hardwired to love a great story! A study by Uri Hassen of Princeton University discovered that when listening to another speaker tell a story, the same areas of both the speaker & the listener’s brains would light up in an MRI. We mind-meld when we hear a story that speaks to us.
So for all that’s good, do not rely on numbers and cold hard facts when neuroscience, psychology, and neuroeconomics all show that decisions originate from the limbic brain (aka the croc or old brain) first. That’s where emotions form, which then activates the neocortex to justify the decision with “facts” we warp to our cognitive biases.
So basically, tell lots of stories about other clients you’ve helped in similar situations reach their big, beautiful goals through wise financial planning!
Wrap it Up
Always leave yourself 5 minutes to end a call or meeting with the next steps. The art of the close is:
- Recap the meeting, referring to their buy-in on vision, check-ins, and your pitch
- Remind them of the story you shared that resonated with them
- Dictate the typical next steps you take with similar clients
- Agree upon the next meeting time, even if just tentatively scheduled
You now have the blueprint for a world-class virtual meeting and one step closer to being the virtual advisor of the future!