By John Pojeta
I recently attended a conference where, during the Q&A portion, an advisor asked how she could market without giving away her services for free. She feared giving too much away, leaving prospects in a position where they could take her insights without ever paying for them.
For advisors, this is a well-founded fear. You spend dozens of hours — and that’s not even counting the years of expertise driving those hours — developing the perfect proposal that accounts for the nuances of a prospect’s situation and artfully solves their biggest problems, only for the prospect to take the proposal and either execute it themselves or to hand it over to a much cheaper, less skilled resource.
At the same time, you need to demonstrate your value and differentiate yourself from the growing ocean of competitors vying for your target prospects. How do you do that without giving away what makes you worth paying for? Where does thought leadership end and working for free begin?
Before we dive into the answers, let’s be perfectly clear: You need to do some form of thought leadership. Here’s why: Your best prospects already have an advisor, and they likely don’t see any problem or missed opportunities with their current relationship. And throughout the year, they get calls and emails from advisors promising to sell them a better and more efficient widget. Most of those touches get stopped by the gatekeeper, and a rare few will turn into actual meetings.
Demonstrating your expertise can help you break through those barriers.
Lead With Insight
In our business and with the advisors we work with, we see the Challenger Sale Methodology having the most success. Instead of leading with a solution or with relationship building (both of which come into play later), this approach leads with insight. What can you teach your prospects about their businesses and about their industry that they hadn’t considered? In doing so, can you illuminate a problem or missed opportunity for revenue or for profit, or efficiency that they missed?
You need to show them the cinematic trailer of what makes your approach unique and impactful and why it works. Like a trailer, you need to elicit an emotional reaction and plant the seeds that make a prospect lean forward when you talk. And also like a good trailer, you don’t want to spoil the whole movie. Instead, you want the prospect to gladly reach for their wallet to see more.
Here’s how you create that intrigue and showcase your value without working for free:
- Talk about the “what” and the “why,” but go easy on the “how.” You can talk to a prospect about what makes an opportunity an opportunity and what makes a problem a problem without handing over the blueprint for how you would execute on those items in step-by-step detail.
- Tell stories about other clients and what capitalizing on a similar opportunity meant for their businesses. Again, this lets you stick to the high-level discussion of the impact you can make and why without actually revealing your secret sauce.
- Strategy is different from tactics. Great sports coaches often talk about the strategy their teams employ so that fans and critics understand what they aim to accomplish, but they don’t open the playbook to reveal exactly how that gets done. A football team might be known for how their defense forces sacks and incomplete passes and the coach may talk openly about how that works in their favor, but that team can still push those results because the “how” is left a secret.
- Don’t do proposals for free. Some prospects use a proposal request as a delaying tactic (or a fishing expedition), and this is an opportunity for you to press the conversation with your expertise and with examples of work you’ve already done. If your prospect isn’t sold on working with you, you might need to evaluate your sales process.
To be a leader in your space, you must talk about your vision and your expertise. If you lock it all away, prospects will never know why they should work with you instead of with the next advisor down the street, and you won’t gain the momentum of a following that comes with true leadership.
John Pojeta is vice president of business development with The PT Services Group. Previously, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years. John may be contacted at [email protected].
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