Training February 2017

Stop with The Hard Sell Already

Put client success at the centre

“We are going to be in your area next week, would you be available on Tuesday or Thursday?”

“Really? Which part of my area will you be in?”

“Are you available on Tuesday or Thursday?”

“Wait a minute, you just said you would be in my area, so which part of my area will you be in?”


“That’s interesting. Akasaka is a big place, which part of Akasaka?”

“Are you available on Tuesday or Thursday?”

This was an outbound investment sales call. The object was to sell me on investing my hard-earned cash in their firm’s investment product.

This conversation carried on far beyond what I have quoted here and became even more ridiculous, if that is actually possible. The essence was that I didn’t believe that what they were saying was true. They started with a suggestion that they would be in my area and could just drop by. They say this to appear indirect and less “hard sell”.

However, when you push back on the validity of what they are saying, out comes the blatant hard sell—their constant, annoying refrain of “Tuesday or Thursday?” Why would they be doing this, when it is so obviously ridiculous? The answer is lack of sales skills and proper training.

There is a set script in place and I departed from the sacred text by challenging what they were saying. I did not believe that they would happen to be in my area and therefore could just drop by. It sounded unlikely to me, so I pushed back on their basic assertion. If they wanted to see me, why not just say, “We would love to visit you, would Tuesday suit, or how about Thursday?” Instead, they started with a lie or, at best, a dubious assertion that had close to zero credibility.

Now this sales call is for an investment offer, where you cannot see, taste, hear, touch or smell the product and you won’t know if it is any good for years. The trust factor on this type of sale is huge, yet they start the proceedings with an obvious lie.

A proper approach

How could they have done it more professionally? They don’t know me and have found my address and phone number somewhere, so are trying to begin a relationship. When you are starting a relationship, you need to immediately put the other person at ease and try to build some rapport.

“Hello Dr. Story, we have not met or spoken before, but my name is Taro and I am with XYZ company. We exist to serve the interests of highly discerning clients such as yourself. Do you have a few moments to speak?

“Thank you.

“We offer information and insight, and help busy executives such as yourself to better manage their wealth. Our clients often tell us they are so busy helping everyone else that they tend to sacrifice devoting enough time to their own personal wealth management. Is this the type of experience you have ever had?

“We may or may not have something that suits your situation, but the beauty of having a short meeting with our experts is that they can at least outline some of the most successful portfolio structures that have been working for executives similar to yourself. Are you in a position today to be able to consider investing in products that you might find attractive?”

This example passage does a number of things. It flatters me that I am discerning, checks that I have time to talk, and tells me they are in the wealth advisory business. They also pick a problem that busy executives do have—that often we are not managing our own wealth sufficiently well.

By asking me if I have had that experience, this opens up a sufficiently broad time range to receive a positive “yes” response. By saying they may or may not have what I need, it comes across as balanced, consultative and not a hard sell. Referring to best practice examples tells me they are only going to talk about things that are relevant and working well already.

We are all in the trust business, and so what we say can’t be tricky, smarmy or duplicitous. We are here to serve clients, and tricking them into seeing us isn’t a winning formula. The point of the conversation was to get an appointment, no matter what. That was the wrong objective.

The point of the conversation should have been to build trust and invoke interest. They need to weed out non-clients like me, so that they are only speaking with qualified buyers. I wasn’t one, but she had no idea of knowing that because the script wasn’t intelligent. Now you would hope that your financial advisor would be intelligent, but what they were doing was clear proof to me of how unintelligent they are.

In this modern age, boiler room-induced hard sell doesn’t work—the client’s interest has to be paramount. Salespeople who don’t get this basic point are not going to be around very long. Redesign the sales approach and put the client’s success at the centre—then you will meet clients and make sales.