The Advisor Loved You—So Who Sunk the Sale?
If you sell to advisors, you’ve probably experienced at least one deal that seemed like a sure thing—but you just couldn’t make it happen.
You hit it off with the advisor. He or she seemed to really get your message. But the sale just petered out, leaving you to wonder why.
On the other hand, maybe you had a client relationship that inexplicably soured. You lost the account without ever understanding what happened.
Pay attention to the people behind the curtain
You might have forgotten an important fact: Advisors aren’t the only gatekeepers you need to get past. Behind the scenes at any advisor firm are the unsung heroes who keep it running. Assistants. Office managers. Operations people. The owner’s right-hand person. These are very powerful individuals, and you ignore them at your peril. Any one of them can squelch a deal or spoil a relationship.
These people aren’t out to get you. They have legitimate concerns. Often, the owner will be tossing your solution onto their desks for them to implement. Getting trained, converting systems, fixing problems, dealing with client complaints, repapering accounts, hanging on your support line for hours—these tasks will all be added to their workloads if you succeed at making the sale. Worst of all, they’ll be first in line take the blame if anything goes wrong. So it’s understandable if the gatekeepers are not exactly rooting for your success.
How to turn a gatekeeper into your biggest fan
The good news is, if you get the gatekeepers on your side, they can become your most loyal champions—not only during the initial sale, but for retention as well. It takes a certain amount of finesse to win them over. You wouldn’t pitch them directly on a formal sales call, and you can’t come out and ask what their role really is. It’s mostly about acknowledging the importance of their relationship with the owner, and creating messaging aimed specifically at them. Then incorporate that messaging into your sales process and collateral. Make sure the website explains how you make their jobs easier and more interesting.
I’ve seen annuity wholesalers handle gatekeepers with real flair. They would roll in with flowers, pastries for the office, or candy for their kids, and win some serious relationship coin. And more importantly, they would spend extra time at the office answering their questions, or scheduling personal training calls with the product team. They recognized if they could make this one woman happy—and it usually is a woman—she would fight tooth and nail for their product.
A word of caution
Do not cross a gatekeeper. They feel easily threatened, and are worried that vendors will throw them under the bus or tell the advisor they don’t know what they’re doing. Convince them your product will help them do their job better, and never, ever say it will reduce the firm’s headcount! Offer extra training and extra servicing to make them the in-house expert on your product.
Take extra care of the gatekeepers at the start of a client relationships, and they’ll reward you with a longer relationship.
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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