power your advice

Kill the Elevator Pitch

Perhaps one of the most ineffective ideas perpetuated in our industry is the “elevator pitch.”

The idea of the elevator pitch is that you say something so unique and clever that people will want to talk to you about becoming your client. Can you envision it? You just say the magic words and prospects clamor for your business card. It’s so alluring that I’ve been guilty of wanting to believe this is possible myself.

However, I have come to recognize that the key to engaging people, especially wealthy people who have lots of experience with financial advisors and institutions, is to ask great questions. Especially in that first 30 seconds … even if you are actually riding an elevator.

People would rather talk about themselves than listen to other people talk.

Even as a cold‐ calling rookie 30 years ago, I remember that nobody hung up the phone while they were talking! And the same is true in person. People don't become bored talking with you when they are talking. People don’t perceive you as just another typical FA while they are talking. People don’t conclude that they already have all of their financial affairs taken care of while they are talking. People don’t become uninterested in speaking with you while they are talking.

So what do you do if you literally have that proverbial 30 seconds in the elevator with someone who could become your next ideal client? Or more likely when you meet someone at a cocktail party or fund‐raiser? Ask a great question that gets them talking about something that is meaningful, important, significant and compelling to them. Imagine the elevator doors open, they are still talking, and they would like to continue talking to you. They will be much more receptive to your offer to continue the conversation and, eventually, to your offer to take the next step in the journey of becoming your next ideal client.

While this may seem self‐evident, very few FAs have developed this skill.

What kind of questions?

First of all, these are definitely not simple‐ minded conversations about the weather, sports or the news headline of the day. Nor are they questions about the person’s money, the markets, economics or financial planning needs.

In fact, I asked the most interesting and successful people I know to send me their favorite questions and I put them together in a worksheet I’ve included some of their contributions below:

Kevin Knull, CFP

“As a child, what did you want to grow up to be, and why?”

“Tell me about the two friends you have that would give you 50% of the money in their checking account, no questions asked, if you told them you needed it and couldn’t say why.”

What are the three most pressing concerns personally right this moment?”

If you just found out you had 30 days to live, what would you do with those last 30 days?”

Scott McKain

“What’s the one thing you learned growing up that still impacts you today?”

Patricia Fripp

“How did you meet and fall in love with your spouse?”

Peter Legge

“How did you decide to become a ______ ? What influenced that decision?”

Shep Hyken

“What keeps you up at night?” “What are you reading?”

Dianna Booher

“It depends on where I am when I ask the question, to whom and the context—serious, private and so forth. Here are three:

“‘Looking back, what would you say has been the happiest time in your life? Now or when you were younger? Or college days? Or just when?’ Then I follow up with, ‘Why do you say that?’”

(The purpose is just to get them talking enthusiastically about a happy time and to find out more about their background.)

“The next question is, ‘What one thing are you most excited about in your business these days?’”

(The purpose is to find out more about the person’s business, learn new ideas—and particularly what they are passionate about.)

The next question, she says is, “‘We’ve known each other for a very long time. There’s one thing I don’t recall ever having talked about … where do you stand on spiritual issues? Heaven forbid and you didn’t wake up tomorrow morning and God asked why he should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?’”

(The purpose of this is to determine spiritual understanding and see if the person is willing to talk about spiritual matters, possibly opening the door for a deeper conversation about what the Bible says about how a person can have a personal relationship with God on Earth.)

Tony Alessandra

“Tell me a bit about your business?”

“What kinds of activities do you like to do outside of work?”

“What are the top three business concerns you’re facing today?”

“What opportunities from us, or your competitors, do you see as being missed or overlooked?”

“What are your thoughts on how the changes and trends in your industry will affect your current and future business?”

The goal of asking questions like these is to move people a step closer to possibly becoming your client without feeling like you are selling, convincing or persuading. It’s all about them.