We all have one…a client whose name causes us to cringe when we’re told they are on the other line. Mine was Bonnie.

Whenever she would leave my office, I would look at my office manager and say, “I’m going to heaven.”

But finally, I fired her.  Frankly, I couldn’t take it any longer. The constant phone calls. Accusing me and my staff of doing things we didn’t do.  Failing to take my advice.  Constantly questioning returns.

When I trace back to where things went wrong (she’d been with me for over ten years), it’s clear now that the problems all began at the very first meeting.  Now I realize that just about every client problem can be traced back to the first meeting.

She told me she was looking for a new advisor because her current one no longer wanted to work with her.  Eager to bring on a new client, I went into “Logic Mode.” I ran an analysis of her current portfolio, showed her what she was doing wrong, and quickly signed her up.

Wait a minute…her former advisor fired HER?

Yes, I ignored that. In fact, I thought him firing her was a good thing.

What followed was over ten years of her coming into my office unannounced with a stack of mail that she didn’t understand. Some of it was from my office. Most of it was not. From reverse mortgage brochures to letters from Social Security, she would come into my office insisting I meet with her ASAP.

And you know what? I agreed to see her.  I won’t go into the details, but I can honestly say that my staff and I bent over backwards to assist her. And in the process we all received a great deal of abuse.

So let’s go back to the first meeting. Back then I lacked the most important selling tool known to man: A system.

Not a system to make a sale.  To the contrary.  A system to not make a sale.

A system designed to disqualify people who are not ideal clients.

What’s ideal?  How about a very nice person who appreciates my work, gives me all of her money to manage, is coachable, and refers people my way.

Other than giving me all of her money, Bonnie was not ideal.

As salesmen (and yes, you are a salesman), we’ve been raised to believe that selling is all about promoting features and benefits while overcoming objections. And at one time, this was true.

Until Al Gore invented the internet, we were the product distribution system. Many clients hired us because that was the only way you bought financial products. Our relationship then was largely product based.

Today, no one should hire you because of product. If they do, then it’s a matter of time before they leave you. They’ll move to Florida and meet a neighbor with a similar portfolio but with a lower management fee. And then you’re in trouble.

Trust me…I know. I recently lost a seven digit client under that very same scenario. So let’s return to the first meeting.

From this day forward, your goal is NOT to make a sale. Instead, you will now look for the reasons the sale won’t happen.  And if any of those reasons exist (I call them landmines), you must address them immediately.

Here are some of the most common landmines:

  • No Emotion:  People make major changes only when they feel enough pain to change the status quo. But not everyone who visits you has such pain. They’re simply on a fact finding trip, hoping to gather as much free information as you’re willing to distribute. Be careful not to assume that everyone has pain and you just have to find it. Not true. A true “do it yourselfer” is confident in his abilities. He reads lots of books. You’re just the last source of information that he has yet to tap.
  • Current Advisor:  If you do a lot of seminars, then you’re likely to draw people who already have an advisor. I know what you’re saying: If they’re so in love with their current advisor, why did they come to my seminar. I can convince them. Lots of people cheat on their spouse, but they’re not looking to leave them. Leaving is painful.
  • Think About It:  You know the type.  On principal they never make a decision right away.  They’ll look at 20 cars before buying one.   They’re also likely to be on a mission to get free information.  Defuse this landmine early by establishing that you have a rule against “think about its.” Ask them to please tell you “no” instead.  It doesn’t prevent them from calling you back to say they changed their mind, but it does keep you in control of the meeting, a power they would prefer to have.
  • Irrational Expectations:  For me it’s often someone who believes in active management and feels the advisor must beat the index each year. Or as one prospect put it, “Oh, you’re one of those index investors.” Whatever it is, the client has an expectation about your relationship you can never fill.

Very often when employing a system such as this, you can get caught up in the mechanics.  What do I say and when do I say it?   While I personally use a series of questions, you don’t have to be regimented.  Just remember the purpose of the first meeting: to discover the landmines, those things that will blow up the sale.

If you’d like to learn more about my selling system, visit www.KilltheCaveman.com.