The decision-making process – or buying journey as it has become known – that prospective clients go through today is complex, time-consuming for all parties, and is also often an incredibly frustrating affair for all parties. It is less frustrating if we understand what is actually going on and allow the time required for our process to be processed by them.
The frustration from an advisers perspective comes about because we feel that after all the time spent learning about their situation and aspirations, and then carefully constructing a systematic approach that will help them achieve their objectives, it is is a bit of a “no brainer” isn’t it? Our advice is logical and clearly in their best interests, so what is left to think about?
The advice just makes sense…..so why can’t they see that?
The fact is they usually can see it, but what we often fail to appreciate as advisers is the emotional journey the client is going through during the advice process is far more challenging and time consuming than the time it takes them to understand the logic and rationale.
What we are dealing with at the recommendation phase is often “shock” or “avoidance” behaviour. It isn’t about logic or common sense….it is about emotions and people adapting and adjusting to new information. After all, we are typically saying to a prospective client “here is why you won’t get what you want in life” or alternatively, “this is what you have to change to get what you want in life“. Either is pretty challenging, if not downright disheartening for many prospects.
All the old-school “objection handling” sales techniques that never really worked that well definitely don’t help at this point in todays customer buying journey. Trickery….pressure….glib lines….they don’t assist someone grappling with the shock of finding out they are a lot further away from their goals than they imagined, or that some of todays pleasures have to be foregone. Clever objection-handling techniques do not help people face the issues and move into “acceptance” of the need to change something – which is effectively what every financial advice recommendation involves.
The concept of the learning curve (as I understand it) came out of work on psychological modelling by Kurt Lewin in the early 1950’s, and then that was combined with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “grief model”. The end result was a graphical depiction of the emotional journey people go through over time when suddenly faced with a new reality that doesn’t match their established perception of their own skill or position.
We professionals reacted the same way when we had to learn some tough new technical material, or had to face some new regulatory requirements….shock, anger, avoidance….all of these emotions occur before we can move on to accepting the new reality. Only when we get to that stage can we begin working out how to adapt and use the new information, leading us to test and try variations before finally settling upon how to implement it best.
It is the same for our clients much of the time.
Therein lies one of the “secrets” of successfully advising todays prospective clients selling: understanding the emotional journey you are asking them to go through, and more importantly, understanding where they are on the journey at any given time. Giving customers the recommendation and then giving them time, and then space, and THEN supporting information and attention works because it matches their needs as they go through the emotional learning curve.
The amount of time, and the amount of space, will vary from person to person of course, and it is important to grasp the time and space needed by each prospect. Some human beings make great fighter pilots, and others don’t. One of the differences between those who do and those who don’t is how quickly the fighter pilot moves to “acceptance” – it is literally within seconds of receiving life threatening information that would paralyse most other peoples’ decision-making ability forever.
This is an extreme example of course but serves to highlight that the process of absorbing complex and challenging information is essentially the same for all humans; the difference between us is simply the timeframe that it takes to process the emotions.
You will convert more prospects into clients if you consider carefully how much time each needs to absorb new information – some of which will be challenging to their self-perception – and understand the emotional journey they are undertaking. Get that balance right and you will get more prospective clients engaging with you and your advice.