“Sales” is Not a Dirty Word: Embrace Your Authenticity Using the 4-4-4 Roadmap

BB Webb
11 min read
February 11, 2021

I’ll say it louder for the people in the back: “sales” is not a dirty word! Not selling or serving people what they need, however, is as bad as any curse word.

Sales might not be a bad word, but it has certainly gotten a bad rap, and that stigma didn’t manifest out of thin air. It’s an unfortunate reality that a handful of salespeople harboring less than altruistic intent can spoil someone’s entire perception of an otherwise noble profession. How did the “used car salesman” become a scapegoat? Probably because of one way too pushy, way too greedy, and way too disingenuous used car salesman. For shame.

We’ve all felt the uncomfortable pressure of someone pushing for a sale. Although those tactics may work in the short term, they don’t build the kind of deep-rooted relationships a financial advisor needs to foster with their clients.

These types of pushy tactics often serve as a clear window into one’s motivations. Professionals who are less driven by authenticity and the desire to help others are usually instead driven mostly by the almighty dollar, yen, ruble, peso, euro, or taka.

This makes me think of my foray years ago into purchasing whole life insurance with my first financial advisor. I didn’t realize until I became more educated in my protection/investment options that, at the time, it was not the best solution for my goals. Learning about other strategies that better aligned with my goals and realizing the huge upfront commission paid to my advisor on my whole life insurance was dismaying. My advisor was not dialed in to what I’d hoped would be her fiduciary responsibility.

Engaging with salespeople motivated mostly by profit results in the negative impressions people carry about sales. So, to repair the damaged reputation of sales, we simply need to remove profit calculations. Wait, what? Stop the presses—that can’t be right either.

Even professionals driven by authenticity and the desire to truly help others still have to consider profit and other measurable results. This intersection is where balancing motivations can get tricky. Solutions can get confused with the payout, whether that be the commission for some advisors, the financial KPIs you set for yourself, or those your boss states are vital to keeping your job.

As my father, a seasoned entrepreneur in the marble, tile, granite industry, would remind me:

“Honey, money isn’t everything, but it does rank right up there with oxygen!”

Point taken. So, the question becomes, where is the line between profiteering and simply working to sustain our business with needed revenue while maintaining our good-hearted motivation?

The key to this is understanding where you want to go with your firm and the buyer’s journey. How you get from A to B to C in the process of aligning with your prospect’s needs and matching your services appropriately is critical. Let’s explore how your expertise can best align with your opportunity to help others.

Not having a clear vision for your business and a sales process is what too often stands in the way of making needed prospect/client connections to both serve and secure new business.

In Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher’s seminal book, How Clients Buy, A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services, in referring to business acquisition:

“First, salespeople who are thought to be really good with people often come off as just inauthentic, oil, or unctuous... Second, we all know of experts who are just terrible with people but who have a line out the door.” 

Selling financial services is challenging. It’s less tangible than selling a house or a car or a piece of furniture, all much more tangible through size, design, style, performance, location. You’re selling on reputation, referrals, and relationships you build.

They go on to differentiate:

‘’When selling consulting or professional services, the goal is not to identify prospects and process them like corn flakes; it is to identify a community and position yourself to serve it over time.’

And here is the key, as an advisor and consultant, your intent is not a one-time transaction but in developing a long term, trusted, and mutually beneficial relationship. I’ll add to that with the type of client you most prefer, who fits into your particular niche and service passion point!

McMakin and Fletcher go on to share:

“Successful practice leads in consulting and professional service firms are much more like farmers cultivating their forty acres, careful with every relationship, knowing that if those relationships are treated well over time, they can sustain for life.”

And better yet:

“…experts who are known to be worth their weight in gold needn’t be charmers. It’s nice if they’re nice, but nice isn’t necessary.”

Bingo. So there’s the rub. Think niche, think your skillset, consider what the ideal person or community is who you’d like to serve and their core needs, and finally, calculate how many clients you need to serve longer-term. In short, consider the intersection of your expertise, the opportunity to serve at the highest level, and the quantity needed to assure profitability, and you’re on your way!

Below I outline a 4-4-4 Engaging Roadmap of key areas to consider as you work to engage with a prospect through self-awareness of who you are, what you have to offer, and what they need. I share thoughts on sales process engagement and what to do to retain a great client who might, in time, refer you to other people who need what you offer.

My 4-4-4 Engaging Roadmap considerations are three short, and powerful lists intended to

  • Direct you systematically to knowing what you need to grow your business.
  • Guide you to authentically learn what moves your prospect to buy.
  • Motivate you to engage consistently with your client to retain long-term relationships with clients who refer you in time.

Trust that if you work through these key engaging measures (I’m mindfully replacing the word sales), the money will come as you work to create a commercial and profitable business that serves people well!

As you start on the road to being authentically you while creating a process to vet who the best candidate for your business is, we’ll look at some methods to convert your potentially salesy mindset to one of simple truth and authenticity.

The first stop on our roadmap is to consider who you are as an advisor so we can then move you through your personalized client acquisition journey.

Four Key Tenets to Know Who You Are as An Advisor

1. Know your niche

  • Who do you want to serve, and what is your niche pool of qualified candidates? Who in this group can you reasonably and effectively affect?
    • Do you work with doctors, ex-pats, teachers, or non-profits? Where are they, and how will you get in front of them?

2. Build brand awareness

  • How are you building awareness of what you do, your offerings, and the results you get for others?
    • Who might your referral base be for this group?
    • What marketing, blogs, webinars, paid ads, or networking events might you consider to meet people within this niche?

3. Know your numbers

  • Have a clear roadmap for where you want to go with your business.
  • What is the cost of running your business? What are your revenue goals and desired profitability?
  • Consider the activities it takes to get the best type of leads you need and your average acquisition time. Balance those numbers and timeline with how many clients you prefer at any given time.
  • Understand your conversion rates to know what you need to reach your goals.
    • How many qualified leads do you need to convert from lead to prospect?
    • How many qualified prospects do you typically convert to clients?
    • Measure the depth of your interactions and the value of your connections philosophically, intellectually, and socially where appropriate.
    • What clients might you impact to graduate them to a deeper level of your services?

4. Timing is key! Know your prospecting timelines

  • Consider stages of your pipeline with categories of your prospect closing journey. Discern the following:
    • What are the pressings needs and key goals or challenges for your prospect?
    • Who is hot to close and why?
    • Who is lukewarm and needs more time in your sales process?
    • Who is a solid maybe and best added to your drip follow-up campaign?
    • How are you nurturing interactions and results to retain your existing clients?
    • How are you selectively mining for referrals, and how is that impacting your business?

The second stop on our roadmap will help us navigate the initial engagement phase of a client relationship, and if they are a good fit, steer us towards securing their business.

Four Key Tips for Authentically Engaging with Your Prospect

1. Create and communicate your “getting to know one another” vetting process

  • Let your prospect know you utilize a best practice process to learn about them and for them to know about you and your firm to see if you are a mutual fit.
    • This is a no-pressure way to set up a framework that gets early buy-in from your prospect in an often-needed two-step meeting process.
    • Develop and communicate your interest in learning more about them, sharing expertise and passion around the niche they fall within. For example, “I used to work in high tech and understand the challenges around stock options and benefits. High tech is my practice’s key client focus.”

2. Build rapport

  • Consultative engagements are not transactions and often take time. The key is to assure you have a clear and communicated process for being efficient with your time and efforts.
  • Assure you weave in the building rapport part of any meeting to tune in to where your client is, find commonalities as you build trust, and further engage.
  • Use workflows within your CRM to stay on task with your follow-up to a prospect, whether you’re actively involved in working toward a close or staying in touch, knowing that their interest might be forthcoming.
  • With prospects you may have met at a virtual event where you presented a webinar, ask the host organization to obtain permission to share your informational newsletter with attendees.

3. Know your prospect’s most likely buying journey and most pressing needs

  • As you engage with your prospect and as they are willing to share potentially vulnerable parts of their big picture, endeavor to learn the following:
    • Where have they been in life, and how does that impact now?
    • Where do they want to go in their life; what are their dreams and goals?
    • What challenges have precluded their goals?
    • Financially where have they struggled or not, etc.?

4. Clearly outline service options to help your prospect and ask for the business

  • Consider the best advisory starting point for your client, knowing that they might engage in your fuller services in time. Consider that, for now, they might need to just “stick their toe in the water” on a project or hourly basis engagement.
  • Allude to a more full-service benefit, revisiting that at a clear point in the future, you will further explore your service options if a fuller solution is truly in the best interest of the client.
  • Share your delight in feeling both passionate and qualified in wanting to move forward together.
  • Get a “yes” or manage your prospect’s questions, which will help you better know where they might be struggling to get to “yes.”

The last stop on our roadmap is all about nurturing the relationships with your clients to ensure that you are serving them at the highest level throughout all stages of their journey.

Four Key Treasures for Retaining Great Clients

1. Getting to know your client

  • Once you have secured a relationship with your new client, consider key meetings to frame a short feedback time (5-10 minutes) with your client. Ask if where you are in the getting to know one another planning process makes sense and if they have questions or requests for you.
  • I recommend doing this virtually via a video format or in person. The key is reading the nuances of your client’s feedback and having the opportunity to inquire further, something that a written response cannot provide as thoroughly.
  • Keep the feedback informal but gently probing to assure your client is getting from you what they seek.

2. Stay Connected

  • Use your CRM to create a workflow with scheduled monthly check-ins to your clients.
  • Consider something as simple as a newsletter one month or an anniversary card for their start date in another month, outside of your other service calendar engagements.

3. Add-in personal touches

  • Add to your touch in calendar possible client appreciation events, holiday swag bags, a gift certificate for reaching a goal, etc.
  • Create a time to suggest they act on one of the goals they shared with you. For example, if the finances allow, suggest when it might be a good time for the trip to Sicily they mentioned, to take a writing course, or even do something as simple as taking time to self-reflect and journal.

4. Make sure you are delivering on what matters to your client

  • As you engage in this process, reflect on where you’ve been together, how you’ve helped your client reach their goals, or assisted in preventing hardship through your counsel.
  • Make evident that the path you’ve written with your client has yielded new possibilities or beneficial results in the process. This creates space for you to reiterate your joy in serving others and to ask your client if they have suggestions on anyone else within their niche group who you might also be able to help.

Your Key Non-Salesy Takeaway

Being a savvy financial advisor isn’t enough; you need to know how to connect with the right people, guide them to your practice, understand their challenges, communicate how you can help, and present the best fitting service offerings.

The keyword with smart prospecting is the notion that you might be the right fit for your prospect. You won’t know for sure until you have permission to investigate further. In this process, you hope to gain understanding and respect for your prospect’s situation and them for your expertise in helping them move where they want to go.

The sales process allows you to discern what is important to your prospect and begins a conversational inquiry. This process contrasts with the pressure-filled salesy conversations that make us all shudder, and which sadly have given the term sales a bad rap.

Consultative selling is thoughtful, helpful, respecting and kind. It stems from the desire to serve and should a fit not be yours, a referral to someone better fitting is an equally kind gesture!

Doing good work, being consistent, tuning in, building a trusted, giving relationship is what turns a lead into a prospect and then client. Putting your client’s best interests first while being real, sharing your passion for helping others, and relaying solutions for getting them where they want to go is all part of your role.

In short, your passion for serving, combined with a roadmap for guiding your prospect or client through a defined and communicated engagement process, with frequent, genuine, and purposeful touch-ins, are vital skills to develop in your role as advisor and entrepreneur.

Shake off the old sales framework, along with the stigma, and get out to the people who need you! Make service your mantra and watch both your world and the world of those you serve beautifully transform!

BB Webb

About BB Webb, XYPN Sales Coach

XYPN Sales Coach BB Webb has a background in both the arts and as an entrepreneur. She first learned about sales while touring her one-woman play across country and later through successfully growing her award-winning Atlanta based special event venue, selling it 14 years later to make a move to Bozeman, Montana.

Sales Coach, BB’s primary goal is to assist XYPN members in building great relationships, plans and processes for selling their services as financial advisors. With a focus on consultative selling, BB’s programs and resources are developed to guide members in creating their own systems and conversations for selling their unique services, fearlessly and with joy.

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