Nearly two years since the beginning of COVID, prospects and clients are still concerned. Some are reluctant to meet. Some can’t wait. There are many challenges. Everything has changed. Many changes are permanent, such as client communication. Physicians now charge more for telemedicine because of lower reimbursement rates. It’s tough to get clients and prospects to attend seminars. Direct mail response rates are low.
But for financial advisors, business has never been better.
FAs are more efficient with their time. You can conduct virtual meetings in half the time of face-to-face engagements. One study showed that 89% of high-net worth clients and prospects would rather do a virtual meeting than a phone call or even a face-to-face engagement. They feel that a 30-minute virtual appointment is better than an hour in-person appointment. FAs can conduct business across the continent instead of being limited to a 50-mile driving radius. We can do client events without the expense of hotels and other costly venues. One of my clients many years ago ruminated about relocating from Indiana to Florida for fear of losing clients. Now he can keep them all while communicating via virtual video calls and living where he wants.
One of my best clients in San Diego is now buying practices in Washington DC, Virginia and Arizona without losing any client contact. How is all this possible? Virtual sales. But are your virtual skills good enough to grow, no matter the economic or health climate? Can you communicate and run your practice virtually as well as you did face to face?
Here are some rules and skills that are unique to the virtual sales platform. Growing your skills in these areas will make your practice very profitable in the coming years.
The virtual sale is different – 83% of communication is nonverbal. Any medium that decreases the non-verbal emotional connection is detrimental. Face to face is better than virtual, but virtual is still better than an audio-only phone call. You don’t need to conduct every meeting in person. Referred lead calls can start with a phone call. Quick client touches are the same. But when you need to make decisions or gain rapport, face to face is critical. That doesn’t mean only in person. Virtual can substitute.
For example, the first “fit” appointment with a new prospect can be virtual. You are still in the process of developing rapport. Even the probing and presentation stages can be virtual if there isn’t an opportunity for an in-person meeting. But think of how much more efficient you can be if you do the first qualification, fit appointment, virtually.
The virtual sale is more compact. You can get more done with this medium than face to face. A 30-minute virtual meeting can replace an hour-long, in-person, event. You can schedule more calls and get more done.
Here are some rules and tips you need to know to do business virtually:
- The screen frame is important
Position your head in the middle of the screen. Make sure there is only one inch between the top of your head and the top of the screen. One of my clients in Michigan points her camera so low that I can only see the top of her head in front of the wall behind. I asked her a few times to point the camera lower, but it never registers.
- Look at the camera, not the screen
In my new book to be released this month, Mastering the Virtual Sale, I discuss various head positions including the side shifter. This person looks at the screen on the side instead of the camera on top. When you don’t make eye contact, even virtually, rapport decreases.
- Audio needs to be near perfect
When you are in person, there is no worry about audio clarity and quality. Virtual needs to be as close as possible to in person. Most virtual calls sound somewhere between an echo and a tunnel. Using your computer’s audio will not cut it. You will lose rapport. You need a professional boom microphone like the one interviewer Larry King used on his show or a professional headset that places the mic close to your mouth. The reason for virtual call precision is non-verbal communication. Anything that takes away from the in-person experience will hurt rapport and decrease your closing ratio.
- The background needs to support your message, not be a distraction
In my book, I discuss the “lurker” – the virtual caller who distractedly looks at a messy office or home. It may be tempting to use an empty wall to prevent distractions. But would you put a new prospect in a prison-like interrogation room? A good idea is to display a bookcase behind you, or pictures of your family along with diplomas supporting your brand.
Do not use virtual backgrounds like those available on Zoom. These will drop out body parts like your ears and hands. The virtual sensors can’t see the difference between your ears and the image behind. If you want to use a virtual background, use a green screen. Then use the virtual background as an overlay. There are settings within Zoom, for example, that allow you to use a green screen behind you to minimize drop out. Anything that distracts will decrease rapport. This will lower your closing ratio. You need to get as close to an in-person meeting as you can.
- Presenting with graphics
When doing screen share, minimize the time you spend showing slides and maximize the time your face fills the whole screen. In other words, only use screen share when it is critical to make your point. Go back to a full-face view as soon as you can. What if you attended an in-person seminar and couldn’t see the presenter’s face for long periods? Would you get bored more quickly? Treat the virtual sale the same. Let them see your face and maximize your chances of building rapport and trust.
According to one study, 86% of clients bought because they felt understood. Only 4% bought because they were made to understand. You are in a relationship business, not a financial education business, no matter what you have heard. Clients do business with you because of trust. Most clients barely know what you do or how you do it. They only know they can trust you.
Use automated scheduling for established clients, not new prospects. Retirees, for example, want to engage with a real person. Gen Xers and Zers are happier scheduling on Calendly. But let them choose. Using an automated scheduler communicates that you are less accessible. People buy trust first, products and services second. Communicate rapport and trust from the very beginning.
- How to dress
The virtual sale isn’t Friday casual. The way you would dress in person should be your guide. Always dress a half level above your client. If they wear a blazer, you should wear a tie. If they are in a polo shirt, you should take off your jacket. The model is a banker. How much rapport would you have with a suited banker with you wearing tennis shorts and work out shirt? The virtual sale is no different.
The virtual sale is a mode of communication promising more efficiency, if you use effective skills. You can talk to many more clients. You can get more done than you ever could by phone only. You can be more efficient with your use of time on the first prospect qualification call. Your practice can now be worldwide. But don’t make the mistake of treating virtual like an audio phone call. It needs to be as “in person like” as possible. People buy from you because of trust. They gain trust from rapport. Make sure any communication you have consists of both.
About the Author: Dr. Kerry Johnson is “America’s Business Psychologist.” He is the best-selling author of 16 books and a frequent speaker at financial conferences around the world. For more information, visit www.KerryJohnson.com/coaching.
Republished from Advisor Perspectives (www.advisorperspectives.com) on 1/25/22. The Pacific Financial Group periodically welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of The Pacific Financial Group.
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