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Sales Focused or Service Focused?

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I heard it again recently, someone trying to describe their financial institution's philosophy on selling and they said, "We're service focused not sales focused". Now I've learned that what they really mean when they say that is that they don't want to sell anything to someone unless they need it – that they would never be pushy and aggressive with their clients. They like and respect them too much to use in-your-face-sales tactics.

I understand and respect the motivation behind the "service focused, not sales focused" mentality but unfortunately it can have the exact opposite effect than that which is intended. It can actually produce a poor service experience for the very client they are trying to impress. In the interest of being non-offensive it can be easy to become reactive and complacent relying on clients bringing us their business just because we are nice and efficient.

Think about your auto mechanic changing the oil in your vehicle. They can be polite, efficient and reasonably priced and it can feel like good service. But if the mechanic doesn't go above and beyond what you asked them to do - if they don't catch that brewing problem that could potentially leave you stranded by the side of the road some day, they can't really call it good service. It will only be good service to you if nothing goes wrong with your car. If something does go wrong guess who you will blame?

It comes down to your definition of service.

Definition of Service

Memorable service experiences are created when someone does something out of the ordinary; something you know was for your benefit and that the employee had to go out of their way to do. Responding quickly to the client, doing what they ask of you, being nice and remembering their names is a given in today's competitive landscape and is not going to create the memorable experiences you are after. They will be satisfactory, but not memorable.

To really stand out you need to be seen as someone that can add value to any given transaction. Let's face it. If you can't add value to what you're clients are doing they can probably get it done quicker and at a better rate at an online provider or broker. Adding value means more then simply having a relationship with your client. To add value you need to proactively get your clients into conversations that will uncover challenges that they may or may not even know they have and then provide solutions for them.

Being proactive comes with some risks. The risk that the client may perceive you as being pushy is very real which is why we spend so much time talking about the proper technique in selling. The difference between your client feeling sold to or feeling like you were a fantastic service provider is going to be your technique.

So what do you do? Don't wait for your clients to come to you with problems and don't try to sell or persuade them. Instead, go to work every day proactively asking questions that try to uncover challenges and problems your clients are having. When people understand and agree they have a problem they tend to be more open to solutions. If done right they will feel like they are buying from you rather than they were sold and you would have initiated the process.

Say you're looking for referrals to your financial planner. Your clients don't want another appointment and they don't want a sales pitch. If they decide to see your financial planner it's because they hope they will be better off as a result of spending time with them. So what could be their motivation to meet with your planner? Maybe they are unhappy or unsure of their current plan to retire with enough money. Maybe they are dissatisfied with the rate of return they are getting on their investments. Maybe it's something else. You'll never know unless you go out on a limb and get them talking about it. That doesn't mean getting them talking about seeing the planner. It does mean getting them talking about their retirement plan.

Let's not leave our clients in a situation where they could potentially be stranded by the side of life's road one day with inadequate money to retire. Let's redefine what memorable service really is and get them talking about their retirement plan now while there is still time for them to do something about it - with your help of course.

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