“Take off your tie”

Traditional methods of selling financial advice are being replaced by hands-off processes.

The prospect – a senior associate at a prestigious law firm, with spouse, a small child, with a second on the way –  looked at me sceptically and asked: “What’s the annual return on this?”

I gave an inward sigh and tried again with a broad smile: “Don’t worry about that.  This product is what you need.  Trust me.”

I was attempting, one final time, to deliver the “old-school method” of selling financial advice.  My tie is tied in a Full Windsor knot, my black oxfords are polished to a high shine, and my tailor-made suit[1] is a quiet and tasteful grey.  I can see my prospect is not going for it at all…

This is the way that many of Singapore’s most successful wealth managers got to where they are today.  The “smart suit, gold watch, and ‘trust me I’m a professional’ pitch” has worked for many years, and continues to do so… for these veteran sellers.

For the young wealth manager, though, it’s a tough trick to pull off.  Financial advisers below the age of thirty-five tend to find clients from among Singapore’s enormous pool of young professionals.  This is in contrast to their illustrious forebears, whose clientele tends to be of a more mature vintage.

Put simply, the sales method of impressing people with a pinstripe suit and a confident manner is one that must be reserved for older prospects.  Younger people are simply not moved by it.

Why not though?  It sounds sensible that people want their wealth managed by someone who looks professional and sounds like they know what they’re doing, right?

This is certainly true.  The service being equal, it is evident that a prospect will be more persuadable by someone in a suit than someone in a t-shirt.  Modern clients, however, have grown up with something that their elders have not: the Internet.

People under the age of 35 are used to the world being an automated place.  Sitting down with someone and going through things face-to-face is actually a novel process, and not universally welcomed by them.  Young professionals are far more likely to provide unfettered truths about their life and financial situation to an essentially anonymous website than they are to a flesh-and-blood person sitting across the table from them, even with a gold-nibbed pen in hand…

Today a prospect can research every: product, provider, wealth management company, and even the individual wealth manager who is asking them to come for a fact-finding meeting.  This has given the modern young financial adviser a much higher burden of proof in today’s market.  The product must match the glossy picture, or no bank vaults will be opened, no cheques will be written, no transfers made.

These challenges mean that young wealth managers are having to look to new hands-off sales techniques.

Financial planning tools or apps allow us to take the “suited salesman” element out of the sales process, giving the client space and time to provide their information, and then to play out various scenarios – good and bad – to see how the financial plan that has been recommended will affect them and their families.  It will even bring in friends and relations to add depth to the picture. A great tool should encompass an automated fact find, transparent recommendation, smooth close, and quality referral in one neat package.

By the way, the prospect didn’t take my recommendation and I never tried the “old-school method” again.

[1] The suit is from Hanoi, not Savile Row – I haven’t made the big time yet!

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