Chris Jarvis, MBA, CFP®
Why is there such a negative stereotype of a “salesperson”—and “selling” in general?
The simple answer is that the general public does not trust salespeople. They don’t believe that salespeople put the needs of clients ahead of their own financial interest. As a result, many people think that the only thing worse than having to deal with a salesperson is being called a salesperson.
The problem is that your business, and your career, won’t get to the next level unless you face this reality—break free from the herd, and try something very different.
The key question is, “How do you help your clients and prospects, or your employees and investors, to see the wisdom of your advice, your vision for the organization, or the value of your product or service without coming across as a ‘sales-y’ in the process?”
Do the Math
I am a mathematician by education and an actuary by training. I have been called a bean counter, math geek, and quant jock. Though all those labels may be true, I have earned more than one million dollars in commission income multiple times. I have even been the top salesperson at a company with over 20,000 sales reps three different times!
What’s most interesting about this? I accomplished this feat while running a financial consulting firm and teaching entrepreneurship – I was selling insurance on the side. I don’t share this to impress you. I share this to impress upon you that you can sell a lot more and you don’t have to work crazy hours to do it.
There are over 1.4 million licensed insurance agents in the United States. Paul Feldman, CEO of InsuranceNewsNet said, “Only 50,000 of those agents earn over $250,000 per year.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average life insurance agent earns $50,000 per year, and the average income for a more seasoned financial advisor with a life insurance agent’s license is closer to $105,000 per year. What allows one person to earn 10-20 times the average income in his field… while working part time?
You don’t have to miraculously turn billionaires into your friends, employ dozens of people, or even become an expert “closer.” What you do have to do, is adopt three counterintuitive habits. These are part of the Million Dollar Advisor Program and Toolkit, created to help professionals who want to better serve high net worth clients.
1. Give Away Your Secrets
While earning my MBA at UCLA in the late 1990s, I entered the business plan competition with my idea. What was it? I had started a physician-focused financial services firm that based client development on education-marketing. Though I made it to the finals of the competition, I did not win.
The judges said, “Your business model is based on a flawed premise – you believe you will be able to reach physicians. They have tons of people knocking on their doors every day and they have well trained gatekeepers. You’ll never reach them.”
Twelve years later, I’d written ten books for doctors, published more than 100 articles, and held more than 100 seminars. Most importantly, fifteen-thousand (15,000) physicians had called or emailed me asking for assistance.
Everything I shared in my educational materials was non-proprietary. Hundreds of thousands of attorneys, accountants, insurance agents and investment advisors could have handled every idea I shared with my prospects.
Why did so many doctors contact me instead of working with local people? Why did doctors from all parts of the country fire local advisors and hire my firm, without ever meeting me in person? They did it because I delivered valuable information with no strings attached.
People would read my materials, self-diagnose, and then make decisions about working with me before they ever met me. This happened hundreds of times every year.
2. Turn Prospects and Peers into Partners
A mentor of mine, Hank Frazee, encouraged me to spend time with other advisors, (in various fields) learning what they do well. He taught me to ask questions like:
- What is the most profitable transaction (service) you offer?
- What types of clients are most difficult for you?
- What is your ideal client and why is that so?
- What is your favorite type of problem to solve?
• Who is your most valuable referral source, and why?
If you have taken my Find Your Wild Factor or signed up for my Uncaged course, you know that goal setting is a huge part of levelling up. Most of my goals may look similar to yours: earn this much, write that much, speak this many times, lose so much weight, exercise so often, etc. My most interesting and impactful business goal is to make fifty referrals to other professionals each year. I refer prospects and clients to other service providers, clients to other clients, and professionals to other professionals. It’s not important for me to be paid for these introductions. What is important is that I show clients and strategic partners that I am interested in their continued success.
Before you dismiss this practice as wasteful, consider that I’ve received handwritten thank you notes for recommending advisors. I don’t get thank you notes for completing large cases, but I do get them for introductions. Why? I think it is because people really appreciate thoughtfulness, especially when there is no financial incentive for doing so.
A few years ago, I referred two clients to an attorney at a national firm. Total billings were approximately $100,000. Both clients mentioned this introduction in their holiday cards to me. Two years later, I’d earned more than $2,000,000 in commissions from a new client I received from a lawyer at that firm. Karma is real.
To receive more referrals, make more referrals. Unsure who your clients need to meet? Make it a practice to survey your clients every year. This is the biggest missed opportunity when I survey the attendees of my Giraffe Selling courses. Ask them what their goals are for the year, what they worry about most, and what they want to finally check off their to do list. The answers will keep you busy and gain their trust and appreciation.
3. Leverage Your Limitations
Another common complaint from wealthy clients is the “Yes” phenomenon.
Clients get frustrated when an advisor immediately says he can do something, then doesn’t follow through or spends a lot of time (and money) learning how to do it. Clients are willing to accept your honest answer of “no” or “I don’t know, but I will research the best solution for you.”
They don’t expect advisors, or any human being, to know how to do everything. But they do expect—and respect—honesty and effort.
More Sales, Less Selling
By changing your focus from sales to education, you become valuable. By focusing on the needs of your clients, rather than on your products or services, you build trust. By going out of your way to help others in your field and in your community, you show that you care.
Rather than looking at customer service and the supply chain as threats to your profitability, you see these valuable interactions as invaluable opportunities to show them who you are and what is important to you.
When your potential customers and colleagues see you as valuable, trustworthy and caring, you will never have to sell anything ever again.
Chris Jarvis specializes in finding unconventional growth paths for business owners, sales organizations, and non-profits. His TEDx Talk was the most watched in the world in April and May, 2022. He is the creator ofFind Your Wild Factor and author of sixteen books, including the bestseller, Giraffe Money. Learn more at www.ChrisJarvis.me