Nancy and I recently bought something I didn’t think we would buy. I marveled at the saleswoman’s no pressure sales technique. I’ve seen the same saleswoman use it before, but I was still pretty amazed.

She knew we were happy with what we already had, but she ever so softly let us know that one important feature may not be available in the future. Then she showed us the new products, which were much nicer than what we had. Then she showed us the price of the new products, which were more than we would spend. Then, she said:

Suppose cost is not a factor, which would you choose?

If we weren’t willing to buy, we should have said something like:

If you gave it to us we still would not want it.

But, we picked out the one we would buy if cost was not a factor. You know what happened next: She made us a “deal” we couldn’t refuse.

I want you to think about whether anything she did applies to client development and persuading a client to use you.

On the other hand, I have told this story about a financial advisor many times. It taught me what it feels like when someone is selling me.

Tom is a financial advisor I know here in Dallas. His wife and Nancy are friends and we have played golf as couples a few times. Tom is really, really a nice guy, but, in my view he has made many cardinal mistakes in trying to get my business.

A few years ago, Tom’s assistant called me and said: “Mr. Smith would like to know if you would like to play golf with his group on Saturday.” My first thought was: “If Mr. Smith really wanted me to join him, wouldn’t he have called me himself?” I decided Mr. Smith was having his assistant call a “prospect” list.

Fast forward to 2007. I no longer work downtown. I discover my office is in the same building as Mr. Smith’s and that he is most anxious for me to join him for lunch. I knew it would not be a social lunch between friends. Tom was looking for the opportunity to sell me his financial services.

I immediately thought:

I can run, but now that we are in the same building, I can’t hide forever.

Sure enough, in January of that year, Tom finally had me cornered. He and his son had joined Nancy and I during a round of golf. During the round he asked when I would next be in my office so I could join him for lunch. Knowing I could not say: “never,” I told him I would in be in office on Tuesday.

I went downstairs Tuesday at noon for what I anticipated would be a sales lunch. Because I teach lawyers how to interact with potential clients, I thought that at the worst I would see an experienced sales professional in action.

The lunch was very nice. We sat in Tom’s office where he had a flat screen TV tuned to a financial station and I thought that was very cool. I expected the small talk about golf and our spouses and waited to see how Tom would transition to business. Here is how he did it:

Let me tell you about my company.

He proceeded to give me a bit of a history lesson and talked about how the company is full service and can handle all my financial services.

It was all the stuff that was on the firm’s webpage that I had read, But, the one advantage of having Tom tell me all this is I could eat rapidly and just keep nodding my head.

Finally Tom popped the big question:

Cordell, would you like to be able to put away more for retirement that would not be taxed?

That is like asking if I would like to have someone give me a million dollars. Knowing Tom expected me to say: “Yes, tell me how.” I, instead said:

Yes, and I have been talking that over with MY financial advisor.

I put the emphasis on the word MY purposely to let him know I already had someone with whom I was happy. Not to be deterred, Tom spent the next 15 minutes telling me what I already knew about Defined Benefit Plans for small businesses.

When I got home, I told Nancy that even though I made clear I did not need a new financial advisor, I knew I would receive an email from Tom…the follow up. Sure enough, I got this email:

Cordell, please let me know if you want any assistance in designing a qualified retirement plan for you—many times we can maximize the benefits for the principal and minimizing the same for other employees. Most principals want to obtain at least 80% of contributions so that the IRS tax savings pays for the other employees. I’m available to assist you..Tom

Put, yourself in Tom’s position. How would you have handled this differently?


  • Jon Paul Hoelscher

    1. You must 1st understand a prospects needs before you can sell him/her your solutions.
    2. You need to listen to a prospect. (I.E., you told him you weren’t interested and he still persisted.)
    3. Instead of talking all about your firm/business, you should listen to your prospect (80/20 Rule usually works).
    4. 1st impressions last. You were weary of Tom from the beginning.
    5. Relationships, especially those of trust, must be cultivated.