Three tips for having consultative conversations that make a lasting impression
You’ve scheduled your first meeting with a plan sponsor. Now you have to convince that sponsor that you’re the right retirement plan consultant. Consider these tips to help you demonstrate that you’ll be a consultative partner.
Tip 1 Create a relationship
Most likely, you’ve uncovered what you view as a trouble spot with the plan, which you intend to share with the plan sponsor to showcase your value as a consultant. But be cautious about how you approach it. You want to avoid putting the sponsor on the defensive and shutting down the conversation before it gets started. Ask about what you found and the purpose for having that feature or service to help you better understand the plan. If the plan sponsor is unaware of the item, you can then discuss the impact you’ve seen with similar plans and how you’ve been able to move these other plans forward with your suggested changes and solutions. On the other hand, what you may perceive to be a flaw may be something the plan sponsor values. If so, getting the sponsor to open up and explain the thought process can help you develop communication and trust. The goal is to create a relationship, not win an argument.
Tip 2 Ask open-ended questions and be an active listener
While you’re selling yourself and your services, you don’t want to monopolize the discussion. As a general guideline, you should spend 80% of the meeting listening and 20% speaking. You want plan sponsors to lead the conversation so you can learn what’s important to them.
Consider using open-ended questions such as these to help steer the discussion, then listen and take notes.
- What’s the main purpose for offering the plan—employee benefit or potential tax benefits?
- What goals do you have for your plan today? Are they the same as when your plan was first created? Will they be different five years from now? Why? (e.g., mergers and acquisitions, new products, or senior management retiring)
- If I gave you a clean sheet of paper to completely revamp your plan without any consequences, what would you change, if anything, and why?
- What are the three top issues facing your plan today?
- What are the three best things about your plan today? Are they the same as five years ago?
- What’s the last feature or service you added to the plan? Did it work as expected?
- What do you like best about your financial professional? What could that person be doing better?
- What do you like best about your recordkeeper? What could they be doing better?
Based on the responses, you can emphasize the parts of your value proposition that best align with the plan sponsor’s concerns to reinforce that you’re there to help address the sponsor’s needs and offer solutions—not push product.
Tip 3 Be mindful of your words
The words you use can affect how a plan sponsor perceives you, your services, and your proposed solutions. If you don’t get the language right, you may not have a successful meeting—or advance to the next stage in the sales process. So choose persuasive words that resonate with sponsors and convey that you understand what matters to them. And avoid industry jargon; it may confuse some prospects, causing them to shut down.
Words that may help you connect include:
- Empathetic phrases that begin with “I think I understand that you’re concerned about x” or “I appreciate …” Don’t assume that you understand—be humble.
- Personal words such as “you” and the sponsor’s first name, but don’t overuse the first name—you likely haven’t earned enough trust to be overly informal
- Partnership words such as “we,” “together,” “team,” and “collaboration”
- Visual words such as “imagine,” which help the sponsor picture your value proposition
Show prospects you’re the retirement plan consultant they’re looking for
Plan sponsors are continuously seeking ways to help them manage their fiduciary responsibilities, strengthen their plan’s health, and improve participant outcomes. And they want a retirement plan consultant who will partner with them to help achieve all three. Share your practical experience with helping make clients’ lives easier, describe your services, and consider following these tips for consultative conversations to help demonstrate why that partner should be you.
The content of this document is for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the posting date, but may be subject to change. It is not intended to provide investment, tax, plan design, or legal advice (unless otherwise indicated). Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investment, tax, or legal statements made.
INTENDED FOR INTERMEDIARY USE.