John Richard Pierce Jr. advises readers of his book, Sell More and Sleep at Night, to smile when you speak to a prospect or client on the telephone -- even through fiber optics, people can tell when you’re upbeat, a trait that helps woo, win and retain clients.
But nothing replaces the potency of a face-to-face meeting. That is one of dozens of helpful and common-sense tips that Pierce offers in his book, his first. “You can sell without meeting people, but the face to face is critical for long-term success and referrals,’’ he says.
Pierce, 51, who lives in the Philadelphia area, is managing partner of national sales at AdvisorLoans, in Philadelphia. He spent 14 years at Merrill Lynch in various positions, including financial consultant; district sales manager and managing director of fee-based products and financial planning. At Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., he developed employee recruiting and created a customer relations management system to increase external sales leads.
Sell More and Sleep at Night has 246 pages of advice based on Pierce’s experiences, including his own habits in need of improvement, such as not listening enough. (With clients and prospects, listen 70 percent of the time, talk the remaining 30 percent, he says.)
After more than 20 years in the financial services industry, Pierce has concluded that creating solid relationships are a priority for anyone in sales. “The main driver of more sales is stronger relationships, and that starts with a clear understanding of who you are and what value you can personally deliver to clients and prospects,’’ he says.
Pierce covers topics such as self-discovery and improvement; building relationships; developing a diversified sourcing strategy; meeting with your client or prospect, and evaluating why sales are not increasing.
Three chapters are of particular value to financial advisors, he said. “Chapter 2 (building relationships) is the fundamental crux of all that I have done. For the financial advisor, especially the new one, I would say you’ve got to read chapter four (diversified sourcing strategy) because that gives you lots of different ideas about what you need to do.
“Also, chapter five, which gets into first impressions. I recently gave a presentation to the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and I talked about the importance of the first impression, of listening, the need to look people in the eye, shake their hand, be properly dressed. They couldn’t believe how detailed I got!’’
Pierce says the average age of a financial advisor is 57. Recruitment of new blood has been sluggish, he says, but it’s imperative that firms hire professionals who are comfortable with the language and habits of millennials and enthusiastically embrace technology. “The older financial advisor may be stuck in a rut, thinking, ‘This is how I do this,’ and that’s that. Some may not understand the importance of listening, but they would be much more successful and see more growth if they listened more and were not complacent,’’ he says.
Pierce provides anecdotes about himself and friends, his mentors and what he calls accountability partners. He learned that overextending yourself on pro bono and civic and charitable work can cause your business to suffer, and if business is sluggish, don’t look out the window for the answer, “Look in the mirror,’’ a friend advises.