Let's suppose you want to run a marathon six months from now. Because safely training for something this big requires expertise, you want to find a coach to help you reach your goal without injury.

Then your good friend, also an athlete, introduces you to a long-distance runner who successfully coached him to finish marathons all around the country. You make an appointment with the trainer, and when you meet with her, you are bowled over by her precise understanding of exactly what you'll need to do to achieve your goals. She's in amazing condition. And, lucky you, she is excited about tailoring a regimen just for you. Her fees are appropriate to her expertise. At the conclusion of your meeting, she says, "I know I can help you do this. Your goals are completely achievable with my system. Are you committed to going forward with me?"

You know what your goals are. You have an incredible resource sitting right in front of you. Your friend has vouched for her professionalism and results. You are sure that she'll be a great coach for you and that you'll work well together, so you say, "Um, I'd like to think this over and get back to you."

Huh? No, no, no. You'd jump at the chance to work with this woman. Your answer would be "Yes! Can we start tomorrow?" That's more like it!

Meetings that end in "I'd like to think about it" mean just one thing: My experience in interacting with you has not been compelling enough for me to do anything different from what I have been doing. A firm commitment and resounding "yes" come from total clarity about the benefits being offered and from the recognition of a great fit within the working relationship.

In the first meeting with a potential client, it's your job as a financial professional to help them get enough clarity so that in a short period of time the decision to hire you is really obvious, or it's equally obvious that there is no point in going further. If they want to hire you, then there's no need to "think about it." It should be glaringly apparent what the next step ought to be. And if they don't want to hire you, then your professionalism will have communicated to them that it's OK to say no.

"Thinking it over" may be a euphemism for no, or it may be an indication of uncertainty. A think-it-over response means something went awry leading up to that moment. The success of what you're currently experiencing is built on the foundation of what immediately preceded it.

In a multi-step process, each step is built on the previous. The values conversation is predicated on the effectiveness of the opening. If the opening went well, then the values conversation will follow suit. If the values conversation is handled effectively, then the goals conversation will go well. If the goals conversation is completed smoothly, then the money conversation will be effortless. With all that behind you, people have a completed financial road map that illustrates the gap between where they are now and where they want to go, and they've had a wonderful experience with you in creating it, and exploring that is truly important to them. At that point, eliciting the commitment to hire is a piece of cake because you have created an experience that has allowed then to get values clarity so their decisions are easy. Everyone knows what the decision should be.

Organizational and management expert Stephen Covey is known for saying, "You can't talk your way out of a situation you behaved your way into." Traditional sales methods promote the invincibility of the killer close, and will attempt to convert "I need to think it over" into a yes. Trusted advisors align with Covey, however, and realize that with this response, there's nothing more to do except say thank you and goodbye. Cut your losses and start new with someone else-and do it better the next time.

Except in some rare cases. If everything has gone exceedingly well up until that point and the "think-it-over" response surprises you, here's what we counsel trusted financial advisors to do: Say, "No problem. Why don't I leave you alone for five or ten minutes, and then I'll come back?" Then leave the room. Give them some privacy. Chances are that they just need to confer with each other before making an important decision and they don't want to do it in front of you. When you return, they will be ready to say yes and move forward, or they will have figured out a way to look you in the eye and say no. Either way, everyone wins.

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