Advanced Applications For The Value Ladder

Use key questions to connect back to your unique message.

In my previous column [September 2003] we reviewed what we learned from the seven Value Ladder steps, discussed the 14 key points in the ladder process, and talked about two real-world applications. Now let's see how our Value Ladder answers can help you connect with new clients and earn the right to manage more of your existing clients' assets.

The Value Ladder really shines when you start applying your strategic and consultative questioning skills along with the proper emotional connection skills. For example, a prospect might say, "I have a 20-year horizon, and I don't want to get caught up in some flashy, quick-hit investment. That's what's important to me." You reply, "Well, tell me more about that. Did you have a bad experience in the past, or have you been in a negative situation, or is this just a philosophy you have?" " Go deeper. Acknowledge. Clarify. Confirm.

Most advisors might not ask a prospect a question quite like that. Instead, they may say, "You're right, and I am in this for the long term for you as well." But if you responded the first way, you would refer to your business beliefs, which state that you believe an investor must have a customized investment policy statement and that they need to think long term relative to their financial planning.

Then you say to your prospect, "When you mentioned your time horizon and not wanting some quick-hit investment-well, that totally aligns with one of my core business beliefs. I've learned this in my own business as well."

Unfortunately, some advisors throw all of their products, services and investment solutions against the wall and hope something sticks. They "spray and pray." They are not even thinking clearly about positioning solutions that should be seamless and integrated. To be more effective, you must be consulting with your prospect, asking the critical questions on the Value Ladder, and responding and connecting back to your unique message.

Application: Use The First Three Questions To Determine Compatibility

Many times, the first meeting with your prospect is one of mutual interviewing. The prospect should interview you, at the same time you interview the prospect. It can be an even, give-and-take exchange of information. The first meeting is the best time to understand your prospect's background, his or her unique value to others and to determine what type of advisor he or she is looking for.

To facilitate the process, I recommend you start with the first three questions on the Value Ladder. You provide answers of your own about who you are, what you do and why you do it-and they provide their own answers to the same questions you ask of them.

You could spend your entire first meeting with a prospect on just these first three questions, while getting to know each other. If there is a disconnect with a prospect at this point on the Value Ladder, most likely incompatibility will force you to reconsider taking this individual on as a client.

If you have a sense of compatibility based on the answers to the first three questions on the Value Ladder, then you have a solid reason to schedule a second meeting where you can go deeper into your process and answer other, higher Value Ladder questions.

It's Great As A "Probing Tool" For High-Level Prospects

Turn the Value Ladder over to your prospect! This tool is used to help you in a competitive situation. The prospect can use it to help discern your value from your competitor's. You are, in essence, handing over the seven Value Ladder questions to a prospect and suggesting they use them as a "probing model" in discussions with other prospective advisors. By "reversing" the concept of the Value Ladder and teaching a prospect to probe a competing advisor with the questions, you are enhancing your own level of confidence and trust with this person.

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