Seniors control 70% of US wealth, but you will never succeed in this market if you use the same presentation and sales techniques that you use for your 40-year-old clients. Seniors focus on different aspects when making a decision to buy. Most importantly, they focus on their degree of trust in the sales person, not on product features and benefits. Here are some other differences.
The Sample of One
Keep in mind that seniors have been alive for decades and they have far more accumulated experience than younger people. As a result, they place great weight on their own experience and that of those around them. At times this can be taken to extremes, thus I call this psychological attribute “the sample of one.”
Thus they often come to an idea with a preconceived bias. I ran into this with my own mother a few years back when I suggested that she hedge a stock position she wanted to hold a few months longer with a put option to protect her equity. She instantly responded with “options are too risky!” At that point the conversation was over, as even the truth was not going to change her opinion that options are high risk. I have seen many producers try to fight this type of bias with facts and figures, logic and “proof.” They were always wasting their time. You need to recognize this as “the sample of one” and move on.
This can feel counter-intuitive to a less-experienced representative who is seeking to always deliver the “best” solution to his clients’ problems. Keep in mind that in most cases taking action in a positive direction is in the client’s best interest. Seniors will act only on recommendations that they feel comfortable with. Thus the “best” solution may be the recommendation that they are willing to implement, rather than one that may seem to be more technically “correct” but is not something the senior is comfortable doing.
Trust – The Central Issue
This brings about a key point that you must address when selling to seniors. Seniors buy trust, not facts and figures, and they must trust you. Building trust with seniors is easy if you follow these guidelines:
o Use Simple, easy to understand language. Avoid fancy jargon and terminology. For example, instead of using the term “variable annuity”, try “ an annuity that goes up and down with the markets.” This may require some diligence on your part, as terms that are common to you, may not be to laypeople. Remember CFP is known to the trade, but is better explained as a “certified financial planner” to a senior.
o You must be an expert. Becoming an expert within this market is a must and you must have both technical and product knowledge. If further education is needed, get it. If you lack any confidence, seniors will sense it and not buy.
o Sell to the senior’s comfort zone. Seniors are motivated to preserve capital so that they can be comfortable with their financial and physical independence. If you emphasize other points of the products such as high performance or low costs, the senior will think the agent does not really understand them.
o Follow through. You must do what you say you will do. You must be on time; send the item promised, call when you say you will, etc. If you do not keep your word meticulously, seniors will not do business with you. There is no fudge factor with seniors. If you are running late, call the senior client and tell them so.
The Sales Conversation
The way you position yourself in the sales conversation will also directly impact your success. Traditional positioning such as that of either salesperson “I have a great product for you,” or consultant “I’ll teach you why you need to do this,” don’t work with affluent seniors.
In order to be successful within this market, you really have to be more of a therapist. You must figure out what motivates the prospect and what biases they have. Keep in mind the “sample of one” and do not question the validity of their biases, however you will need to uncover them. Search for commonalities. You want to find the middle ground between what will satisfy the client and what you can offer. You find out their biases by asking:
What types of investments have you liked?
What makes you worried financially?
Why do you think some people are better off financially than others?
Keep in mind the personality traits of the senior investor. Seniors like control and this often translates into liquidity in their investment choices. Fortunately most investments are liquid, but remember to articulate this point.
Another significant concern to seniors is the issue of independence. They do not want to be a burden on anyone or lose the ability to function and take care of themselves. Anything you can do to calm this fear will work in your favor.
Forget about "closing" these investors. Your presentation must be strong from the first word. A strong presentation flows naturally into an easy close, "If that makes sense Mr. Jones, what we need to do is complete one of these forms and…." If you haven't sold yourself and built trust, the harder the close, the faster your prospect will be gone.
In summary, in order to be successful in the senior market, you must earn the level of trust a senior must have in you, and present solutions to their comfort level. If you do this, they will do business with you.