A marketplace for buying and selling professional financial relationships
“Relationship selling” is when someone uses their relationship and connection to close a sale – often selling a product. A product is a tangible thing, like a financial plan. However, buying and selling the relationship is another thing. When done right it has the potential to crack the code for a new lead generation service for financial advice. According to Harvard Business Review, because the process of buying and selling a relationship is a different thing than product sales through a relationship, it requires other considerations and questions. Directly from the article by Warren Wittreich (parentheses added), there are three:
- Minimize and identify uncertainty. The proper assessment of a service (and its corresponding professional), unlike a tangible good, must consider the impact of its performance on the client (business).
- Understand and confront well-defined problems. The successful performance of a service, far more than the successful production of a product, depends on an understanding of the client (business).
- Identify and buy the professional. A professional service can only be purchased meaningfully from someone who can render the service.
Financial planners can sell financial plans. Advisors can sell investments & insurance. Financial professionals can also sell (and might benefit from when compared to products) relationships.
For instance, some may argue that financial plans (like insurance) are a dime-a-dozen, quickly and efficiently being produced with relative ease but also with very little differentiation. Just jam packed with all the financial “stuff” a person may have a question about.
Recent research from the Kitces.com platform documents that financial plans are becoming more and more comprehensive. The number of topics a plan typically covers has increased and the number of advisors providing those more extensive plans has increased. This is not a bad thing; it is great that more clients are getting more extensive plans. However, it also means that extensive planning is becoming the norm and not a differentiator. The product is not the differentiator.
Relationships for the Lead Generation Win
Relationships, conversely, can be the differentiator. A mirrored example of the relationship as the differentiator is commonly found in the medical field. There may be more than one, well-established and technically capable cardiologist. However, choosing the cardiologist that is the best communicator and “buying” the relationship with the doctor as much as the patient needs the service, is critical.
Research has demonstrated the importance of the relationship and communication skills between the patient and the doctor. When patients and doctors feel that they are in a mutually beneficial and respected relationship, the patient is far more likely to take the doctor’s advice. This can have downstream impacts on taking medication, exercising, and keeping up other aspects of one’s health to keep the heart healthy and functioning.
The relationship that surrounds the service is critical. This is because it is through the relationship that uncertainty lowers, problems subside, and the professionals’ skills are utilized to their fullest expression and capacity. Adapting to how consumers are currently buying relationships can change lead generation in financial planning. Consumers of financial advice can find services they need, and then buy based on the relationship through which the advice and services are rendered.
How to sell and buy a relationship
So how does one begin to sell and buy a relationship? In the article by Wittreich the three considerations have very actionable examples. The three considerations turn into three must-dos for making the switch from products to relationships and all related to the financial industry.
- Uncertainty – Sellers of services first recognize uncertainty (costs, time, need, job to be done) and then work to reduce it.
- Problem. The responsibility of the service firm is to identify a problem and define it in meaningful terms. For both the firm and the client.
- Professional – The person that sells the service and the person that renders the service need be the same person.
Financial professionals can hear their client’s uncertainty. What product, service or advice is needed? Am I getting quality work, how do my varied problems fit together, am I even seeing the right problem? After hearing the uncertainties, financial professionals wanting to sell a relationship can begin to create certainty. Interestingly, financial technology may be helping advisors with this first step already.
Consumers have uncertainty, but they often know themselves and their issues best. As such, allowing consumers of financial advice to self-select, at least through some initial decisions, and then allow technology to do the work (find the best insurance, identify the best mortgage…) can help create certainty.
After this step though, many current technologies can’t help. The professional takes center stage. The financial advisor can use information, from technology, to further define and discuss the client’s issue so that the problem becomes clear for both parties. The professional can now also do the third step, render the service, or at the very least give an overview of how the service will be rendered.
But what if technology could also help in steps two and three? And transform one?
Technology assisted Lead Generation
Changes in lead generation service may be that technological advancement. Current lead generation is not built around the idea nor in support of a marketplace that buys and sells relationships. But it can be.
Consumers are already beginning to embrace technology platforms geared towards shopping for relationships. Dating apps, friend-finding apps, and mental health professional apps are the norm. These same considerations can be applied to financial planning and the lead generation process.
Couplr, an innovative and relationship-focused lead generation service, is leading the way.
Couplr is built around concepts and considerations for a relationship marketplace. Consumers of financial advice and services as well as those providers of these services are first surveyed. The surveys address issues of uncertainty and nebulous problems but also skill sets and personality. After surveys, the answers are used to match based on problems but also potential relationship quality between the professional with a prospect.
A marketplace for buying and selling relationships marks a new chapter in professional financial services as the new lead generation service helping people connect.
Meghaan Lurtz, Ph.D
Derek Notman, CFP