The Initial Interview (Part 4 of 4)
So far in this series we discussed scripting your story, networking and your brain. In Part IV the topic is building trust and stronger more durable relationships.
The main goal of the Initial Interview is to earn the right to a second appointment, if you choose to do so. It is about deciding if there is a value alignment.
The first meeting is usually about 30 -45 minutes; it is kinda like a first date. The initial interview is not a sales meeting; the intent is not to sell a product or a specific service. Fundamentally the outcome is to determine if there should be a next meeting.
Connecting mentally with the prospect means that you are aligning with topics that are important to the prospect. What is more important to the prospect than him/herself, their business and their family? To avoid sounding like an interrogation session, you need to create a conversation, a smooth exchange of information that focuses on the prospect and allows them to tell their story. You also need to tell your own story as the conversation progresses.
- It’s about preparation and sharing information.
- The topics for discussion are to learn about the history, current transitions, values and goals of the prospect.
- It’s about connecting at the human being level and differentiating yourself from every other person who has ever called on them.
The first meeting is the compatibility interview. It is a two-way evaluation. Does the prospect have the characteristics of your Ideal Client? Does he/she have the capacity to be one of your AAA Clients? Is this a transactional buyer, or someone looking for a long-term relationship?
Are you the right match for this prospect? Are you the type of person that they can trust and work with?
Morrie Shechtman, author of Working Without a Net and Fifth Wave Leadership, refers to this meeting as a “Value Dance.” It is a meeting where each party is matching their value system with the other. Do both parties have similar views of the world? Do they share some of the same concerns? The closer the value match, the better the chances for a long-term durable, meaningful relationship.
In the last Part, we talked about the brain. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain. Its function is to protect you. It monitors variances in the environment to determine whether a situation is friendly or a threat. Your first task is to reduce the relationship tension and put the prospect at ease. Being likeable is one way to reduce the tension.
There are two great books on the subject, the first is called The Likeability Factor by Tim Sanders and the second is called The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey.
The Agenda for the initial meeting is short. It is designed to answer three basic questions about the advisor and three basic questions about the prospect:
About the Sales Person:
- Does this person have similar values? Will he or she deliver on his/her promises? Is he/she trustworthy?
- Does he/she have the necessary education, training, skills and wisdom to be helpful?
- Does this sales representative have my best interests in mind?
About the Prospect:
- Does this person have many of the characteristics of the Ideal Client?
- Is there a good chance that this relationship can build into a long term, mutually, beneficial relationship?
- Based on this prospect’s prior experiences, how difficult or easy will it be to work with this individual?
Initial Interview Techniques
Your initial task is to begin establishing your credibility. Credibility is not something you have; it is given to you by the prospect after you earn it.
Three Components of Credibility
- Propriety/Candor is about how you conduct yourself socially; how you look from the prospect’s point of view; your speech and mannerisms. Do you appear professional? Do you appear honest and straightforward?
- Competence is about what you know. Do you understand the business; your products and services? Do you know what is going on in the financial services world? Are you viewed as a knowledgeable person? Are you a solution provider and do you really have the capability to help the prospect?
- Intent is about whose problem you are trying to solve – yours or the prospect’s. Are you there to uncover needs and provide solution that will really help the prospect? Are you asking the right questions? Are you a win/win person?
When all is said and done, does the prospect trust you? Are you trustworthy?
Mirror what you see and hear
Try to match the pace of the prospect relative to yourself. If the prospect appears to talk faster than you, then you should speed up. If he/she is slower than you, slow down.
Should you jump right into business or should you socialize first?
- Here are a couple of clues.
- People who are more monotone (not much voice inflection), formal, and have few gestures are more likely to want to discuss business first.
- People who appear to be more relaxed, causal, open, friendly and with more gestures would prefer to get to know you first and then get to business later.
Whatever you do, watch your prospect’s body language. Whether you socialize too long or get to business too soon, their body language will tell you. Stay alert.
Have a conversation
As you gain more experience with the process, you will get into a routine and the questions will just flow during the interview and you will be able to spend more time observing and thinking about the prospect rather than your response or next question. The key is to have a written plan, practice it, and then rehearse it in front of someone.
Here are some general questions that can keep a conversation fluid for an extended period of time. In some sales training circles, this technique is referred to as “Testing the Extremes.”
- What do you like most about…?
- What do you like least about…?
- What would you change….?
If the response is going in a direction that you feel is positive, a good listening statement is:
“That’s interesting, tell me more…”
If the response is not going in a direction that you feel is positive, a good listening statement is:
“I am not sure I understand what you mean…”
Keep in mind that you may not be able to get into a deep personal conversation at the first meeting. Moving toward that level depends on both the trust level and your willingness to share information about yourself.
Getting the Prospect’s Story
Stories are one of the best ways to engage people. Stories reveal what facts cannot: Who your prospect is, what matters most to them, what and whom they love, where they would like to be. By getting their story, you will find out if you have a value match. You want to hear about their “movie”, the story of their life.
You are looking for alignment with the prospect:
- Alignment brings daily/hourly affirmation
- Alignment causes a sense of purpose to flourish and multiply (the opposite is also true)
- Alignment creates enthusiasm for the tasks and mission of each day
- People are fully energized because of the people they work with. YOU WANT TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS ALIGNMENT. (This is called affirmative association.)
The Story Outline – hearing about the prospect’s “movie.”
Your questions should address each of the four areas to the left. You want to hear the prospect’s story – the movie of their life. You want learn about the cast of characters, the plots and subplots. You want to hear the story from the beginning.
History: Where has the prospect been? What has been their experience? How did they get where they are?
Current Situation and Transitions: What is going on today? What’s working? What’s not? What transitions are taking place?
Goals: Where are they headed in the short run? In the long run?
Values: What is the driver behind all of their actions? What is their purpose in life and in their business?
The Future Story – how do you visualize working with this prospect?
- What is the win/win payoff for both of you? How will you win if you get involved in this “movie?” How will your prospect win if they include you in their “movie?”
- Value Proposition – is it tailored to the prospect’s values, wants and needs? If you are going to spend your time with this prospect, what will be the reward/payoff for both of you? The most effective value propositions are created at the point of sale.
Here are some interview questions that will help with the story
- Where are you from?
- What was it like growing up?
- What did your parents do?
- What schools did you attend? What were your major fields of study?
- (If meeting with a couple) How did the two of you meet? Or how did you meet your spouse?
- How did you meet the most important people in your life?
- How did you end up doing what you are doing today?
- (If meeting with a woman) Do you have family in the area? (this is better than asking them if they are married or single)
- Tell me about your work history. What would you like to be doing at work in five years?
- What part of your day do you enjoy the most?
- What is important to you about money?
- What did you learn about money as a child?
- What is your first memory about money?
- What was your first opportunity to make and manage your own money?
- What is the best and worst experience you have had with money or investing?
- Who have been your chief sources of information/advice when making financial decisions?
- Have you had any experiences with other financial services providers good or bad, that you think would be worth your time to tell me about?
- What is your biggest accomplishment in life so far?
- What do you like to do when you are not at work?
- What concerns you most right now?
- What is your biggest concern or roadblock you face today?
- What would you like to accomplish in the next ten years? How will you get it done?
- What would you like to be doing twenty years from now?
- How do you visualize your life when you are in your 70’s and 80’s?
- How important is nutrition and exercise to you?
- Based on all the things we just talked about what matter most to you?
- Is there anything particular that you want to discuss with me?
To improve the conversation, script out your own answers to the questions. Put yourself in the prospects chair and feel what it is like to answer these questions.
The first interview is an exchange of information. At the end of the meeting does the prospect know as much about you as you know about them? If both parties are comfortable, set up the second meeting. The second meeting is about learning about what the prospect has and what they want. You job will be to help them get there.
Ed Howat 651.405.6644
 Used with permission and adapted from Your Clients for Life and Your Client’s Story by Mitch Anthony.