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Selling hard and fast using manipulative selling tactics has always been the dictum for sales professionals, and for good reason. These traditional selling techniques have generated a substantial amount of commissions. At the same time, however, these tactics have also created deep levels of mistrust, driving public opinion of financial professionals to an all-time low.

The old school style of selling is more prevalent than one might think.  Even highly respected companies like Standard Life, in June 2012, had to disavow a memo sent by financial advisors suggesting that they push products that generate higher commissions and fees. Almost every consumer has a story of how they were pressured or misled into buying something that wasn’t necessarily in their best interests.

To Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group, this selling approach is not only unethical, but ultimately self-defeating. In fact, his experiences led him to an interesting conclusion: Today’s more sophisticated, educated and wiser consumer is demanding a different way of doing business. “I discovered, especially with the leading edge of boomer consumers, that they don't want any part of old school selling. They don’t want somebody ‘closing’ them, probing them, warming them up, or digging to find their hot buttons,” he said. “I had to figure out a different way to sell, a way that had no ‘selling’ in it, yet could make more sales. A method that built instant trust. A non-selling, selling system.  So that’s what I did!”

Lewit’s recent book, “The Selling Chronicles,” describes a selling method that truly puts the customer's needs first, rather than focusing on the salesperson's need for closing another deal. “It’s my way of dealing with people respectfully, not trying to manipulate them, getting them to see the true reality of their situation. In the end they just buy, no closing techniques needed.”

In client meetings, Lewit places more emphasis on how a change in finances can improve the client’s quality of life than he places on growth and performance numbers or product features and benefits.

“Most financial professionals think they're in the business of helping people with money, but that's really not what the client is there for,” he said. Lewit's sales approach involves checking his clients' reactions to different investment options. When he suggests a new strategy, he asks the client, “Will using this product or employing that strategy improve your life?” At the end of the day, Lewit says, “I tell my clients that if what I suggest doesn’t improve their quality of life, then don’t do it. Let’s move on to something else!”

Lewit is keenly aware of the each client’s emotions and believes that all sales are the result of the clients’ inner drive to relieve themselves of painful emotions or to satisfy emotions yet unfulfilled.  For example, a big part of providing greater quality of life is ensuring that clients feel secure, relieving their fears about their money and their future. As Lewit put it, “Clients are absolutely petrified of the economy, of politics, of institutions, and of the world economy affecting us. Bottom line, they want that fear to go away. If my strategies relieve that fear, they will buy, and they will do so without me ever having to manipulate them into some artificial closing situation.”

Lewit, in light of greater competition, has also had to shift his marketing strategies. Building instant trust and relationships over time has become a necessity to gaining appointments. His marketing is based on a ‘shopping center’ concept which gets potential customers shopping in his financial superstore and keep them coming back until they buy.

His marketing strategy starts with giving something of value to prospective clients; a bundle of investment fact sheets, a free wealth analysis, a timely book; or inviting a prospect to one of his many events; golf outings, wine tastings, trips to museums. Giving a gift without any strings attached allows trust to begin building immediately, before even speaking with the prospect about business. “We build initial relationships into ongoing relationships and, in this way, people bond to us over time. They recognize our sincerity and brand. Eventually, they say, 'I'm going to become a client here,’” he explained. Lewit says, “The branding process must be seamless. The client must get the same message of philosophy, approach, mission and expertise in everything they see and experience with me. Otherwise, consumers see you as just another advisor and move on.”

Lewit’s shopping center approach is built on information retained from client focus groups. Lewit says, “I learned that consumers want their accounting, legal, and financial work done with a coordinated team all in one place.” The non-selling selling system, combined with the wide range of financial vehicles offered through Wealth Financial Group’s shopping center concept, has helped to protect the company from the recession.

“I have my ear to the market and develop multiple product strategies. We are like Neiman Marcus and Wal-Mart combined into one unique shopping experience. There is something for virtually everyone,” Lewit said. “When the market goes down, assets under management may shrink, but maybe life insurance picks up. Within the scope of what I do there's always strength, no matter if the economy is going up or down.” Lewit reports that, so far in the 2012 calendar year, his business has grown by 37%.

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