ABC – Always Be Closing – is so 1992. Try ICC – Inquire, Clarify, and Challenge.

The sales landscape has changed. The famous ABC concept (Always Be Closing) doesn’t work very well anymore. Most advisors and financial professionals don’t sell transactional products, and clients have access to information like no other time in the history. So while the close is still critical – it’s better to delay it than to rush it.

Ryan Schutty covered cold calling – from creating your list (personalize it) to overcoming objections (interrupt their pattern). Now, it’s finally time for the first meeting. Instead of ABC, try ICC: Inquire, Clarify, Challenge. 

1.    Inquire

Simply put, “ask questions,” but that sounds too scripted and passive. Inquiring suggests you’re interested and engaged. It’s okay to go in with some already prepared, broad, open-ended questions. And you’ll need some basic information you can only get through close-ended questions. But ultimately, you need to really listen to the prospect and figure out their needs. One way to do this is to use a technique called “clarify.”

2.    Clarify

Asking somebody “what are your goals?” isn’t a bad question, but if you just move on to the next scripted question – then you’re just asking questions on a questionnaire and you won’t get very deep. Instead, focus on something they say in their response to your question and ask them to clarify.

Here’s an example of clarifying a response:

“When you articulated your goals I thought it was interesting that you used the words ‘successful retirement’.  What do you mean by a successful retirement?”

This is a great method get the prospect to really open up, and potentially offer up pain points you wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

3.    Challenge

Challenge means to challenge the status quo. Whether it’s a product or concept, the reality is that prospects don’t know what they don’t know. They need your expertise and experience.  You’ll most likely be able to offer them something they didn’t realize they were missing. If you lead with the challenge it will feel like you are pushing a product or concept, but if you end the first meeting with a challenge, you demonstrated you listened, and you’re providing unique perspective.

Here’s an example of ending the meeting with a challenge:

“From what I’ve heard you say, it sounds like you have a popular plan- no one complains and things seem just fine. We prefer to think more in terms of a successful plan.  From our experience, a successful plan is one where executives have the opportunity to maximize their benefit because everyone in the plan is saving at a high rate. Ultimately, this allows all of your employees to have a better chance of being retirement ready.”

This is more of “plant the seed” situation. You are not closing.  Instead – you’re presenting a unique perspective or concept for the prospect to think about before your next meeting. Speaking of your next meeting: make sure to schedule your next meeting before your leave your current meeting.

Formula for a successful first meeting

With ICC, you’ll listen better, gather relevant information, and understand your prospect’s needs more effectively. By delaying the close, you’ll actually increase your close ratio. Next time, we’ll cover how to conduct the second meeting. Hint: this is when you close!

Affiliation Disclosures

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company. Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, Member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers. Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor. Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

© 2013 Principal Financial Services, Inc. |PQ11372N| t130828015t