Mastering the Financial Element of Sales

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There are four elements to each sale:  financial, strategy, relationship, and execution.  Discussing the financial aspect of a sale can make people nervous, but you should try to get comfortable with it to increase your effectiveness as a salesperson.

Use honesty to build your brand

Whenever there are large amounts of revenue involved in a project, most people become anxious.  Their anxiety usually stems from a lack confidence in the amount of value they bring to the project.  In my industry, transparency of revenue became a hot topic with the investigation of contingent commissions by former New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer and changes with the Affordable Care Act.  Brokers struggled to justify their income in the new transparent environment.  The new standards created a separation in philosophy.  Some took the high road and disclosed 100% of their commission, while others found creative ways to mask the revenue they brought in.

Have you spent time developing your brand?  Your brand is what you project to the world, and your reputation is how the world perceives you.  Honesty and integrity should be an integral part of your brand.  One of the quickest ways to destroy your brand is to lie about how much money you make off of your clients.

Understand your value proposition

When we speak to a new prospect, we focus on helping them achieve their goals through an enrollment project.  We emphasize our value, and prospects often decide to work with us before we even speak about the funding mechanism.  I recently presented to a smaller group of about 500 employees.  We talked about their goals and how our organization could help them reach their objectives.  Toward the end of the meeting, the HR Director expressed her excitement to use our firm’s services, and asked me how much she needed to budget.  It was easy for me to transition to a financial discussion and explain the two financial models we utilize.  Instead of paying our fees, she chose the commission offset model, meaning that we would offer voluntary benefits to fund the project.

Do not make the mistake of misunderstanding what you are selling.  The meeting was never about selling voluntary benefits; it was about how my organization could provide value to my prospect.  The easiest way for you to become comfortable talking about money is by communicating the level of value you will bring to an organization, and how you will help them achieve their objectives.

Understand and explain your expenses

In my example above, I explained our expenses to the HR Director.  She learned the cost of sending a team to her location, and got an idea of how much participation we would need in the voluntary benefits to cover our expenses.  After understanding the up-front investment, she began to explore how she could help make the project successful for us.  During implementation, she worked hard to ensure that we saw all of the employees.  In the end, everyone achieved their goals and considered the project hugely successful.

Explaining your expenses helps your client understand that you are not being greedy.  If you are doing business the right way, your clients will want you to be successful enough to continue offering your services.  They understand that you have to make enough money to cover expenses and profit to make it worth your while.  Do not avoid the financial conversation or approach it nervously!  Prepare ahead of time so that your clients will want to help you become successful.

Understand how others are compensated or evaluated

Compensation drives behavior, so you should try to understand the compensation of each party involved in your sale.  The project should benefit all parties involved.  All of our broker partners want value for their clients, but they consider other factors.  One broker’s compensation might hinge on commission splits, while another’s depends on bonuses and premium credits.  A CFO is typically motivated by price, while an HR Director is evaluated by the value of the benefit program, employee satisfaction, retention, etc.  Understand how individuals are motivated, because this will drive their behavior.

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