Sales Skills are Essential to Serving Clients

Years ago, I attended a CFP Board Director’s conference in which a panel, consisting of professors and Certified Financial Planner practitioners, led a discussion regarding sales skills and the need for CFP financial planner certification and education programs to begin teaching sales skills.  During the Q&A time, an objection to teaching “sales skills” was made from the audience, as if “sales” was a dirty word, and for the next 15 minutes a lively debate ensued among the audience about whether or not financial planners should ever “sell.”

The discussion finally came to an end when the moderator spoke up and suggested that people who see “selling” as inappropriate may need to redefine their concept of selling.  “Look,” he said, “Any time I try to get someone to accept my ideas, I’m selling!  Any time I prepare a financial plan for a client, which contains my recommendations for action, I have to ‘sell them’ on the validity of that plan and their need to consider and act upon its recommendations.  If I don’t do that, then that financial plan is not worth the paper it is written on. When we talk about acquiring sales skills, we are not talking about learning to ‘push products.’  We are talking about learning how to help people consider and act upon the solutions we propose.  If we don’t do that, then we fail to properly serve our clients.”

When he said those words, I wanted to stand up and cheer. For too many people, “selling” has negative connotations.  But the fact is that the act of “selling” is an everyday occurrence, and without it our world would be highly dysfunctional.  For example, when I go to lunch with colleagues today, the choice of restaurants will probably depend upon who best “sells” their preference.

The articles you will see on this site will frequently talk about “sales skills.”  We make no apology for that; nor do we disregard the important fact that the recommendations financial planners “sell” to clients must be appropriate to the objectives and needs of the client.  We simply recognize the truth that no financial planner can be successful without good sales skills and no client will be well served if their planner cannot effectively “sell.”

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