The Most Important Step To Convert Prospects

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The Most Important Step To Convert Prospects

May 26, 2015

by Dan Richards

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In 2007, communications expert Frank Luntz wrote a book, Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. He argued that our going-in impressions of politicians overwhelmingly predispose our responses to what they say.

Recent conversations with financial advisors about prospecting results early in their careers have led me to a similar conclusion; your success with prospects is largely driven by their impressions of you going into conversations. This means that your first priority with prospects is to establish credibility. Most advisors using traditional mass-marketing methods without building that early credibility will see heightened struggles to get a return on their effort.

Fortunately, once the will and priority is in place, there are some proven models to successfully build credibility.

An accidental experiment

In his book, Luntz described an accidental experiment when he was working for Ross Perot during his 1992 campaign for president. While Perot had a compelling background and personal narrative as a self-made success story, his short stature and squeaky voice put some voters off. Here’s what Luntz learned about building credibility early in the process:

The essential importance of the order in which information is presented first hit home for me early in my career when I was working for Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign. I had three videos to test: a) a Perot biography; b) testimonials of various people praising Perot; and c) Perot himself delivering a speech. Without giving it much thought, I’d been showing the videos to various focus groups of independent voters in that order-until, at the beginning of one session, I realized to my horror that I’d failed to rewind the first two videotapes. So, I was forced to begin the focus group with the tape of Perot himself talking.

The results were stunning.

In every previous focus group, the participants had fallen in love with Perot by the time they’d seen all three tapes in their particular order. No matter what the negative information I threw at them, they could not be moved off their support. But now, when people were seeing the tapes in the opposite order, they were immediately skeptical of Perot’s capabilities and claims, abandoned him at the first negative information they heard. … I repeated this experiment several times, reversing the order, and watched as the same phenomenon took place. Demographically identical focus groups in the same cities had radically different reactions — all based on whether or not they saw Perot’s biographical video first and the third-party testimonials second (and were therefore predisposed and conditioned to like him) before or after the candidate spoke for himself.

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