I recently received a prospecting email from a LinkedIn connection. We are mutually connected by acquaintances from my days on Wall Street as an equities trader.
He started off by saying, "Hi Dave," so I hoped the rest of the email would be personalized too. It wasn't. His greeting was followed by a form letter that he probably thought was targeted to his niche, but was so generic it obviously had gone out to everyone on his contact list.
In his message, he wrote that he'd left his Wall Street institutional sales trading job (a business killed by algorithms and decimalization) to form a broker team to best meet the needs of his clients.
That's two lies in one sentence. I knew he'd been laid off from his previous Wall Street job, and no first-year financial advisor trainee at Merrill Lynch is allowed to form his own team. A quick Google search revealed that he'd in fact been brought onto a 25-year-old Merrill Lynch team staffed with veteran brokers. His first claim could have been excused as a euphemism, but his email made it sound like he'd chosen to leave so he could lead a team -- misleading and deceptive.
Now, I had a similar career path to this salesman. I was laid off from Deutsche Bank two months prior to my triplets being born. The most logical thing for me to do was utilize my securities licenses and go back to being a retail broker -- my first Wall Street job was as a broker trainee at Merrill Lynch. Layoffs and career changes happen. There was no reason for this salesperson to lie -- he just wanted to make himself seem more impressive.
I wish salesmen would be truthful. And believe me, financial advisors, especially brand-new ones, are nothing but salesmen. Their job is to bring clients and assets into their firm. This particular fellow claimed he was a portfolio manager. Maybe that's his title, but What a load of BS. You don't go from being a stock trading sales jockey to being a portfolio manager one year later, unless you're Peter Lynch. This salesperson was no Peter Lynch.
His prospecting email was so full of lies I actually yelled at my phone (I was in my car, thankfully with the windows up). I knew the score and could see right through his act, because I had been a broker who was taught the same deceptive sales tactics. But some retiree with no knowledge of the business wouldn't have seen through his lies, and could easily have handed over his or her nest egg over to a rookie broker who was just telling a story to gather assets and has no real portfolio management experience. I didn't realize Mother Merrill still trained its rookie brokers to send terrible spray-and-pray prospecting emails, and it made me angry. That's old school.
In modern sales, you build a targeted list of people, find out what they do, explore your common connections, and send them a strategic, personalized message.
This salesperson wanted me to come into his office to do an in-person portfolio review. My LinkedIn profile clearly shows that I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. He sits in an office up in New Jersey. His oversight tells me he knows nothing about me, and didn't bother taking the time to find out basic information about me. What did he think -- I was going to hop on a plane so he could review my portfolio and astound me with his less than two years of money management acumen?
Salespeople can do better than this. This is the kind of behavior that was encouraged when I first started in sales back in 1993 -- back then, we were literally copying pages from the phone book and dialing down the list of names. I don't have to tell you that doesn't work anymore.
The old school hit-or-miss tactics have got to go. Target your prospecting, Get basic information about your prospects, personalize your emails, find commonalities between us and you will have a better chance of warming me up.
But lies send you straight to the trash. Be professional, be authentic, and show people that you care enough to know something about them. It's a waste of time to go prospect fishing with untargeted mass emails. Get your tail out of the office and eat lunch with someone new in your community each day, network properly, and learn something about your prospects -- do whatever you want, just be genuine and show your prospects you really care. We're talking about their hopes, dreams, and money. The least we can do is be honest with them.
I wish this salesperson well, and I know every broker started out as a rookie, but don't use that as an excuse. Be honest with yourself and prospects. Salespeople have got to realize there is a better way of selling, and that the old way is a time-wasting game of prospecting roulette.
Get focused, stay focused and send targeted, strategic emails to your niche. And tell the truth if you ever want to be considered a trusted salesperson.
Originally published May 9, 2016 6:30:00 AM, updated June 11 2021