As we saw in the first installment of the Difficult Customer Types series, certain personality types require special handling. The normal rules of engagement regarding questioning, objection handling, and closing may not apply. This is especially true with the charming, maddening customer type we affectionately call the “Space Cadet,” heretofore referred to as the “SC.”
Have you ever had a first appointment with a prospect and found that person charismatic, fun, and friendly? Did that prospect seem to pick up on financial concepts quicker than most? Finally, on the second appointment, did they seem to forget virtually everything you told them on the first appointment? If so, you may have an SC on your hands. Typically long on personality but short on follow through, this type of customer has been vexing financial salespeople for years. The key to dealing with them, as with all difficult customer types, is to understand them.
The SC is creative, undisciplined, and impulsive. They are often good writers and public speakers, marketing types, or gifted salespeople themselves. To them, the magic of an undertaking is not in the work that’s required to get it done, nor are they interested in the details or finer points of what you’re showing them. Rather, they are turned on by the bigger picture- the idea. Typically visual learners, they assimilate information when it’s shown to them. Finally, remember that the SC is mentally lazy, and has trouble concentrating on one idea at a time. Think of their mind like a computer with several applications open at once, each containing a project that’s been started, but never finished. How do you get them to concentrate on one important thing at a time?
So, now that you know the characteristics you’re dealing with when you have an SC prospect, here are two surefire ways to ensure a productive relationship:
- Hold their hand- the SC is lazy on the details, so you should expect them to forget everything you tell them, and everything you instructed them to do. Instead, explain concepts with pictures and graphical illustrations, and give them samples to take home with them. Before the second appointment, call them and remind them of what to bring, even if you went over this before in the first appointment. And, most importantly, remind them of the commitments you agreed to in previous meetings- ideally refer to your notes and agreed-upon course of action. Remember- they will forget.
Restate negative objections as positive requirements- when an SC raises an objection, it is often vague and difficult to address. For example, you might have an exchange like this:
SC: “I heard that annuities were a bad idea.”
YOU: “Really? Interesting. Where did you hear that?”
SC: “I’m not sure. I’ve heard it a lot, though. What else do you have?”
YOU: “Well…what are you looking for?”
SC: “I don’t know. I’m just not looking for an annuity.”
Frustrating, isn’t it? One simple technique, though, can be highly effective here: simply restate the negatives as positive requirements by probing a little deeper:
YOU: “What is it about the annuity you don’t like?”
SC: “I don’t want to tie up my money for 20 years.”
YOU: “OK, what else?”
SC: “Well, I want to make sure the money is safe.”
YOU: “So what you’re looking for is a much shorter time commitment, then, with a reputable organization with a good track record to oversee your investment. Correct?” (Negative restated as positive requirement.)
SC: “Ummm…yeah. I guess so.”
From here, it’s a natural transition to your solution as you probe for preferred time commitments, and you can have a more productive conversation regarding their true investment objectives. Remember, you can’t possibly address every one of the SC’s vague, hearsay objections successfully.
These techniques should result in better meetings and more commitments from this notoriously difficult personality type. As always, practice them, and give them a try next time you meet one.