The Art of Fact-Finding – Turning Needs Into Wants


I timed myself this morning in making our bed. I’ve got it down to 1½ minutes and I’m so proud but please don’t tell my wife.

The reason I do it quickly is that it’s simple and rather boring.

Some things in life are really simple. When we do simple things, such as make the bed, we go into autopilot, in other words we automate it so it takes as less of our conscious attention as possible. That way we can focus on something else. We speed up simple processes because they’re boring.

Now fact-finding with our customers in a face to face interview is quite simple. Collecting information to populate a form is not difficult. Hard facts are needed to fill in a form most of the time. Once we have the facts, we as fully trained and educated financial advisers, know the products the customer needs and telling is simple too.

Telling is not selling – especially not rapport selling.

Rapport selling fact-finding involves getting into the tricky bit. Not just asking questions to get facts but asking a variety of questions simulating a discussion to open up opportunities with our customer, finding softer information to help us link our products to them personally. Knowing what drives them to do what they do, get them feeling concerned about their shortfall of cover, excited by a goal they had in the back of their mind.

Above all, get them wanting what we have to sell. Turning needs into wants is the tricky bit but the most rewarding for them and us.

So how do we do this?

You need some skills and some process. Skills come in your ability to ask the right question, make this come over as a conversation and a genuine interest in your customer and to have first class listening skills.

The process is this:

o Prioritise the customers needs, and take one at a time

o Discover the situation around the need

o Turn the need into a want

o Gain commitment

Like any process, you can adapt as you go but it’s important to follow some structure. What’s more important is that your customer goes along with you. Ask them to join in your journey. Tell them where you’re going to take them. Explain the process in benefit terms so they know exactly what’s going to happen and what is expected of them.

“I’d like to spend some time exploring your current situation by asking lots of questions. I’ll be doing lots of listening if that’s OK as you talk about yourself, your situation, your goals and dreams and the issues you have surrounding your personal finances. That way I’m able to give you the very best service and advice. Is that OK Mr Brown?”

Prioritise needs

Have a priority of needs which, hopefully, your customer has agreed with and actually prioritised for you. Typically this is the reason for them seeing you or being referred to you in the first place. Companies use all sorts of acronyms to help you decide needs and each fact find page is usually devoted to a particular need.

o PIMPSIO – Protection, income replacement, mortgage, pension, savings and investment, other

o PEPSI – protection, earnings replacement, pension, savings and investment

o SLIM – savings, life protection, insurance, mortgage

Above all though, the customer decides the priority, not you. And you take one need at a time.

Discover the situation

Fact finds are usually populated with the usual situation type information. Name, policy details, amount of cover, date of retirement, shortfalls of cover needed etc etc. Now you need this of course, but you also need softer information. You need their feelings about the cover they have, what they know about alternatives, you need their priorities, their objectives, their aims for their family. You want to discover what they thought of their previous adviser, how much the state provides when they retire or die.

These are just examples of their current situation.

Lots of open questions, probes and just good old fashioned silence and listening will give you this information.

Turn the need into a want

The principle here is that people are driven away from pain and problems or towards pleasure. Think about this in your life? What spurs you on? It’s probably one of those two.

This bit is the clever bit and most tricky too. There’re three avenues you can explore that’ll get the customer thinking of wanting some solutions. They can discover the problems they face if the current situation stays put, they can see that some goals might be out of balance or off target and this can cause a problem or they might re-discover or re-ignite a goal that spurs them into taking action.

Take life and protection needs. Having a lack of this can cause people problems especially when the cause happens. They die or are off work long term with an illness. Your questions should let them consider the problems for them personally and the consequences too. Your questions can allow them to think about what sort of solution will solve these problems and turn the need into a genuine want for the products. A good mixture of questions – open and probes, summaries, pauses will bring dividends here.

Careful about going in like a bull in a china shop. You’re dealing with personal information so we do need to be sensitive. Care with your question style and tone. Use lots of “tell me…” and “I’m curious” and “I’m wondering”. Also make sure your question tone rises slightly in the sentence. Really important that because the opposite, a falling tone, suggests a command and will be interpreted as an attack or an interrogation.

And you don’t want that do you?

Take savings or investments. Having these or wanting this need area requires an end results. Why are they saving? A rainy day, a holiday of a lifetime, an income on retirement, a new car, a house. This list goes on. Your questions will let them explore these goals, vision the goal clearly, discover the pleasure achieving this goal may bring. This will be enough to turn this need into a want.

What about re-mortgages? This is big business these days. Is this a need motivated by getting away from pain or towards pleasure? That depends really. You might ask what their concerns are with the mortgage they already have. They might be anxious about paying a higher rate of interest than other people or having to make payments for longer than they wanted. Here we have a problem.

Explore this further to see how it affects them personally and you might find them driven by the desire to get a better rate of interest or the prospect of paying the loan off earlier than planned. You could explore the problems of remaining with their existing lender and maybe the personal consequences. This getting away from the pain might be their motivation.

So to bring success in the fact-find we turn the need into a want. A yearning desire for some advice. Maybe this is a little utopian, but this process armed with the right questions and acres of listening will get you along the road.

Gaining commitment

Along the way of exploring needs with your customer, you’ll want to get little dollops of commitment along the way. Subject to affordability, they’ll be interested in having a look at more detail shortly. Enquiring about affordability at an early stage is a brilliant way of preventing an objection later down the line.

All the time you’re building a vision of a package of options that will take away this pain or give them the pleasure they definitely want. At the end of the formal fact find process, we need to announce that this is what we’ll show them and they can look at the options and make some decisions.

There’s not much more I can do to turn the bed-making process into a more interesting and stimulating task, unlike fact-finding. But I think I’ll stick with the 1½ minutes and keep quiet. The pain of having other jobs to do around the house is too intense.

The next time you carry out a fact find, focus on the trickiest and more stimulating part – that is to turn the needs you’re discussing into wants. Remember away from pain and problems or towards pleasure.

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Source by Paul Archer