There’s widespread industry acceptance and expectation that brokers favour a solution-based, relationship-driven model, versus a short-term, linear, transactional approach.
Arguably, this has largely always been the case. In my extensive time in industry, I’ve very rarely encountered a broker who is not genuinely committed to supporting their clients and viewing themselves as “solution-driven”.
At its base level, this is a reasonable perception: the broker has facilitated a solution.
The curly twist is that this isn’t being solution-driven unless it is done holistically – meaning it’s not a one-off placement of an aligned product that meets an immediate requirement. In this context, while a solution has been provided, it’s still transactional if it’s not another “piece of the puzzle” in the ongoing broker/client journey.
Taking this a step further, the industry is encouraged to provide clients a “full-service offering”, which we support. Though, we do need to be careful that this doesn’t translate to promoting a laundry list of products, as this will have limited return because customers want an outcome. The product, or “solution”, is just the vehicle to achieve the desired outcome.
At this juncture, I’d like to challenge the vernacular from being “solution-driven” to “outcome-driven”. This echoes the sentiment of management guru, Peter Drucker, and Harvard Business Review author, Hannah Grove in her “Selling Solutions Isn’t Enough” paper. As Mr Drucker eloquently stated: “What a customer buys, and considers value, is never a product. It’s always utility, that is, what a product or service does.”
This means we should identify and deliver outcomes that meet the needs of customers.
In other words: what problem or opportunity does the customer have, and how can I provide the most aligned funding to address the requirement?
This also naturally shifts the conversation from cost to value.
While this may be all well and good in theory, how does it work in practice?
Author Mark Sanborn, in his book The Intention Imperative, identifies nine key differences between being transactional versus relationship-based, as follows:
- Professional vs friendly
- Self-interest vs mutual interest
- What you get vs what you give
- Stay in touch vs keep informed
- Understand the process vs understand the person in the process
- Judge the results vs evaluate the relationship
- Win conflict vs resolve conflict
- Agreement vs acceptance
- Evaluate the results vs evaluate how the other feels about the results
In practical terms, this means moving away from being “company-centric” (i.e. what you can do), to become outcome and “user-centric” (showing how your offering solves your client’s challenges or materialises their opportunities).
Here are some ideas to get you underway:
It sounds obvious, but one of the first rules in business is that your clients need to find you “friendly”; or in other words, “approachable”, and “relatable”. This comes down to both tone and language. Be sure to use straightforward language, keeping your message simple and free of jargon. In addition, don’t assume knowledge – particularly with interest rates and payment structures.
Demonstrate mutual interest
Don’t tell your customer what you do (self-interest). Tell them what the outcome will be and why it benefits them (mutual interest). A great way to achieve this is to use “story telling” via case studies to explain the problem, demonstrate how you solved it, and most importantly, how it benefited the client.
This method works because it’s authentic, relatable and outcome-focussed. It also showcases your breadth of offering (or, conversely, specialisation).
What you give
The “what you get” approach is promoting a product. The “what you give” approach is being committed to both the journey and outcome.
For instance, rather than state: “We do home loans”, say “We’re with you the whole way: from when you first spot your new home, right through to when you move in and beyond – whatever that looks like.”
A lot of companies fall into the trap of thinking that they’re keeping their clients informed by delivering content that centres around company achievements. While this is worth celebrating, it falls into the “self-interest” camp.
Similarly, it’s important to note that keeping informed does not always equate to promoting products. Conversely, keep your customers informed about what matters to them. Maybe this is a change of legislation, it could be about new tax concessions, or equally about a different type of finance that’s now available to address a specific situation.
Understand the person in the process
As we all know, the quickest way to generate repeat and referral business is to ensure a positive experience. This is far more profound than facilitating a product. It’s what you’ve done for your client that genuinely improved their circumstance. And in order to do this well, you need to really understand the process before you embark on solving their requirement.
Evaluate the relationship
Yes, results are important, and a core metric typically used to define success. Though arguably, the client relationship is a greater indication of future performance. Actively evaluate your client relationships. However, here’s the key: the evaluation needs to be continual. Not just post-deal. This means being across your client holistically and being a step ahead of meeting not just their current, but upcoming needs. It’s ideal to do this in collaboration with an accountant.
While a “win” may seem victorious in the short-term, there’s far greater longevity in favouring resolution.
Similarly, compromise and acceptance are often more harmonious and sustainable than agreement – particularly with polarising views or if you’re in a stalemate.
Evaluate how the other feels about the results
Similarly to “Evaluating the relationship”, it’s prudent to be invested in how your client feels about the process and outcome to strengthen trust and resolve any kinks.
To conclude in support of Ms Grove’s statement: “The common tread is the desire to demonstrate the company’s value as a trusted collaborative partner that aligns with each customer’s priorities – not only during the initial sale.”