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Why prospects don't make decisions

Bryce Sanders

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How you can introduce a sense of urgency to close the deal.

Some people can’t seem to make a decision. You don’t press them. You are doing your best to act in their interests and provide advice, but they make that final decision. Here’s another reason not to press: You can always get an immediate answer if the answer is “No.”

Based on my own research, I’ve found prospects and clients delay (or don’t make) decisions for several reasons. Let’s look at them and consider a strategy while respecting the client’s concerns.


Uncertainty about the future keeps many people from taking your advice. If the stock market is headed up, they might think if they buy now, that’s the top. If the market is heading down, they are convinced it will go lower. They see losing money as a likely outcome.

Problem: They are frozen. They don’t want to make a decision.

Strategy: Find a chart showing the direction of the stock market over time that also has various national or global crises highlighted along the timeline. When they get into the investment markets, they are joining an ongoing process. Investing should be viewed with a long-term perspective.


Your prospect or client is agreeable to making a decision, but not now. They look at their finances and think they’ve done pretty well. They don’t see why they need to make a change.

Problem: Here’s what they are missing: They are actually making a decision when they choose to do nothing. They are deciding the course of action they have been following is the best course of action going forward.

Strategy: Expand the choice between stay and go. Examine how their money is invested now. What needs to happen for it to grow? What direction do the economy, interest rates and the stock market need to take? Next, build the case for your recommendations. What direction do those factors have to take now? Present both alternatives. In their opinion, which economic scenario is more likely to happen? What do they believe? Can they explain their reasons? You’ve put the decision-making responsibility in their hands.

Too many alternatives

When talking with prospects and clients, we want to come across as smart and qualified. There are many possible solutions to address their situation, and we want them to know we understand each one. We give solution after solution, hoping they will pick one. We end up presenting a huge list of choices. They don’t understand or remember them. They are looking to you for clues.

Problem: Faced with numerous choices and the possibility they will pick the wrong one, they choose none.

Strategy: The earlier strategy started with many choices that would hopefully narrow down to one. Reverse the process. Recap their situation, then lead off with your best idea, explaining why it’s a good fit. Let them know you’ve considered other options, but this is your recommendation. You are the expert. They really want your best idea.

Let them know you’ve considered other options, but this is your recommendation. You are the expert.

No value

You do online comparison shopping for books, TVs and tires. Then you buy from a website or walk into a store expecting they will match the price. For you, getting that item is a transaction. Clients often shop for insurance and financial services the same way. They don’t understand the value you bring to the relationship. Insurance is a complicated product! There are lots of choices. Features, coverage and benefits often differ. Imagine the damage they can do to themselves if they buy something, make payments for years and discover it doesn’t provide the coverage they need when something happens.

Problem: They don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know the right questions to ask.

Solution: Financial planning. Doctors don’t let patients self-medicate. They don’t suggest a drug or treatment without first learning the patient’s history and doing tests. A financial plan provides an overview showing a prospect’s situation. This helps the advisor make the case how a certain product with specific features fits into a space to address their needs.

Lack of trust

The media loves scandals. If a celebrity loses money because they took bad advice, this makes headlines. Many people assume all advisors behave in a similar fashion. Hundreds of thousands of financial professionals do what’s right for their clients, but that’s not news. 

Problem: Prospects see you in an adversarial role. This transaction has a winner and a loser. They think you are in it for the money over the short term and have no interest in their needs.

Solution: Soften the suspicion about pricing by explaining how you make money and the fees involved in products. If they’ve been comparison shopping, you might ask if other people have explained this point. Explain how you intend to embark on a long-term relationship and how you will keep in touch and report to them, monitoring progress and activity.  

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services profession.

Contact Bryce Sanders at


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