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The Art of Finding Your “Inner Salesperson”

For Retirement Planning and Insurance lecturer Aaron Abrahms, a successful introductory client meeting is when he does not have to talk much. “Listen to your client (or prospective client),” he shared with students in Columbia’s Wealth Management Master’s program on June 7th. “You need to get as much information as you can to figure out if the products or services you may be selling are a match for the client.” While wealth management professionals ultimately rely on their ability to sell their expertise, it’s just as important to determine if the buyer needs their products or services first, he said. “Never try to push a ‘square peg through a round hole.’”

Abrahms, who is also a graduate of Columbia Business School and a Principal at Winged Keel Group, shared his common sense sales tactics and advice: conducting research on the potential client prior to meeting with them, proactively identifying the ideal outcomes from the meeting, practicing your talking points, and keeping the perspective that each interaction is part of a cycle of incremental steps. “Sometimes the goal is just to get to a second meeting,” he said.

Another key strategy he recommended: referrals and business-to-business (“B2B”) relationship management. Abrahms credits reaching his highest levels of productivity to connecting clients with professionals who can assist them with a range of their needs, not just his area of expertise. He illustrated the point with an example of a paper salesperson who connects with a copier salesperson: “If the copier salesperson sells more copiers, that is good for the paper salesperson.” Some of his best relationships are when he knows someone who needs something and can introduce that person to people who can be helpful. Eventually, the professionals he introduces to clients refer him to new clients. “As you are selling your product, you need to find those symbiotic loops – people who will benefit in their own self-interest by selling you,” Abrahms emphasized.

Aaron shared many other universal truths when it comes to a successful sales process including:

  • Find your second step – look for ways of staying in touch with people.
  • ABH – Always be helpful.
  • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • Be early to every meeting and call.
  • Be an interesting and interested person – read books, newspapers, and watch. documentaries so that people want to talk to you.
  • Never eat alone. Always seek to connect with people and remember that face-to-face meetings are much more rewarding than Zoom.
  • Be an engineer – know your product and industry inside and out. Very successful salespeople tend to operate like consultants for their industry.
  • Make it easy for people to make referrals for you (e.g., type introductory emails for people in your network to refer clients to you).
  • Thank a referrer and provide feedback on the introduction.
  • Be transparent about your business model – business people want to know how you make money, so don’t shy away from it. Plus, others want to understand that they aren’t being fleeced.

Finally, Abrahms encouraged students to embrace their authentic selves (not doing so is not sustainable and exhausting, he added): “Lead with your heart – help others out when you can…sometimes it is business-related; sometimes it is personal. An ability to connect people and connect with people is a value-add recipe to success in life, not only in sales.”

Aaron Abrahms is a Principal at Winged Keel Group where he works with clients on the development of large block life insurance portfolios and on the various applications of Private Placement products. He routinely helps clients utilize Traditional Life Insurance products to finance estate taxes and/or use Private Placement Life Insurance and Annuities to shield investment returns from current period taxation. He is a lecturer for the Retirement Planning and Insurance course in Columbia University’s Wealth Management Master of Professional Studies program.