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Michael Foguth of Foguth Financial Group: “Communication”

Communication — It is imperative to constantly be communicating to your customer what will happen before it happens so that when it actually happens, the client is comfortable and understands. No one likes to be surprised. After each of my client or prospective client meetings, I send a follow up email with the top three-to-five things I […]

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Communication — It is imperative to constantly be communicating to your customer what will happen before it happens so that when it actually happens, the client is comfortable and understands. No one likes to be surprised. After each of my client or prospective client meetings, I send a follow up email with the top three-to-five things I heard from our conversations together along with the next steps I anticipate. This allows the client or prospective client to understand the direction and next steps in my process and ensures that everyone is comfortable with the next steps.


As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Foguth.

Michael Foguth specializes in retirement planning and working with clients pre-and post-retirement who desire to protect their money and ensure it is there when they need it most. Michael and his team at Foguth Financial Group pride themselves on building and maintaining long-lasting relationships with their clients and families. In addition to guiding his own clients, Michael developed the “Follow The Process Mentorship,” a program that provides training to financial advisors on how to plan a successful retirement for their clients.


Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

I was brought into this business/industry by a negative personal experience. Misinformation provided to my grandmother opened my eyes to the financial industry and the difference between a good and bad advisor. I was fortunate enough to grow up across the street from my grandparents. I watched my grandfather and grandmother go on trips together and most importantly, go out to breakfast each day with friends. My grandfather then pre-deceased my grandmother. After a while, I noticed grandma not doing the things that she loved to do. Not going on trips, not going out to breakfast with friends. I asked her why and her response was that “I don’t know why, but I’ve lost a lot of money.” I went over to my grandmother’s house and helped her review her statements and placed a call with her to her advisor — his response was, “don’t worry, it will come back.” This infuriated me because at that moment, I knew this advisor knew nothing about my grandmother or what was important to her. It was at that moment that I sought out, through a dear friend of mine, an individual that would help me understand the financial industry. Through this individual’s knowledge and expertise, it allowed me to not only help my grandmother, but led to a career that would allow me to successfully help thousands to retire.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I had a client (husband and wife) come into my office for a review after another advisor had just sold them a financial product, rather than planning or helping them with their comprehensive retirement plan. I see a lot of people who are just sold a financial product. They have no real plan put together for them or understand how all retirement puzzle pieces are going to work together. The best part of my job is when all retirement puzzle pieces are put into place and fit. When Social Security income, Medicare/health insurance, pensions, 401(k)s/403(b)s, IRAs, taxes, etc., work together and more importantly, sync together. Once this happens, I have done my job. Most of the time, I see people hoping that they have bought the right financial product from someone that did not truly know what was important to them.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have a very exciting project right now — trademarking our entire planning/sales process. This will benefit anyone who is put through this process. It is proven, has led to thousands of successful retirements and no one else in the country will be able to offer this to their clients and prospective clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I first started researching how to help my grandmother, I reached out to a friend who introduced me to a gentleman who had been an industry leader for years and years. He was the first person to show me the difference between planning and selling something to someone. That relationship changed not only my grandmother’s future, but mine as well as many others.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

Not only have we helped people locally, but because of the success we have had in our community, I am now able to train and coach other financial advisors from around the country on the planning process I created that has helped so many individuals successfully retire and stay retired.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I truly believe that fear and anxiousness only come from a lack of preparation and planning. During the coronavirus pandemic, none of my clients had fear or anxiousness, mainly due to the fact that my job and responsibility is to shift the pressures of finances from the client to my firm. It is my job to ensure that my clients are prepared and planned for these types of situations. My experience and comprehensive planning processes allow me to provide solutions to each and every person’s problems — therefore the anxiousness and fear is removed.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

The word “sales” often has a negative connotation. No one wants to be sold anything. Even when you need something such as a new car or a cell phone, individuals dread going through that sales process. The focus needs be shifted from selling to solving. Therefore, if you were to teach anything in school/college, there should be a bigger focus on problem solving and helping others rather than themselves. The old saying is, “If you help everyone get what they need, you will get what you need.”

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

Yes — there is a very fine line from being too aggressive/pushy to being good at sales, however some prospective clients, depending on their circumstances/situation need a little bit more guidance than others. You never want to force someone to do something. Most of the time, if the consumer is feeling that you are pushing or you feel too pushy, that means you are not truly solving their problems. If you ever get to this point in helping someone, go back to the beginning to see what you are missing in solving this person’s problem.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

Preparation — this is the most important and this is my firm’s distinct advantage. By constantly talking to both current and newer prospects/clients, along with continuing to seek outside education and information from both industry and non-industry leaders, this allows me to constantly stay prepared for whatever circumstance may get thrown my way.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Individuals in sales need to know the difference between a “lead” and an “appointment.” In sales, the focus should be on appointments rather than a lead. Your focus should be constantly filling your calendar with people to talk to. Understanding the importance of appointments, that should be your driving goal each week. How many appointments do you need to be successful? Getting to that number is simple. You have to reverse engineer it. In sales, it is inevitably about numbers — you have to dial it down to the number of dials, texts, emails, etc., it takes you to get to speak with someone and how many conversations it takes to schedule an appointment. Out of those appointments, how many people were you able to help (close)? Once you look at it in reverse, it should dictate your daily activities that will lead to the conversations and appointments that will lead to you helping people solve their problems.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

Most salespeople have a pre-determined agenda. I see most of the time they are trying to solve what they think the objection/problem is, but that that is not actually what the customer is looking for. Most people do not listen during the discovery process. Sometimes what you think you heard versus what the consumer wants are two different things. To better handle objections, you need to better understand your customers.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

Preparation — The most successful sales leaders are the ones who have put in countless hours prior to that one hour meeting preparing and researching.

Communication — It is imperative to constantly be communicating to your customer what will happen before it happens so that when it actually happens, the client is comfortable and understands. No one likes to be surprised. After each of my client or prospective client meetings, I send a follow up email with the top three-to-five things I heard from our conversations together along with the next steps I anticipate. This allows the client or prospective client to understand the direction and next steps in my process and ensures that everyone is comfortable with the next steps.

Follow-Up — Just as I discussed previously, follow-up with what you said you were going to do. This is a very simple task that most successful people do not do. The old saying is, “Everyone can talk the talk, but not many can walk the walk.” Meaning, if you say you will do it, do it. If you say you will send it, send it. Separate yourself from others with your follow-up and follow through. Take it one step further and follow-up and confirm they received the information and that they, more importantly, understand the information. Additionally, ensure that what you have provided is what they are looking for.

Provide Value — In a world where information is at our fingertips, most people have access to the information you may or may not have provided. It does not cost you anything, other than time, to continuously provide value to clients and prospects through email marketing, social media content and video marketing. A weekly newsletter along with daily content on social platforms provides a tremendous amount of value to everyone’s viewing. Great example — I met a prospective client three years prior to doing business with him. I shared my story and how my firm could help him, but timing wasn’t right. I continued to provide value for three years every day and every week. When the time was right for the client, I did not have to do anything — he reached out to us and the next thing you know, I have a new client. By providing value at no cost, I have a lifelong client and continue to attract new clients.

Solving — Again, this gets back to the idea that everyone is ready to sell something if you are in a sales position. The problem is that your prospect is not always ready to be sold. Your focus needs to be shifted from selling to solving. When the timing is right to solve the client’s problem, the solution will automatically present itself. Focus on solving the client’s problems and not your own. This is simple, listen more than you talk. No two people are alike; therefore, no two sales should ever be alike.

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

This is a tough one. Someone may appear on the surface that they are ready or have a need, but the timing isn’t right for them. Focus on driving value on all of your follow-up rather than pushing the client to the next step. Again, no two clients are alike, so not two follow-ups should be alike. If you feel you can truly help the potential client, you should focus on following-up to provide value rather than to book the next appointment.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

In my experience, the best opportunities are face-to-face appointments. This is because my line of business is relationship-driven and not purely transactional. During the pandemic, I knew a lot of people were not comfortable with face-to-face meetings, however, I also found it difficult to understand all facets of the client’s needs with a virtual appointment. As I bring clients on board, it is important for me to develop a relationship that allows a client to be comfortable sharing very personal information. I find it sometimes difficult to fully understand body language, husband and wife/household relationships while on a virtual appointment. I also know that during virtual appointments, there are a world of distraction possibilities. We are all guilty of being on a call/zoom and doing something else or have our focus elsewhere. Face-to-face meetings are my preferred method of meeting with clients and prospective clients; however, that is driven by the relationship centric business I am in.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would encourage individuals to start planning their financial future rather than always focus on making more money. I see a lot of individuals focused on bigger growth and more returns. If more people focus on understanding and planning for all aspects of their financial future, I feel more and more people would be better off both short- and long-term. In finances, a lot of people have a fear of missing out — getting in and out of the stock market at the right time, selling before the next crash, etc. Those all pale in comparison to having a plan for what an individual actually needs. Not everyone needs a 20% return. They may want it, but may not need that and therefore, their focus should not be on that.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelFFoguth
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelfoguth/
https://www.instagram.com/foguthfinancial/

www.foguthfinancial.com

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