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Paul Morrison of ‘M&O Marketing’: “Evaluating your credibility/likeability ratio with a prospect”

As you can see, there are a consistent number of concerns in a typical retiree’s retirement plan. The primary purpose is to compile a plan to cater to the above risks. I’m a very big advocate of understanding what is keeping the client(s) up at night when it comes to retirement concerns. Once the client […]

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As you can see, there are a consistent number of concerns in a typical retiree’s retirement plan. The primary purpose is to compile a plan to cater to the above risks. I’m a very big advocate of understanding what is keeping the client(s) up at night when it comes to retirement concerns. Once the client provides those related concerns, then you are able to allow yourself in the client’s world of concerns and putting a plan identifying to overcome those related concerns allows one to become more of an authority of sales.


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 Paul Morrison, Executive Director of Practice Development at M&O Marketing.

Paul recruits financial professionals and helps them reach new levels of success with their practice. Paul is exceptionally driven in ensuring that his advisors are reaching their full potential and continually growing their practice on a daily basis. What separates Paul is his ability to immediately understand an advisor’s vision for their practice for the next three to five years. Paul then creates a process of execution for his advisors to reach their highest success so they can realistically attain their goals. Paul looks for personable clients that are passionate and committed to creating an optimal retirement plan.


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?

Absolutely, I originated my career with a Field Marketing Organization in Omaha, NE in 2013. At the time, there was a curiosity of the different retirement risks being discovered such as longevity risk, sequence of returns, inflationary and withdrawal rate risk from various retirement academics. I 100% made the commitment early on to become an educational retirement marketer by strategically identifying the location of a fixed-indexed annuity (FIA) in a retirement portfolio.

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?

Every year, my father hosts a sports night for a Jesuit high school in Omaha, NE. The event allows a sports celebrity to speak at the event. One year, the event had Bill Walton, former UCLA/NBA Basketball Great. He and I ended up having a more intellectual conversation discussing retirement planning and the role an annuity plays with a pre-retiree/retiree. One of the questions he asked at the time was why annuities were so misunderstood which my immediate reply was they are explained/positioned improperly. The question I asked Bill was what percent of protection from a market correction would he desire in his retirement portfolio if he were to retire tomorrow?

Unfortunately, we had very limited time for discussion as the objective was for Bill to speak on the topic of basketball. The morale of the story is even sports celebrities are always seeking retirement planning guidance.

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

Yes, I am, I’m working on an optimal VA/FIA income-based portfolio allocation per historical performance, standard deviation, asset correlation and withdrawal flexibility. The VA/FIA marriage will benefit the advisor’s education on achieving a closer guaranteed alpha (beating the benchmark). In addition, a Social Security Planning educational letter. The letter will strive to educate the public about the reality of the Social Security Trust Fund and how a claiming strategy has an immediate impact on one’s assets in retirement.

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?

I would say Ron Shurts, co-Founder of Annexus Partners. I listened to him in Scottsdale back in 2013 and was taken aback on how he simplifies the FIA. His analogy took my education to the next level. In addition, there are several academics including David Blanchett, Moeshe Milevsky, Michael Finke and Dr. Wade Pfau that I call the “Dream Team” of retirement planning.

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

1. One of the reasons I would consider myself an authority on the topic of sales is identifying what the client is truly thinking when it comes to retirement. Understanding what their fears are, the majority of pre-retirees have these following factual statistics in common:

  • The average retirement couple will receive 1,800 dollars to 2,100 dollars per month in Social Security Income. The average couple has only 200,000 dollars in retirement savings.
  • The average couple will likely pay roughly 200,000 dollars in out-of-pocket health care expenses over the next 30 years.

2. The majority of a couple’s assets are in the stock market, which we do not know its performance in the next five to 10 years.

3. The average pre-retiree is out of time; they are not working anymore.

As you can see, there are a consistent number of concerns in a typical retiree’s retirement plan. The primary purpose is to compile a plan to cater to the above risks. I’m a very big advocate of understanding what is keeping the client(s) up at night when it comes to retirement concerns. Once the client provides those related concerns, then you are able to allow yourself in the client’s world of concerns and putting a plan identifying to overcome those related concerns allows one to become more of an authority of sales.

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?

It’s easy to become irrational when a pandemic hits our country/world with no prior warning, to say the least. This is a time to appreciate what you have in your life, not what you desire. Per this COVID-19 event, Americans perceptions are drastically changing and, in the end, we will come out of this as more intelligent, proactive and more health-oriented for the experiences being experienced.

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?

Great question! We do teach sales in the educational system. We just don’t call it sales. If you think about it, we have debate teams in high school/college, public speaking, product presentations, communication exercises, marketing classes and if you want to get the teachers respect, just listen. In 2000, I graduated from University of St. Thomas with a Business Management Degree, still don’t know what that degree means exactly, but I do recall a number of skills sets that were developed in my final two years related to sales.

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?

Not really. I call it persistency. If you do not acquire the client/account, someone else will, it’s that simple. In this day and age, it’s a “zero sum game,” as Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street. “Somebody wins, somebody loses, the rest is conversation.” Great line.

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?

Presentation/Follow-up. Please let me explain per my reasoning. As a devoted retirement planning academic, when I have the opportunity to present, the ultimate goal of the advisor is understanding a risk appropriate portfolio and identifying the risks for their clients. I’m an advocate of the Modern Portfolio Theory, a thesis developed by Harry Markowitz in the 1950s which has a 1990 Nobel Economic award-winning science behind the theory. Modern portfolio theory is understanding diversification of different asset classes per standard deviation (volatility). An expected level of return for a preferred level of risk.

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?

A good generated lead is compiled by researching the advisor’s practice. For example, study their website, broker dealer, RIA firm, mission statement, Google any related articles from a PR perspective. By the time you include a commonality of relatable topics to their practice, the initial conversation becomes strategic with very little time wasted by both parties.

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’?

It’s not the objection, the question is if we are going to partner together for the long-term, are we both a great fit? If not, there will be complicated objections to overcome.

‘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.

It’s difficult to suggest five things as I’m not the late Zig Zigler or a well-known national sale closer. That being said, my chief approach is very simple, as I present throughout the presentation, whether my prospect knows it or not, if I’ve identified their goals/needs, the relationship is assumed at the end of the call. If I have to continue to ask, then there is a disconnector I didn’t identify the overall needs. Shame on me then. Overall, the 5 things I highly suggest is

Listen.

Understand the urgency of need.

Evaluating your credibility/likeability ratio with a prospect.

Creating a trial close to summarize the prospect’s needs at the end of the call

Assume a timeline for the prospect to committing to engaging in business.

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?

My advice is timing is not everything, but plays a crucial role. We have to have an overall understanding; we are not the only priority in the prospect’s life. If they are not ready to move forward, we come to a conclusion of when they would appreciate a follow-up. Meanwhile, I ask permission to send educational practice related strategy(s) emails to them for the time being to build up my credibility/comfort level.

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?

The question needs to be asked to the prospect/client. When I was originating home mortgages early in my career, I always asked the question: How do you want me to update your loan status — email, phone, text? Once I asked that question, I never lost a client’s trust — very interesting.

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. 🙂

Truly feel if I amassed a fortune in net worth, my chief priority would be to allocate the majority of my wealth to lower income/single parent households. We are living in a time where showing off your wealth versus assisting an underprivileged family that needs, not wants the money, is ideal in our society. I wish more wealthy people in this country displayed that thought process. How much money does one person truly need?

How can our readers follow you online?

I am not a big social media guy. My father once told me, “Don’t follow the herd.” Meaning, I don’t like to put myself out there nor do I care to have millions of followers. You can reach me by email at [email protected].

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