sales tactics

Flashing Lights, Bells, and Whistles

photo shows a BNSF train going through Louisville, Nebraska

The main line of the Burlington Northern Railroad parallels the Platte River through Nebraska, and it crosses Main Street in Louisville. Many times each day, bells sound, lights flash, and the crossarms come down to block traffic. The locomotive blows its whistle. When this collection of clues occurs, you can bet a train is near.

The warnings all make sense when you think about the damage a 200-ton locomotive would do to a car or pedestrian, should they meet at the crossing.

Another thing happens many times each day, with nearly as much noise. Dire warnings about the future of the stock market come from cable business news shows, internet business sites, people at the diner, and sometimes even friends and relatives.

But there are two important differences between train warnings and market warnings. No one profits by promoting phony train warnings, but there is a lot of money to be made by those promoting fear of stock market volatility. And often, the dire-sounding market warnings merit a yawn in response—not a slamming of the brakes.

For example, those who pretend to know that a 10% or 20% stock market decline is around the corner may well be right. A 10% decline is par for the course in any given year: they are routine. Of course a market decline is coming! They always are. It goes up and down, sometimes a lot, unpredictably.

I’ve followed the markets avidly for decades. One of the things that is ever-present is the prediction by someone, somewhere, that the market is about to get crushed. There are always reasons or rationales; the human mind is a marvel of creativity. History provides millions of snippets of data that can always be arranged to convince some people of anything.

We have found it worthwhile to ignore the noise and stick to our discipline. Search for bargains, avoid stampedes, and strive to own the orchard for the fruit crop. Clients, if you’d like to talk about any noise you’re hearing, or the fruits of our research, email us or call.


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Fresh as a Rose

photo shows pink, yellow, and red roses in a garden

Maybe you remember having to write a persuasive paper or give a persuasive speech in school. The structure of such a composition could be pretty simple: describe a problem, then present a solution to that problem. Done.

I remember this kind of prompt when I see ads today for certain products, especially those related to… the nose.

“Your neighbors will notice your home smells like garbage… if you don’t buy this spray.”

“You’ll never find romance… without our mouthwash.”

Advertising in this country has relied on these types of messages for decades. In fact, the first commercial deodorant makers realized that in order to survive they would need to convince Americans that sweating was an embarrassment. (Your human body leaks? How unseemly!)

Fast-forward, and these products do sell! Scented garbage bags, room sprays, and body washes have become staples for many households. And don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting these products don’t have their uses and pleasures. But it’s pandering to exaggerate about “how much poorer your life will be without this one specific solution I have to offer… and it’s available! Call now!”

We’ve got nothing to sell. We’re not going to provoke a sense of shame or pretend to be high priests. Wherever you are, wherever you’ve been, (however you smell?!), we are here to try to help you strive toward your goals—however you identify them.

The problem/solution formula makes plenty of sense in its own way: of course we want companies and brands to help us improve our daily lives! On the other hand…

We don’t need the world to believe it stinks to be of service to others.

Clients, we’re here for you on your schedule. Let us know how we can help.


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Flashy Clues and Second Opinions

photo shows one hand with white skin pointing to a piece of paper that another hand with white skin is signing with a pen

If you’ll forgive my language, I believe the way to “revolutionize” the financial services industry is quite simple: you just cut the crap.

The pushy peddlers of old aren’t entirely gone, and it reminds me to come back to the basics. Clients first. If you’re better off, I’m better off. Grow the buckets.

I recently met a person, well into the retirement years, who escaped some real damage by listening to their guts on a financial proposition. The peddler who almost got to them reminded me of the antics of a character I met as a young man starting out in the life insurance business, long ago.

This classic peddler fit every stereotype of the master salesman of the last century. Big pinkie ring, Cadillac, flashy suits. His motto? “Dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with bull….”

It didn’t matter if you needed what he was selling or not. The question was, could he make a buck by tricking you into buying it?

The sales abuses are just as real today. Can you imagine tying up money for 10 years when you are retired, facing a huge penalty if you do want your money out, and getting mediocre returns just so a peddler can get a big insurance commission? It happens.

The bad news is, the obvious signs like pinkie rings and flashy suits are gone, replaced by a sea of nice websites with family pictures and flowery talk about your best interests and the peddler’s degrees and designations. The good news: you can always get a second opinion.

I’m in business to talk all day. If someone you know needs a second opinion, I’d love to talk to them. Here to help as I can.


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The Funny Business of Fear-Based Peddlers

photo shows the dictionary entry for "fear"

Electricians deal with electricity. Plumbers work with pipes. The work of grocers is all about… yes, groceries.

One might think that investment advisors, therefore, advise about investments.

It is a funny business. The work of some investment advisors has virtually nothing to do with investments. They traffic in fear, not investments. Our clients know that investments and markets go up and down. It is an integral, inescapable part of striving to achieve investment returns: we learn to live with volatility. Some fear-based advisors portray normal market volatility as some kind of horrible risk that nobody should face.

The “solutions” they offer to cure the fears they hype often include “guaranteed” products whose returns will inevitably reflect the current relatively-low interest rates available. We recently saw a proposal of this type, offering a product with a surrender charge of up to 14% that lasted ten years. It was a bold suggestion for a 75-year-old, a ten-year surrender charge.

The proposal came from a supposed investment advisor. In cases like this, we’ve discovered from you that this sort of professional cannot answer your questions about the stock market, nor comment in detail about ownership in any particular company, nor communicate the long-term potential of long-term investments… because they do not actually do much work with investments.

They provoke fear of investing in order to sell high-commission, high-expense products. This is a sales tactic. It is not investment advice.

So what to do? When you come across an offer that’s attempting to scare you, we suggest you hold onto your money and get a second opinion before you proceed. Yes, the world has risks. We are all about sorting out the ones that we can reasonably live with.

But the risk of getting locked into a poor deal from a fear-based peddler? That’s one to be wary of, no matter what they call themselves.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


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The Funny Business of Fear-Based Peddlers 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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The Cost of a Shortcut

photo shows a tunnel through brambles

You’ve heard us say it before: we are not a sales organization. Instead, our aim is to try to grow our clients’ buckets. 

As such, you don’t hear us bragging about our “monthly numbers,” our quotas, or other short-term goals. We’re all about the long term. 

Does that mean we don’t have an edge? 

We’ve been thinking that maybe the stuff we skip is part of what helps us focus. Plenty of businesses right now—inside and outside the financial world—are working hard on getting folks on board. We get pop-ups offering 20% off our first purchase… once we sign up. We see ads for that special welcome gift… once we sign up. 

Notice anything? These deals are aimed at the business’s short-term goal (getting you on board). They are not necessarily about your long-term wellbeing. They want you in the club, but once you jump in, it’s usually on their terms. 

We love a bargain or a good deal as much as the next person… but we also know our worth. Our time is valuable. Our resources are supposed to be tools for working toward our goals. We believe the same things are true about you, our clients. 

A shortcut, a leg-up, or priority treatment—they only matter if they’re heading the same direction you are. Otherwise, you may be accepting a shortcut to a dead-end. 

Clients, want to know more about what this means for you? Reach out when you’re ready. 


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Magic Phrases

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A fresh-faced youngster in a cheap suit, I began in business working for a life insurance company. Its agent training program included the sales tactics common to that era, full of scripts and one-liners.

The conventional wisdom was that you had to take seven “no’s” from a prospect to get to the “yes.” Have you ever dealt with a sales person like that?

I learned how to irritate people to no end. Business was difficult.

It took me a while to realize that simply talking to people was a better way. The product was decent and had its uses: connecting in a genuine way made it possible to see if there was a fit or not. Trust went up, pressure went down. And there was no need to memorize sales tracks and magic phrases.

These early memories came back to me recently at a conference. One session featured a consultant who had some good ideas and interesting perspectives, though a lot of their program was never going to apply to us, since it was aimed at finding new clients. We strive to grow your buckets; new clients find us.

But their formula for greeting a referral for the first time took me back to those early sales days: “I’m calling as a courtesy…” In truth, the caller’s goal is to get in business with this prospective client. You know, close the deal, make the sale. Courtesy doesn’t enter into it.

This is how it sounded to me: “I’d like to start our relationship by pretending to do you a favor so you owe me one back.” This logic may work like magic on some people, but we are not here to manipulate anyone. The real magic is created together, through trust.

Clients, if you believe you would be helping a friend by introducing us, we will fit them in if they call. Or you can bring them along if we are having breakfast or lunch together. But we are not going to call them, nor pretend to do them a courtesy by doing so.

The better off you all are, the better off we will be, sooner or later. What goes around, comes around. When that is your agenda and your belief, pretense is unnecessary. Life is good—thank you for being part of ours. Email us or call if you would like to talk.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Buyer Beware: 4 Tricks to Inform Yourself With

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Investing offers a seemingly infinite range of approaches, methods, products, services, and theories. The abundance of alternatives can be confusing, or even paralyzing. We can equip you with four ideas that may help you to winnow the choices down to ones that are more likely to help you.

  1. Some of the highest-cost products attract the most persistent sales people. If you are being pursued by a seller who is willing to spend a great deal of time and effort and travel to connect with you, assume that there is a very healthy paycheck in the deal and know that you’re ultimately the one who will pay for it.
  2. Sellers love to spend a lot of time with the glossy sales brochures that are full of hope and promise, not the prospectus. You will learn about the dangers and risks and conflicts of interest and the costs from the prospectus, not the brochures. Two things to do: read the front cover of the prospectus, and have a knowledgeable third party review the whole document. If you encounter resistance to the idea of studying the prospectus, you know there is information in there that you should have.
  3. Some financial firms have gotten into the business of manufacturing their own ‘house brand’ products. These products may be impossible to move from that firm should you later elect to do business elsewhere. And companies that manufacture and distribute products have conflicts that independent firms do not. Beware of house brands.
  4. Second opinions do not cost, and may reward you. If you have any questions or concerns about a product being sold to you, call us for a complimentary review.

Bottom line, avoid being “sold.” Take advantage of the legally required disclosures in the prospectus. Beware of house brands. Seek second opinions.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.