Archive for March, 2011
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Many advisors are struggling with a strategy to communicate with prospective clients.Last week, I conducted a webinar with U.S. advisor site Horsesmouth, outlining a simple approach to prospecting using a series of low cost client lunches that advisors can host in their boardroom.
You can listen to the webinar at the link below — there’s no cost, you simply have to enter your email address.
For much more information, please visit http://www.clientinsights.ca.
Sorry, it turns out the webinar referred to above is no longer available, however, here is the transcript of the presentation by Dan Richards:
Surprising informal survey conducted by Dan Richards…says that the most common answer is “None” when advisors are asked, “How much time did you spend in your office last week talking with clients?”
Dan suggests advisors can host a regular roundtable luncheon series with their clients. It’s important that they do this regularly.
Only requires about three hours a week–two 90-minute time blocks. Book room for lunch, call people to invite.
Can hold them in your boardroom, or a country club or a private room at a restaurant. No need to do it elaborately.
Dan recommends holding it in your office and catering with sandwiches.
Timing: Do it from 12:30–1:30.
Says do two or three of these luncheons in your first campaign.
Goal for guests: eight or nine. Suggests that is optimum for dynamics. It’s a workshop, not a presentation. Invite six or seven client and two or three prospects.
Looks and feels like a client event. That’s what you want. So you only want 33% prospects.
Rule of thumb for invites: Invite 10–15 prospects to get two or three.
Stay away from folks who are anxious or dominate discussions. Avoid them for this approach.
What advisor should say on invites: “I’m hosting a series luncheons this summer. Hope you can come.” Say, “Next lunch is July 8. Does that work for you?” If no, go on to next two days.
Call them “informal sandwich luncheons to talk about the market.”
Says one advisor he knows does one lunch at his downtown office and then does other luncheons at firm’s branch offices in suburbs. Can also do other lunches at a hotel or restaurant in suburbs.
Stress it’s very informal, 10– to 15-minute talk in the beginning and then opening it up for questions and conversations.
Prospects not typically cold. You know them, but not that well. May play golf with them. Share membership in an organization. They’re not cold.
Break this cardinal rule of prospecting: Actually leave message on voice mail if you’ve got a good relationship with the person. They will call you back if it’s a good relationship.
Emphasize you’re limiting the luncheon to 10 people. Ask them on phone if they’re on some questions or topics they’d like addressed. Ramps up commitment level. Also ask what type of sandwich they want.
This is a low-stress invite. You give them three dates. If they say no to all three dates, then you can evaluate whether they’re really interested. Perhaps invite them by e-mail next time you do the campaign.
Write down now two to three names of people you can see potentially inviting.
Connect with clients by phone who’ve agreed to come. Call to ask them about questions they may have and get sandwich order. If you have an opening, go ahead and ask them if they know anyone who might want to attend…
Structure talk around questions asked by attendees…Makes it personal. Makes it more participatory.
If new to business, you can ask branch manager or wholesaler to be present to help with questions. You deliver the talk.
Finalize open remarks. Practice your remarks; you want to sound confident. Send confirmation e-mails. Consider sending an article along or link to something you’ve read that pertains to talk.
Final details: It’s critical to follow up with people who attend.
Tips: Think about seating. Have pen and pad, and copy of slides if you use slides. Might ask someone to ask first question. Be sure to have folks complete evaluation. Keep it short and sweet. Use scale 1–4 on luncheon, talk, comments and a line for their name. Short and sweet.
Follow-up call with clients. Review evaluation form. Any specific questions. Ask how they might suggest you change or improve the lunches. Respond to any questions they have. Ask them if they want to attend one later in the future.
Follow-up call with prospects. Similar as above but…
Overall: Make prospecting a priority. Be sure to time block…Integrate prospecting into ongoing client communication. Pick one strategy as a focal point. Refine and repeat and get really good at it. Don’t be scattershot.
Dan says some clients like to come to such events a couple of times a year. So it’s OK to invite clients to come again later in the year.
Tags: Advertisement, Amp, Boardroom, Campaign Goal, Email Address, Free Webinar, Informal Survey, L3, Lunch, Luncheon Series, Luncheons, Minute Time Blocks, Momentum, Private Room, Prospective Clients, Prospects, Register, Roundtable, Rule Of Thumb, Sandwiches, Wid, Www Ca
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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Since January, I’ve been conducting full day workshops to help advisors adjust their businesses to today’s new reality. I’ve had a terrific response to these — typically, advisors emerge excited with a long list of possible initiatives and new ideas. That’s good news at one level — but also risks having advisors feel overwhelmed and fail to act as a result. The difficulty after a workshop is almost never not enough new ideas — it’s almost always too many.
Here’s the one strategy that I’ve seen work best to help advisors translate the ideas they take from any workshop into action. This strategy comes down to four simple words: One idea per quarter. I encourage advisors to identify the one idea that will have the most impact on your business — and resolve to focus on that and only that for the next 90 days. Make a sign up and put it above your phone. Put this idea as the number one item for your weekly team meetings. Start your planning for every week by identifying what you’ve going to do in the next seven days to make that idea happen. Do this for 90 days and chances are that at the end of that, you’ve got momentum behind it and this idea is locked into your routine. At which point you go to the next high impact idea on your list and repeat the process.
With this simple strategy, you can act on four high impact ideas a year — and have a high likelihood of seeing a lift in your business as a result. Remember, we change the way we learned to walk — one step at a time. By focusing on one high impact idea a quarter, you increase the odds greatly of making that idea happen.
If you agree with this, two final questions:
First, what’s your high impact initiative, the one thing that if you did that and that alone would have the biggest impact on your business? And second, what are you going to do between now and the end of the year to make that happen?
Answer those two questions and chances are that you too will see your business move forward, one idea at a time.
Tags: Act, Advertisement, Array, Business Idea, Business Move, High Impact, Impact Initiative, Initiatives, Likelihood, Momentum, New Reality, Odds, Phone Number, Seven Days, Step At A Time, Team Meetings, Terrific Response, Translate
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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
A client meeting isn’t successful without client buy-in on next steps — even if it’s just to do nothing and maintain the status quo.
Here’s four proven ways to engage clients in your recommendations and get their buy-in.
description=“Dan Richards, Four Ways to Make Recommendations Stick“
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Given last year’s markets, today’s number one priority for most advisors is to have as many face to face and phone meetings with clients as possible. Just talking to clients isn’t good enough, however. To get maximum return on your time, every conversation with clients has to achieve two goals.
First, conversations have to be seen by clients as advancing their needs and being a good use of their time.
And second, conversations have to advance your agenda with investors, taking advantage of the best business opportunities with each client.
Here are six steps to make meetings a good use of times for both you and your clients.
Use a written agenda
In conversations with investors and advisors, there’s one activity that has a high correlation with achieving both of these goals — and that’s the use of a written agenda.
Advisors who consistently make use of written agendas report that they make meetings more productive and help them stay on track.
Just slapping an agenda down in front of the meeting isn’t enough, though — to get full value, there are a few key steps that need to be put in place around that agenda.
Start with the end in mind
In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey talked about “starting with the end in mind” — looking at every activity in the context of the outcome that’s ultimately desired.
When it comes to crafting agendas, advisors need to start with the end in mind as well. Before calling a key client to set up a meeting, you need to identify the one or two most significant business opportunities that are available to you with that client — and then identify a primary and secondary goal for that meeting to capitalize on them.
Once you’ve identified your primary and secondary business goal and in advance of picking up the phone to talk to the client about the meeting you’re proposing, write down the specific issues you’re going to suggest covering in the meeting that will help you achieve your primary and secondary goal.
Get client buy in to the agenda
The next step is to discuss the agenda with the client, so that they see this as their agenda rather than yours.
When the client has agreed to meet, you could say something like: “There are a number of issues I’d like to cover in our meeting. Before I talk about those, what are the questions and issues you’d like to talk about when we meet?”
At the end of the conversation, you should have an agenda that reflects the issues that both you and your client want to cover. Email that agenda to your client as a follow up to your conversation — and consider emailing it again as a reminder in the days immediately before you meet.
Deal with soft issues before hard issue
As a general rule, your agenda will focus on hard issues related to a client’s investment, tax or insurance situation or their financial plan.
It’s obviously important to deal with these. Very often, however, in order to get clients to focus on the hard issues on the agenda, you have to deal with their soft issues first — these days, those soft issues often focus around their fears, anxieties and apprehensions.
Here’s one way to consider starting a meeting to get at a client’s soft issues:
“Here’s the agenda that we’re going to be covering today.
Before we get into this, however, some people report that last year’s markets caused them to lose some sleep. Tell me, how did you find yourself affected by last year’s markets?”
If the client responds that they lost some sleep and experienced some anxiety as well, resist the temptation to leap in with an immediate response. Instead, sit back and say the five words that, more than any others, will help clients talk further: “Tell me more about that.”
Asking the question in this fashion gives clients permission to talk about their own anxiety and opens the door to a discussion about how they really feel.
Practice the 50 — 50 rule
One of the most important steps to productive client meetings is consistent use of the 50 — 50 rule.
Quite simply, for every 50 words you say in a client meeting, your client should say 50. Research on this subject is absolutely definitive — the one factor, more than any other, that gets clients saying that a meeting was a good use of time, was the amount of time they spend talking.
If you don’t believe this, consider this simple fact. Over the years, I’ve talked to many investors who say that one of the things they like best about their advisor is that he or she is a “great listener.” I have yet to run into an investor who says that the reason they like their advisor is because he or she is a “great talker.”
The best way to get clients engaged and participating in a meeting is to be sure to ask lots of good questions.
And the best way to ensure you ask good questions?
Take five minutes before a meeting to go through the agenda and beside each point write down questions you’re going to ask. Do that and that alone and your chances of having the 50 — 50 rule work for you goes up dramatically.
Translate the agenda into client outcomes
At the end of the conversation, the agenda has helped guide you through the meeting.
At this point, take the time to verbally summarize what you’ve talked about and next steps from the meeting.
For larger clients with whom you’re meeting two or three times a year, you could also say something along the lines of “I found today’s meeting very productive and hope you did also. I’d like to suggest that we plan to meet again in about six months. Tell me, what specific issues would you like to devote more time to at that meeting?”
You have one final opportunity to remind clients that the meeting was a good use of time. Most advisors systematically create meeting notes, summarizing what was talked about and outlining next steps arising from each meeting. Consider creating a “client friendly” version of this summary — and sending it along to clients as a reminder of the things you talked about and the value they obtained from taking the time to meet.
Consider building a systematic process around written agendas into your meeting planning routine. If you’re like most advisors I’ve talked to, once you’ve tried this for a while, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised about the positive impact this has on the value and productivity of client meetings.
Tags: Agenda, Agendas, Business Goal, Business Opportunities, Client Meetings, Conversations, Correlation, Face To Face, Goals, High Impact, Investors, Maximum Return, Phone Meetings, Priority, Secondary Business, Secondary Goal, Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Six Steps, Stephen Covey
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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
The following is based on one of Norm Trainor’s clients, Wes Barrett.
Top advisors have one simple message that describes what makes them unique. When someone asks Wes Barrett the question, “What do you do?” he responds by saying, “We help our clients live their perfect calendar.” Typically, the response Wes gets to this statement is, “Wow, what do you mean?” This gives Wes an opportunity to describe his services.
My colleague and associate, Bill Whitley, calls this the ‘Wow’ statement. The next step is to illustrate the ‘How’. The two most important indicators of what people value are how they spend their time and their money. Financial independence gives us the freedom to spend our time doing what is meaningful to us. Wes Barrett’s mission is to enable his clients to live their lives doing what they value. In that way, they create their own perfect calendar.
Wes uses stories to illustrate how his financial advisory firm helps clients live their dreams. One of the reasons his message is so powerful, is that Wes is living his perfect calendar. He and his wife, Hy, take a minimum of 150 days a year to pursue their dreams. They have travelled all over the world. Hy and Wes are fully engaged in living their lives. When they go away and enjoy their experiences, they come back to the business renewed. Wes truly believes that people are either growing or dying. There is no status quo. Horowitz, the great pianist, practiced continuously because he believed that you can always improve.
Tags: Asia, Barrett, Bill Whitley, Calendar Free, Colleague, Create Calendar, Dreams, Experiences, Financial Advisory Firm, Financial Independence, Free Time, Freedom, Holidays, Horowitz, Norm Trainor, Pianist, Simple Message, Time Conferences, Wes, Work Calendar, Working With Clients
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Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
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Communications expert, Dave Paradi, discusses how advisors can streamline their message to prospects to make it more relevant, memorable and compelling.
Paradi outlines the four steps to a standout presentation.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
For the next two weeks, the world’s eyes will be on the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Inevitably, we’ll focus on those who excel and pull away from the pack with multiple medals, the brightest stars in a constellation of athletic talent.
These days, simply appearing on the Olympic stage is a huge accomplishment. But watching the Olympics isn’t just about athletes achieving their goals. There are also nine important lessons for financial advisors looking for guidance and inspiration on hitting goals of our own.
Lesson one: A plan for success
The first necessary element and foundation for Olympic athletes is a plan of action that clearly spells out the path to the podium. Thirty or forty years ago, you could show up with talent alone and aspire to medal – today it takes dedicated effort and a clear plan of action to even have a chance of winning.
Having a plan of action is just as important for individual investors. In times past, when life spans were shorter and the average male retired at 65 and died at 70, a retirement plan wasn’t all that important. Planning for today’s thirty year retirement has changed the rules of the game — just like Olympians, individual investors need a well thought through strategy to hit their goals.
This is just as critical for advisors. At one time, advisors could realistically expect to do well just by showing up. That world is gone forever. And yet an appalling number of advisors don’t have a written plan that lays out their mid and long term goals and how they’re going to reach them.
Just like athletes with Olympic aspirations need a written plan to have the prospect of gold, if you’re serious about the business, a written plan is the price of admission for even the hope of excelling.
Lesson two: A long term view
Last Wednesday’s New York Times contained a story on Canada’s ambitious plan to “own the podium” in Vancouver and emerge with the most medals.
For many Canadians, skier Nancy Greene Raine, 1968 gold and silver medalist in St. Moritz, still epitomizes Olympic success .
In a recent interview, Nancy Greene said that at one time Canada’s Olympic team could hope to compete by planning one Olympic game ahead and investing heavily in athletes. For Vancouver, the planning began eight years ago – that’s the only way a smaller country could hope to have a chance to “own the podium”.
Advisors need to adopt a similar timeframe in thinking about their businesses. Yes, one-year plans are important, but if you really want to excel, you need to look out three to five years and to make investments today that will only pay dividends in the long term.
Lesson three: Hard work and commitment
The all-time leader in winter medals is Norwegian cross-country legend Bjorn Daehlie, who won eight gold and three silver medals over three Olympics in the 1990s. The first time he tried, Daehlie failed to make Norway’s junior team, but through relentless dedication to his training and sheer hard work, he improved year after year after year. Daehlie still holds the record in one common fitness test and is considered the greatest cross country skier of all time.
With similar perserverance, Canada’s speedskater Cindy Klassen won five medals in Torino, the most of any competitor. She’s said “To succeed, every practice has to count, every step, every push on the ice.”
When it comes to building your business, a constant quest for improvement and a strong work ethic are just as important. Some people are attracted to the business by the financial rewards and the prospect of independence – what they don’t always see is the hard work it takes to achieve these rewards.
Lesson four: Taking risks
To win at the Olympics, you can’t afford to play it safe. That’s true of the speed sports like skiing and speed skating – and equally true of sports like figure skating, where athletes such as Germany’s Katerina Witt and Great Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won gold by pushing the artistic limits and taking chances on their program.
The same applies to advisors. To excel, you need to get out of your comfort zone and take measured risks – whether it comes to hiring additional staff earlier rather than later, investing the time to position yourself against a key target group for the future, spending the money on a computer solution that will streamline operations in your business or repositioning your business to meet emerging needs. Avoiding risk of any form is a prescription for middle of the pack performance for Olympic athletes – and equally so for advisors.
Lesson five: Resilience
With its focus on sports such as skiing, skating and sliding, the Olympics are replete with stories of remarkable comebacks from horrific injuries. Perhaps none was more extraordinary than Austrian skier Herman Maier. He was dubbed “the Herminator” when he recovered from a spectaculour crash in the downhill at the 98 Winter Games to come back and win two golds. Subsequently, a motorcycle accident almost claimed his life – and once again he came back to dominate international competition.
There are lots of times when it would be easy for advisors to get discouraged. It can relate to periods of tough markets such as we’ve just been through. It can be losing a great prospect that you thought you had in the bag or having a good client leave for a reason beyond your control, perhaps moving to another city or being lured away by stories from a golfing buddy about great returns from his broker. Just as Olympic athletes need to work through setbacks to reach their goals, sometimes advisors need to reach deep to bounce back from disappointments.
Lesson six: Seizing opportunity
For athletes to win gold takes talent and hard work but there’s often also an element of luck involved – the trick for athletes is to maximize the impact of skill and minimize the element of chance. Having said that, winning athletes know they can’t ever eliminate the role of luck entirely – all they can do is position themselves to capitalize when the chance presents itself. As the old expression goes, luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.
For instance, in the finals of the 1000-meter speed skating competition at the Salt Lake Olympics, Australian Steven Bradbury was trailing when a collision wiped out US favourite Apolo Anton Ohno (subsequently of Dancing with Stars fame) and the other leaders. By being opportunistic, Bradbury claimed the first winter Olympic gold of any athlete from the Southern Hemisphere.
The same principle applies to financial advisors. You can have a great plan – but you still need to be adaptable and flexible and open to opportunities that present themselves.
In an article last summer, I wrote about an advisor in a mid sized community in which the biggest employer announced layoffs on a Friday. This advisor spent the weekend going through the company’s termination offer and pension plan and also talking to an accountant and lawyer she knew.
The following Wednesday, just five days after the layoffs were announced, the three of them were offering lunch time and after hours workshops at a hotel across the street from the company’s office. She filled the first session by asking a client who worked for the company to email invitations to people she knew. Word of mouth took over from there and his advisor spent much of the next six weeks focused against this, with great results.
That’s an example of seizing an unexpected opportunity. Click here to read the full article on capitalizing on corporate downsizing: http://clientinsights.ca/article/turning-corporate-downsizing-into-prospecting-success
Lesson seven: Teamwork
Today’s Olympic athletes are supported by a phalanx of trainers, nutritionists and psychologists. For instance, U.S. skier Lindsay Vonn travels with her “vonntourage” of two trainers, a ski technician and her coach (who conveniently is also her husband.)
While there will always be individualists — New Hampshire gold medalist Bode Miller raced independently for two seasons before rejoining the U.S. ski team last October – even athletes who race in individual disciplines almost always operate as a team.
In the same way, it’s essential for advisors to have the right team behind them. That team can be your assistant and associate, it can be your branch manager, it can be resources within your firm or externally, it can be other advisors in your branch who you meet with on a regular basis. Whatever the composition of your team, in future few advisors will be able to succeed on their own.
Lesson eight: Confidence
There have been many upsets at the Olympics, but perhaps none greater than the 1980 U.S. hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” defeat of Russia for the gold medal.
Crucial to their success was coach Bob Johnson. Johnson drove the team hard in practice but he also instilled confidence. “Bob made us believe we could win” one player said “and that conviction carried us through the moments of doubt along the way.”
Advisors need the same conviction to achieve their long term goals. In any long path, there will inevitably be disappointments – a sense of realistic optimism and confidence are critical to carry us through those periods.
There’s a growing body of research on strategies to maintain confidence and optimism. Click here for an article on research by Martin Seligman of University of Pennsylvania, who outlined some specific strategies to stay positive in his book called Learned Optimism. http://clientinsights.ca/article/developing-an-optimistic-outlook
Lesson nine: Perspective
After winning gold and silver during his Olympic career, Norwegian speed skater Johann Koss founded Right to Play, with the goal of using sports to foster development and improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the world. Many Olympic athletes have embraced this charity — at the Torino games, American speed skater Joey Cheek donated his gold medal bonus to Right to Play.
After his win in the 500 metres, Cheek said: “I do a pretty ridiculous thing, skating around in tights. But because I skate well, I have a chance to bring exposure to bigger things I’d like to pursue.”
This inspired Canada’s Clara Hughes to make a similar donation , even though Canada’s Olympic program didn’t give athletes medal bonuses and the money came out of her own bank account. Hughes invited Canadians to match her contribution – and Right to Play saw an influx of donations as a result. Winner of a gold medal in speed skating and one of only four athletes ever to medal in both the winter and summer Olympics, last Friday Hughes carried Canada’s flag into the Olympic stadium.
Advisors can borrow some of that perspective from Johann Koss, Joey Cheek and Clara Hughes. Like Olympic athletes, it’s easy to become fixated on doing what it takes to succeed – but it’s important not to get so caught up in our own goals that we ignore the broader world around us and the other things in life that bring us satisfaction.
For the next couple of weeks, we’ll all be glued to the screen and cheering our athletes on. While doing that, though, we may want to reflect on the important lessons we can take from the Olympic example to achieve important goals of our own.
Tags: Ambitious Plan, Appalling Number, Brightest Stars, Business Building, Constellation, Financial Advisors, Individual Investors, Life Spans, Necessary Element, New York Times, Olympians, Olympic Aspirations, Olympic Athletes, Olympic Stage, Price Of Admission, Retirement Plan, Rules Of The Game, Skier, Term Goals, Winter Olympics
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Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Despite the hundreds of books, programs and websites devoted to leadership, the truth is that leaders can’t be trained. Leaders need to be developed. Hopefully this doesn’t seem like a simple matter of semantics, because it isn’t.
Let me illustrate this distinction. Leadership is more about WHO you are than about what you do or what you know. Two executives can do and say the same things but get very different results — even when they do and say those things to the very same person! Although what you say and what you do are important, effective leadership is even more dependent on HOW you do or say those things. This explains why the actions of those two executives can elicit such different responses.
You can train people about what to say. You can train people about what to do. You can even show someone how to do and say those things. But getting them to change how they go about doing things and getting them to change how they go about saying things is a whole other story.
Leadership is about who we are, and it’s this “how” of doing, saying, and being that defines who we are. I think a good deal of “who we are” is captured within the competencies of Emotional Intelligence, developed and made popular by Daniel Goleman. There are 12 EI competencies, with five of them being the one’s that ultimately affect our effectiveness as leader. These five competencies are:
1) Coaching and Mentoring — The ability to develop others
2) Inspirational Leadership — The ability to develop a compelling vision and to lead with it
3) Influence — The ability to utilize persuasion
4) Conflict Management — The ability to resolve disagreements
5) Teamwork and Collaboration — The ability to build and guide teams
Let’s briefly examine each one of these competencies with respect to training vs. development as it pertains to leadership.
Coaching and Mentoring
As a professional coach, I know many professionally trained coaches. They’ve gone through a curriculum of coach training from an accredited coaching school. And yet, although they have the necessary skills and knowledge to be a good coach, a number of them are really rather poor at coaching. Conversely, I’ve come across associates who are reasonably good at coaching, yet have never had any formal coach training.
How is this possible? How is it that someone with great coaching skills is mediocre at coaching? And how is it that someone without any formal training is very effective at coaching?
The answer of course, is in HOW they apply their coaching knowledge and skills. In order to be effective as a coach, one must, at the very least, be aware of one’s own emotions, have control of one’s emotions, be empathetic, and have good judgment. The reality is that each of those traits must either be developed or be natural to a person. They just aren’t things that can be “trained”.
Leaders need to be inspiring. They need to instill pride, they need to hold and communicate a vision, and they need to inspire an organization and its people to aspire to excellence.
Here’s the challenge… People aren’t simply inspired by the right words. The right words spoken by the “wrong” person will have only a minimal effect. In order for a leader to move others to action, he or she needs to be someone who others admire and respect.
Tags: Books Programs, Coach Training, Coaching And Mentoring, Coaching Mentoring, Collaboration, Competencies, Conflict Management, Curriculum, Daniel Goleman, Disagreements, Distinction, Effective Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Inspirational Leadership, Leadership Coaching, People, Persuasion, Professional Coach, Saying Things, Semantics, Simple Matter, Teamwork
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Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Many advisors struggle with ways to deepen relationships with top clients .
Naturally, you provide a more in depth plan and meet with them more frequently. And of course their calls are returned promptly and their issues attended to first.
The challenge is that many top clients see this treatment as their due – and you’re not going to impress someone by merely delivering what they expect.
That’s why many advisors try to build personal relationships with their most important clients by connecting at a social level – perhaps by inviting them to dinner, to attend a play or a hockey game or by hosting them to a round of golf.
Despite the best intentions on the part of advisors, often these attempts to deepen relationships fall short — despite the expenditure of significant amounts of time and money.
First, your top clients are very often pressed for time – and another social invitation may be as much of an imposition as a relationship builder.
Beyond this, chances are that million dollar clients enjoy high end dinners and rounds of golf on their own. As a result, it’s possible to spend a substantial amount of money without making a meaningful impact or getting an appreciable return.
Remember, there are two costs to hosting top clients to an event that’s ho hum. First of course are the dollars you spend. But perhaps the bigger cost is the lost opportunity build deeper relationships with your most important clients – you only have so much face time with key clients, and you can’t afford to squander that time on a routine experience.
Focusing on unique experiences
There’s a simple test of whether a client activity is a good use of time and money – will your clients vividly remember this three and six months from now?
If the answer is no or if you’re not sure, chances are that the time and money you spent won’t give you the relationship building payoff you’re looking for. To make an impact, you need to create unique experiences that strike a chord with clients and that they’ll recall many months from now.
Here’s a simple four step process to doing things that make an impact with your top clients.
First, make a list of your top ten clients.
Second, beside each one identify their passions. Are they foodies or wine lovers? Do they love opera, ballet or classical music? Are their favourite charities related to third world countries or to helping troubled youth in the city you live in?
Next, try to put clients into common groups – find two or three client couples that share a common passion.
Finally, seek out a unique charitable or fundraising event in your community that caters to that passion, to which you can invite these clients as your guests.
This doesn’t have to be a high priced dinner – in fact often the big ticket events tend to be too large and impersonal to have an impact. Instead seek out smaller, community based events where your dollar will go further and where the experience will be more personal. What you’re looking for are events that are high impact, not necessarily high cost.
Three examples of events that resonate with clients
As examples to get you thinking, here are three locally based experiences that will strike a chord with the right clients – two in Toronto, one in Vancouver. The cost of hosting four client couples to these events varies from $750 to $2500 but for the right clients that investment can deepen relationships in a way that conventional entertainment just can’t.
If these ideas inspire you , consider seeking out similar events in your own community.
Hands across the nation – for clients who want to support underdeveloped countries
A year ago, Cathy and Chris Fuchs of White Willow Benefits Consultants introduced me to a downtown Toronto fundraising event in aid of Hands Across the Nation, a grass roots charity that supports local projects in Mali and Bolivia.
Their annual fundraiser is among the best fundraising values I know of; at a cost of $85 and including entertainment and great food provided by the Escoffier Society, it’s guaranteed to resonate with clients with an affinity for projects in underdeveloped countries. As it happens, tickets are still available for this event , which takes place this coming Wednesday March 23 – a link with information is below.
The Stop – for serious foodies
The Stop Community Food Center is a downtown Toronto facility with the mandate to provide the local community with access to healthy food. One Thursday each month, their award winning chef hosts a dinner to support their programs. The cost is $75 for food alone or $120 with wine pairings – no more than you’d pay for a conventional dinner, but with much more impact. And for a really unique experience, for $100 people get to help prepare the meal and experience life in a professional kitchen.
UBC Opera Ball – for opera lovers
Last Thursday, I attended the annual fundraiser for the University of British Columbia Opera Program. Over dinner, I sat at one of fifteen tables on the stage of the spectaculour Chan Center, while students from the program performed.
No one at my table had attended this previously, so we were all unsure what to expect – but were universally blown away by the remarkable talent and energy of students in this program. Each table of ten costs $1500. For $750, next year two Vancouver advisors can split a table of ten and each invite two client couples. For the right clients, that $375 could be an outstanding investment in relationship building.
Chances are that you aren’t located in Toronto or Vancouver – and even if you are, these events might not be a fit for your or your clients. What’s important here are not the specific examples, but the principle of deepening client relationships by doing things which break through the clutter and stand out.
And note that almost every major university has a music program, which often host remarkably professional performances and relatively inexpensive fundraisers – and inviting the right clients to these is not just much lower cost than conventional professional performance, but also typically more fun and higher impact.
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