Posts Tagged ‘Confidence’
Thursday, February 14th, 2013
With the first month of 2013 behind us, many of those resolutions at the beginning of January relating to diet, weight or exercise are distant memories. That’s why this might be an opportune time to consider a new resolution for 2013 relating to your business – and that’s to make this the year that you get really serious about bringing new clients on board.
I was reminded of this by two different conversations last fall from two different branch managers frustrated by the lack of prospecting activity among the advisors in their branches. There was a consistent theme to their comments: While the large majority of advisors do a reasonably good job of communicating with existing clients, other than hoping for referrals from their client base, most advisors in their branches displayed little emphasis on prospecting activity and on attracting new clients.
In conversations with advisors, there are four primary reasons for the lack of prospecting focus: loss of confidence, lack of priority, no clear prospecting plan and failure to establish a prospecting routine. Let’s talk about what you can do in 2013 to address each of these.
When talking to potential clients, you need to believe that prospects would be better off working with you than where they are now or with other advisors. But for prospects to believe that, first you have feel that way.
I’ve talked to advisors who lack that fundamental conviction and are questioning the value they provide to their clients. I recently spoke with an advisor who feels that over the past fifteen years she’s let clients down, as tough markets have meant that plans that clients had back then have had to be adjusted downwards, with retirements postponed, holidays deferred and lifestyles scaled back.
The first necessary condition to be develop prospecting momentum is to have the gut feeling that prospects would be fortunate to work with you. If you don’t have that confidence, then you’re unlikely to be successful in developing prospecting momentum. Something that helped one advisor was adding an agenda item to his Monday morning team meetings, in which someone shares an experience from the previous week where a client thanked them for the job they’d done or the difference they’d made. Alternatively, they select a plan update they’ve reviewed the week before and talk about the how the client is better off as a result of the decisions that were made.
When most advisors entered the business, prospecting was a survival issue — if you weren’t successful in attracting new clients, your career in the industry would be a short one. This is a stark contrast to today’s mindset — while most advisors know they should prospect, many see this as a “nice to do” activity rather than a critical issue for the health of their businesses.
Tags: Branch Managers, Breakthrough Year, Confidence, Consistent Theme, Conversations, Conviction, Distant Memories, Fifteen Years, Good Job, Gut Feeling, Lifestyles, Momentum, Necessary Condition, New Resolution, Opportune Time, Priority, Prospects, Referrals, Resolutions, Retirements
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Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
by Norm Trainor, The Covenant Group
Some of the most valuable business prospects are already your clients. Because you have already succeeded in converting existing clients, a major portion of the marketing process has been completed. It allows you to build upon your past successes and the fact that the existing clients are already familiar with your work.
Get information on past actions for future success
To get insight into how you can do that, however, you must undergo periodic reviews. As I explained in a recent presentation at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors’ Annual Conference (NAIFA), this is a six-step process and should be part of a regular follow-up schedule that you maintain for each of your clients.
Explain to your clients that you like to conduct periodic reviews, and send an invitation between two and four weeks ahead of when you would like to meet. Call them to establish a concrete date and time, and then send a meeting agenda a week before this date. Sharing an outline for the meeting will make it a more constructive discussion for you and the client and will allow both of you to organize your thoughts ahead of time. Telephone once again to confirm that your client received the agenda and ask if there are any questions he or she would like to ask ahead of time or that should be covered in more detail during the meeting. Anthony Lam delves deeper into the simple steps you can take before a meeting here.
When you meet with the client, you can ask for feedback on your performance and for suggestions of how you can provide added value. This is a great opportunity to have your clients reaffirm their satisfaction with your service and confidence in your abilities. The meeting will be a primer not only for securing future sales — it can also be a great transition as you ask for referrals and introductions. At that point, describe who your ideal prospect is, and guide the client through a few questions to help him or her identify potential leads. Now the client will be primed for you to ask for a personal introduction (a much more effective tactic than cold-calling referrals).
In both the introduction-request and review processes, following up with your client is essential. Let him or her know how it goes with the prospects they identified. Similarly, contact clients with whom you conduct reviews to A) thank them for their time and feedback, and B) let them know what course of action you plan to take as a result of their critiques and/or suggestions.
As founder, president and CEO of The Covenant Group, Norm Trainor is often seen as the face of the company and its leading financial advisor training programs. He has penned several best-selling books, articles and other works with entrepreneurs and financial advisors to show them how they can become more valuable to their clients, boost productivity and, ultimately, achieve the success they desire.
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Tags: Anthony Lam, Business Prospects, Confidence, Covenant Group, Future Sales, Insight, Insurance, Introductions, Invitation, Marketing Process, Meeting Agenda, National Association Of Insurance And Financial Advisors, Norm Trainor, Referrals, Satisfaction, Simple Steps, Six Step, Successes, Time Telephone, Transition
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Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
by Dan Richards, ClientInsights.ca
Advisors invest a huge amount of energy on their client meetings, with a goal of having clients leave feeling positive about their advisor and about their financial situation. But many advisors miss on the final step to make meetings truly successful – a follow up letter or email that documents what happened and lays out next steps.
The article below first appeared in Horsesmouth, the leading online practice management resource for US advisors. Written by a highly successful advisor, it sets out a six-step process for effective follow-up communication after meetings. (Click here for a free 45-day trial to Horsesmouth
By Ralph Adamo, MSFS, ChFC, CAP, CLU
Oct. 1, 2012
Send clients a written summary after every meeting you have with them. Not only does it confirm your conversation, but it serves as a to-do list, historical record, and a physical reminder that you offer world-class service to those clients and prospects smart enough to hire you.
In our office, no client meeting passes without a follow-up summary letter being drafted, edited, and sent to clients and prospects by either hard copy or email. This routine is crucial to our efforts in a number of ways:
- Many clients and prospects tell us they have gained confidence merely from knowing that we cared enough to listen, take notes, memorialize those notes, and play back the salient points in a summary letter.
- As a group, the summary letters build a chronological progression of the discussions and work achieved to date. I cannot tell you how many clients bring all the letters they’ve received over time to each successive meeting. They are using these letters as a historical record as well as a to-do list of items still outstanding.
- We have the records of all client meetings—not just stored as notes to file, but notes that are in the client’s possession. Should there ever be an instance where we need to address a client complaint, we can quickly and easily refer back to the summary letters.
So what exactly goes in the summary letter? In our office, each letter includes:
- An opening
- Highlights of the meeting
- Advisor action items
- Client action items
- Next meeting’s proposed agenda items
- A closing that confirms the next meeting date
Let’s break it down here one component at a time:
1. The opening
The first step is to clarify the reason why you are sending this correspondence. An example of this language is below:
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to meet and visit with you on Tuesday morning. I enjoyed our time spent and trust that what was shared did prove valuable. Below are the summary points from our last meeting:
~ or ~
I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and conversation the other afternoon. I felt that the objectives and concerns that you shared are consistent and highly compatible with our existing approach to planning in this area. In order to summarize our meeting highlights, I’m including the following bullet points as a reflection of our discussion:
Of course, it is perfectly fine that you add opening pleasantries or cordial salutations in this stage. Personalizing any of these sections with your customized approach and language is always a good idea.
2. Discussion highlights
I list the highlights from the meeting’s discussion in bullet-point fashion. I use bullet points rather than paragraphs to better separate ideas for retention, reflection, and ultimately action for both client and advisor alike. We always incorporate the hard facts of the discussion as well as the softer-issue topics that inevitably arise in client meetings.
For instance, we’ll include summary feedback on personal items like the status of a current home remodel, a client’s personal travel plans, family events, and recent individual milestones or accomplishments, and so on.
Here’s an example of the items we would include from a meeting:
- We are happy to share in the celebration of your upcoming 29th anniversary. Congratulations!
- You relayed to us that you have negotiated a contractor budget of $86,000 for the home improvement work. It’s your goal to have this work done in time to be moving in by Labor Day, so as to alleviate any additional household expenses.
- We reviewed two alternative models. The first: retiring with staged reductions in expenses at 10-year intervals during retirement. And the second: retiring with level spending assumptions throughout retirement.
- You shared with us that you would like to meet and discuss moving your 403(b) and two IRA positions to our investment platform.
- We discussed the challenges you have been having with ABC Bank’s portfolio accounts when trying to remove those funds and place them in your control. We decided that preparing ACAT transfer forms would be our next step. We will prepare those forms once we receive copies of the recent statements.
- We discussed the portfolio in light of the cash positions within the defined-benefit and 401(k) retirement accounts. We are postponing any decisions surrounding the implementation of those funds until your company’s imminent launch.
- You shared with us that you purchased a house for your son while he’s completing an internship for his PhD at Notre Dame University. You paid $85,000 for the home, which you’ll be gifting to your son over the next three years.
- You confirmed for us that you personally hold 100% of the note on Building 1 in the LLC. You had shared with us that you and your wife continue to discuss family goals. Currently you are in the process of sorting through your charitable concerns and the importance of keeping the spirit of enterprise and industry alive for your children as you embark on your life after the sale of your business.
Our goal is to show the client or prospect that we truly listened. Our summary letter illustrates that we are committed to the relationship and deeply care about our clients and their future. You know the old saying “Clients don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” The summary letter helps us demonstrate our conviction.
3. Advisor action items
This section of the summary letter serves two purposes. It communicates to the client that we have listed the action items clearly, and it serves as a checklist for you and your staff to use to complete a course of action.
Advisor Action Items
- Complete entering the data provided in preparation for our next meeting.
- Provide to you the Excel spreadsheet for entering your budget details (look for that in a separate email).
- Request from insurance carrier ABC additional in-force ledgers to review and advise.
- Review pension and personal portfolio account providing analysis.
- Develop an investment recommendation for $500,000 from the sale of bank stock and commodities.
4. Client action items
In the next section of the summary, we outline the action items the client should take in between meetings. In my experience, this one step does more than any other to communicate the seriousness of the client’s role in the planning process. It is amazing to see how quickly our clients supply needed items or take action based on the recommendations in this checklist. Here is a sample from one of our recent communications:
Client Action Items
- Please provide an updated copy of your home owner and automobile coverages along with the earthquake policy at your next convenience. Fax copy is fine. Send it to 949–955-XXXX.
- Contact insurance carrier XYZ to modify long-term-care premium from quarterly to annual mode; submitting balance of annual premium presently may be required.
- Complete the Cash Flow Budget spreadsheet and provide in advance of our next meeting.
- Please provide the following:
- Need cost basis for various investments in the ABC Brokerage account (recent statement would suffice).
- Benefit booklet from XYZ Employer.
- Copy of paycheck stubs.
- Tax return for 2011.
5. Next meeting agenda items
This is the step where art meets science. Before explaining this section of the summary letter, let’s review the example:
Next Meeting Agenda
- Continue to verify accuracy of information represented on the model.
- Will and trust discussion
- Portfolio management conversation
- Asset positioning
- Are we demonstrating sufficient value? What should/can be improved/eliminated to elevate your experience and level of satisfaction with our service?
- Review process and engagement outline in greater detail. Are we at the point to consider formal engagement?
Notice that we have included not merely facts on the list, but we are also subtly grooming clients and prospects by asking them for feedback. This step allows us to systematically elicit input on how we are doing as a firm and how the client is experiencing the process.
Since we offer every prospective client at least two—and in many instances as many as three—meetings at no charge and no obligation prior to any engagement, we subtly remind the prospective client that we’re moving out of the “decision-free zone” and into the “fish or cut bait” stage where paying for the counseling is now coming to the fore. (Note, we only hold the second or third meeting if we earnestly believe there is a fit between us and the prospect.)
6. Closing paragraph
Here is where we invite questions or concerns that may not have been expressed or adequately addressed. The client may suggest edits, additions, or even reprioritize the proposed agenda items.
Most important, we never conclude a meeting without scheduling the next meeting. Getting the appointment on the calendar is critical to keeping the momentum going. Plus, just knowing that we have to end every summary letter with the next meeting date quietly reminds us to pull out the calendar as we wind down the current meeting. Here are a couple examples of our closing:
Our next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 31, at 9 a.m. in your office. In the meantime, if there are any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.
~ or ~
We came out of our meeting with the objective of getting back together in the not-too-distant future. We tentatively set Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. for our next planning meeting. The meeting with the trust and estates attorney will occur separately. Our staff will coordinate that meeting date.
Here are some tips based on our experience that will give you a head start on the process of using these summary letters.
- Develop a notepad for client meetings. We developed a form that can quickly capture some or all information listed above. It helps us translate our notes and makes the summary letter a breeze to produce. In fact, if you take well-organized notes, you can hand your sheet to your staff and they can easily produce the summary letter on their own, saving you the step of dictating or transcribing. All you need to do is review the final letter. A sample of our notepad is below (the to-do list areas are a bit longer on our actual notepad):
- Produce a summary letter for phone and online sessions. Clients may not attach the same degree of seriousness to a meeting that is not face to face, so sending a summary letter lends a greater degree of gravity to the issues discussed. In fact, it’s a good idea to provide a summary letter for all appointments with clients and prospects, whether they take place by phone, online, or in person.
- Send the letter a couple of days after the meeting. The sooner the letter arrives in the client’s hands, the better. Don’t let too much time pass, or your letter will lose its desired impact—and both you and your client will lose momentum.
- Keep sending. Once you start down this path with clients, you’ll have to keep it up. As you will soon see, your clients come to rely on these summary letters as routine. Before you know it, they will become a mandatory component of your client service and prospecting efforts—but the results will be well worth the effort involved.
Tags: Aspx, Chfc, Client Meetings, Clu, Communication, Confidence, Email, Financial Situation, Follow Up Letter, Management Resource, Msfs, Physical Reminder, Play Back, Possession, Practice Management, Prospects, Ralph Adamo, Salient Points, Smart, World Class Service
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Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Norm Trainor talks about the difference between introductions and referrals in The Entrepreneurial Journey. Referrals, which can be a mere name and phone number, do not carry the same level of confidence as a client who will personally introduce you to someone they think could benefit from your services. The latter situation also displays the degree of trust that your client has in you and your business, and facilitates a transferral of that trust and confidence to a prospect.
There are five steps to securing introductions, the first of which is delivering high-quality customer service that will confirm your client’s confidence in you. Set up the request for an introduction by asking your client about his or her level of satisfaction and what they like about your services — if the response is positive, you reaffirm the relationship with your client and earn permission to advance to the next step of the introduction request process.
Next, explain to the person exactly what kind of client you are looking to attract, and ask them questions about possible prospects they may know to help them think of names. Are there any successful people they are friends with, or colleagues who fit your ideal client description? As the client lists names, be specific and ask them to introduce you in person, not merely pass on a referral.
Finally, follow up with the client who introduced you. Keep them updated on your progress with a prospect and continue asking for assistance as you work to establish a new client relationship. Showing your appreciation now will increase their willingness to make more introductions in the future.
I recently came across an older Inc. magazine piece by Marla Tabaka, who underscored the importance of casting a wide net.
“Remember that a long courtship is normal in the world of sales and, no matter how stunning your prospect believes you are, they may decline your invitation to take the plunge,” she wrote. Tabaka also echoed a philosophy that we incorporate into every financial advisor training program at The Covenant Group — the importance of having a long line of prospects at various stages of the courtship phase in your marketing and sales pipeline.
Continue to drip on your existing clients through marketing materials and email in order to drive home the value that you offer to them. This will ensure that they have enough confidence in you to introduce you to their friends, family and colleagues.
Matthew Asser has spent the last few decades gaining expertise in how financial services firms can optimize their operations, marketing, new products, business development and client relationship management practices. He’s well-versed in the challenges that an entrepreneur may struggle with, and as a Senior Coach and Facilitator, helps clients achieve business change through The Covenant Group’s extensive financial advisor training programs.
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Tags: Asser, Client Description, Client Relationship, Colleagues, Confidence, Covenant Group, Entrepreneurial Journey, Financial Services Industry, Five Steps, Groundwork, Introductions, Latter Situation, Momentum, Norm Trainor, Prospects, Quality Customer Service, Referral, Referrals, Salesperson, Sectors
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Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
A recent video blog post demonstrates why target marketing is so important.
Veronica Dagher of Dow Jones recently posted a video in which she asks passersby on a Manhattan street what would cause them to make a referral to their financial advisor. Some sample questions and answers include “What do you like best about your advisor?” “He gives me thoughtful ideas.”
“What could your advisor do to improve his service?” “Focus on what I need and my objectives.”
“What does it take to get a referral?” “The confidence that they will continue to do a good job for whoever I referred over.” “They would have to do a good job throughout the market cycle.”
Does it strike you that any of these people come off as particularly enthusiastic about making referrals to their financial advisor? It doesn’t come across to me like that. Notice, for example, they answer the hypothetical question “What would it take for your advisor to get a referral” rather than responding “I give my advisor referrals, and this is why.”
My conviction is that the key to being referable is to provide a specific set of services tailored to the needs of a well defined target market. What is the trigger phrase that would get any of the subjects of this survey to tell someone about their advisor? Would one of their friends have to say “I wish I could find a financial advisor who will do a good job for me through the market cycle?” People don’t talk like that!
If you have carefully and specifically defined your ideal client and tailored your services to the needs of that group, and that client was interviewed by Veronica, I can envision their response to the referral question to be something like “oh I do provide referrals to my advisor. He works with people exactly like me, and understands the particular things I need. So, when I hear a friend like me talk about their challenges with money, I always pass his name along.”
If Veronica buttonholed your clients and asked about you, what would they say? Would it be “he listens to me and does a good job.” Or, would it be “he knows me. He specializes in people like me.” And which do you think would get you more referrals?
Tags: Challenges, Confidence, Conviction, Dagher, Dow Jones, Good Job, Hypothetical Question, Job Market, Man On The Street, Manhattan Street, Phrase, Questions And Answers, Referral Question, Referrals, Sample Questions, Service Focus, Target Market, Target Marketing, Thoughtful Ideas, Veronica
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
by Anthony Lam, Covenant Group
Sometimes, you or your employees will make mistakes. When a client feels his or her needs have not been met or have been ignored, it’s important to make an effort to restore their confidence in your services and reset the tone of the relationship.
Taking the time to contact an unhappy client and say “I’m sorry” can go a long way in doing that.
Writing for Inc. magazine, Glen Blickenstaff says harboring the concern that apologizing would open up a business to liability will not do much to repair hurt or angry feelings. In fact, that worry may be destructive, driving away clients who could be won back. Blickenstaff explains that customers may be happy or unsatisfied, but there’s an opportunity to convert the latter group by recovering from a situation where the company didn’t “get it right the first time and meet expectation.”
He warns that unhappy customers are much more likely to share their bad experiences publicly, but when the recovery is “done the right way, the customer who has the experience will tell a story. Not how bad their initial experience was but the story of how well they were treated, respected and cared for in the recovery.”
Blickenstaff offers some advice on how to mend a damaged customer relationship. First, try to talk (and more importantly, listen!) to the client and get their side of the story. Give your apology. As he says he does when talking to a customer, “I actually and sincerely convey my regret that we failed them and accept responsibility.” From there, give them a few options that could solve the problem, which makes them feel that they are in control of where the discussion goes next. Finally, follow up. Stay in touch with the client and make sure you “met the recovery expectation,” he adds.
Have you ever had to do damage control after a client expressed his or her displeasure with the quality of customer service? Does your practice have a standard policy for how it responds to and mitigates the fallout from an unhappy client?
As Norm Trainor wrote in The 8 Best Practices of High-Performing Salespeople, “the key to developing and maintaining relationships with your clients is your commitment to providing first-class ongoing service.”
A key in financial advisor training is understanding that when the delivery of service falls short of first class, a heartfelt apology can serve as a recommitment. It can offer the client proof of another sales best practice: that you will “do what you say you will do.”
Anthony Lam has spent more than 20 years honing his customer relationship management skills. He has demonstrated his commitment to high-quality customer service in the retail, banking and airline industries. Anthony is the Manager of Program Delivery and Client Relationships at The Covenant Group and coaches financial advisors on client services through The Covenant Group’s financial services training.
Tags: Angry Feelings, Anthony Lam, Apology, Blickenstaff, Confidence, Contact, Covenant Group, Customer Relationship, Customer Service, Damage Control, Displeasure, Expectation, Experiences, Initial Experience, Nbsp, Opportunity, Taking The Time, Unhappy Client, Unhappy Customers, Worry
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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
“By making one small change to my weekly routine, I’ve been able to recapture some of my excitement for the business.” – Veteran Chairman’s Club advisor
Successful advisors consistently tell me they’ve lost enthusiasm and passion for their work compared to 10 or 15 years ago. Advisors have two choices when this happens; either accept it as a sad reality or, put in place strategies to rekindle the fire that burned earlier in their career.
In many regards, loss of enthusiasm is understandable:
· If you’ve been at this for a while, you often don’t have the same sense of excitement about winning new clients that you did in your early years the industry
· Clients are much more demanding and the media dramatically more critical
· Your focus has shifted from building a business to managing it; often with added complexity and the hassles of managing people along the way
· The global financial crisis has added huge stress and put pressure on revenues
· Age is a factor: few of us have the same energy at 60 that we did at 45, or at 45 that we did at 30
And then of course there’s market performance over the past ten plus years. One veteran advisor described it this way:
“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years. For most of the first 20 years I looked forward to meetings with clients; they were making money and I felt I was adding value. By contrast, most of the past ten years have been brutal; in meeting after meeting I’ve found myself apologizing for performance.”
In the circumstances it’s absolutely understandable that our excitement is down compared to the past. That said energy and passion is essential to implement new initiatives and inspire confidence with existing and prospective clients.
Here are three different approaches that can help you restore your energy and excitement level, including one that helped a veteran advisor significantly increase his enthusiasm.
Strategy One: Boost your energy level
While energy alone won’t rekindle your passion, feeling alert and energized is a necessary ingredient to bring excitement to your work.
Some advisors tell me they feel exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve written in the past about four proven strategies to boost your energy level:
· Regular exercise to start your day:
Even a brisk 30 minute walk makes a difference.
· Fresh air and sunshine:
Especially as the weather is getting better, build in 5 minute fresh air breaks in the morning and afternoon and before key meetings (and much better at boosting energy than a trip to Starbucks)
Astonishing as it may appear a recent New York Times article reported that parole board verdicts grew dramatically more severe as the day progressed and fatigue set in, but were more lenient after board members restored energy with some fruit.
If your energy level dips later in the day, consider lightening up on lunch and adding servings of fruit to your daily routine.
· Frequent vacations:
Most of us need annual breaks of two weeks or longer to recharge. Beyond this, frequent short breaks can help maintain motivation; even a three or four day long weekend can have a positive impact.
That’s because research shows that the biggest boost on motivation from vacations isn’t actually the vacations themselves, but rather the anticipation beforehand. Scheduling quarterly or bi-monthly short breaks means we always have a mini-vacation to look forward to.
Strategy Two: Get energy outside your business
Many advisors get reinvigorated through activities that have little to do with our business. That energy will have a positive impact when it comes to the excitement you bring to bear on client interactions.
Some examples of doing things outside the norm:
· Physical challenges: Training for marathons or for hikes up Machu Picchu or Mount Kilimanjaro
· Dream vacations: Going on two to four week trips to destinations that you’ve always dreamed of; whether it be Hawaii, Australia or an African safari
· Intellectual challenges: I talked to one advisor who began attending the leading edge TED conference (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) in California; another advisor attends summer courses at Oxford. In both cases they return excited and inspired.
· Expanding your thinking: You don’t have to travel long distances to get fresh ideas. The Rotman MBA program at the University of Toronto, where I teach, offers 5pm speakers series with some of today’s top business thinkers. Last fall, I spoke to an industry participant who began attending these sessions to get fresh ideas and consistently walked away energized as a result
· Giving of ourselves: I’ve recently talked to four different advisors who organize ambitious fundraising events in their community. In every instance they say the sense of accomplishment from the success of these events has made this among the most rewarding things in their lives
In the perfect world, we’d get all the satisfaction and fulfillment we need from within our business. In the real world, we sometimes have to look beyond our business for the motivation to operate at a peak level.
Strategy Three: Get energy inside your business
Recognizing that many advisors have to look externally to create motivation, the most sustainable way to rebuild passion is by doing so from within your business.
In late February, I wrote an article about three ways advisors can motivate their team. One of those was to help the people you work with feel they’re making a real difference and get a sense of mission from their work. To help instill that feeling of purpose, I suggested that advisors set aside five minutes in their weekly staff meeting to focus to talk about one client they met with in the past week who they had really helped.
I got a call from a successful veteran advisor who had followed this advice and was astonished by the result:
“This was on the agenda for five minutes but we ended up going well past that. It was the most engaged I can recall seeing the members of my team. But the biggest surprise was how I felt afterwards. By making one small change to my weekly meeting to focus on a client where we’d made a real difference in their lives, my enthusiasm increased. As a result, I’ve been able to recapture some of my excitement for the business; and we’re making this a permanent addition to our weekly planning meetings.”
I heard from another advisor who had been using a variation of this idea. Whenever clients express appreciation for the good work that she’s done, she thanks them and then goes on to say:
“I’m delighted you’re pleased; that’s ultimately the biggest reward I get from the work I do. If possible, I’d like a favour: I want to share your comments with the members of my team. I wonder if I could ask you to send me a short email, summarizing what you’ve just told me. A few lines are all I’m looking for. I could tell them about this of course, but it would have much more impact coming from you directly.”
Clients almost always agree. The advisor sends an email thanking them in advance for taking the time to do this, and tells them it would be greatly appreciated if they would reply with a few lines. There have been three benefits to this: The advisor feels more positive; her team is more energized and finally, they got permission from some clients to put their comments on the advisor’s website.
Every advisor has to find their own approach to maintaining motivation. Whatever strategy works for you, if you have ambitious goals to move your business forward, bringing genuine passion and enthusiasm to your business is Job One. After all, if you’re not excited about the work you do, you can’t expect your team and your clients to be.
Tags: Business Veteran, Circumstances, Complexity, Confidence, Energy Level, Excitement Level, Global Financial Crisis, Hassles, Industry Clients, Initiatives, Managing People, Market Performance, Passion, Place Strategies, Prospective Clients, S Market, Sad Reality, Stress, Three Different Approaches, Two Choices
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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
The last twenty years have seen many changes in the investment industry. Among the most important being the adoption of financial plans by many advisors as a cornerstone of their client offering.
As a whole, this has been a huge positive for both advisors and clients. But a plan is only as good as how it is implemented and my recent conversations with some investors illustrate the important steps advisors must take to follow through on their planning efforts.
The positives of financial planning
Conversations with investors quickly drive home the benefits of financial planning.
Especially in rocky markets, financial plans give clients confidence that they have a roadmap to their long term objectives. They answer the “how much do I need “question that is a top concern for investors; and identify how much clients need to save to hit their goals. Financial plans can also drive home the reason that investors need portfolios that offer returns above the risk free rate; even if clients don’t like the volatility that comes with those portfolios.
Price Powell of research firm, Corporate Insights has worked with many leading investment firms measuring client satisfaction and share a wallet among over 50,000 investors.
He’s identified eight attributes that correlate with higher levels of client assets. First among those is having a financial plan in place. In Powell’s words, “He (or she) who owns the plan owns the client.”
Note that you don’t need a 30 page plan for clients to feel they have a path to success. Especially for less complex situations you can often do everything you need to in six or eight pages (and many clients prefer a more succinct document in any event.)
The pitfalls of financial plans
Last fall I spent some time talking to investors and was struck by concerns about their financial plans among some of the clients I spoke to. These concerns didn’t relate to the plans themselves, but rather to what happened after the initial plans were developed.
Investor complaints (which, just to be clear, come from a small minority of clients) fall into the three categories.
The first can be summarized as “Whatever happened to my plan?”
These are clients who worked with their advisor to prepare a plan but haven’t heard any mention of it since. Clients expect that their plan will serve as a roadmap against which their progress will be measured. Even if the news is not good, advisors need to incorporate a conversation about how clients are doing again their plan into every client review.
The second set of complaints relates to plans that are out of date.
“My plan was prepared eight years ago and hasn’t been updated since” one investor told me. “My wife and I have both switched jobs and our circumstances have changed dramatically. I just don’t think that a plan based on where we were almost ten years ago is relevant today. We mentioned this a year ago but nothing’s happened. We’ve been talking about whether we need to change advisors to ensure our plan is up to date.”
The final category of complaints is directed at advisors who are seen as being overly passive.
“Given what’s happened to markets, it was no surprise that we’re behind on our plan” was what still another investor told me. “When we met with our advisor, we expected that we’d have a conversation about either moving some of our goals back or making some changes to get back on track.
Neither of those things happened; instead she said that we should expect to fall behind at certain points and that we shouldn’t be concerned. We walked away wondering if we’re working with the right advisor.”
Incorporating financial plans into client conversations
Every experienced advisor knows that the plan itself isn’t what drives value to clients; it’s what happens as a result of the plan.
Clients who go through the planning process typically expect that their financial plan will be an ongoing topic of conversation with their advisors. It may be that you haven’t fallen victim to any of the traps investors complained about when it comes to financial plans. Just in case, consider these questions:
1. Are discussions of progress against their financial plans incorporated into every client review?
2. Have all of the financial plans for your clients been updated to reflect their current situation?
3. Are you being proactive in suggesting amendments to client goals or strategies in light of what’s happened to markets?
The answer to all three questions may be yes; but if you fall short with any of these with even a few clients now’s the time to remedy this. That way, clients will feel they’re getting the full benefit of the time they’ve invested to develop their financial plan, and won’t be vulnerable if approached by another advisor promising that working with him or her. Your clients will always have up to date plans in place.
Tags: Adoption, Attributes, Benefits Of Financial Planning, Client Assets, Client Satisfaction, Confidence, Conversations, Cornerstone, Corporate Insights, Investment Firms, Investment Industry, Investors, Pitfalls, Portfolios, Roadmap, Rocky, Term Objectives, Twenty Years, Volatility, Wallet
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Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Recently, I talked to three advisors who have had significant success bringing in new clients this year.
They have different approaches, book sizes, length of time in the business — and are located in three different cities.
Despite this, some consistent themes emerged. Here are three things that came out of our conversations.
You don’t win clients — other advisors lose them
The first advisor talked about an old adage in politics — Governing parties don’t get defeated, they beat themselves.
In essence, given the choice most people would rather stay with an incumbent government.
They only change when they lose confidence in the party in power — it’s at that point that they look seriously at opposition alternatives.
In this advisor’s view, the same applies to winning new clients. They’ll move on their schedule, not yours — generally when they’ve become disillusioned with their existing advisor.
This advisor believes two things have led to his success in attracting new clients:
1. He works to position himself with as many prospects as possible as the logical successor should they become disaffected with their existing advisor.
2. He tries to accelerate this process of disaffection by sharing the communication going to his existing clients.
The harder you try, the less successful you’ll be
The second advisor believes a key to his success is his low key approach — he tells prospects that he’d be happy to sit down with them any time that they feel comfortable doing so.
In this advisor’s view, the least amount of pressure gets clients guards up. And the harder you try, the more your approach smacks of desperation and scares prospects off.
Like the first advisor, he has focused on building his pipeline of prospects to whom he sends information going to his clients. He also touches base with every prospect once a year (more often if the prospect seems close to making a change) with a view to seeing if they’d like to sit down to talk about their situation.
Reduce the risk of meeting
The third advisor has found that once he gets in front of prospective clients for the first time, their comfort level in sitting down further goes up dramatically.
His branch runs quarterly lunches with outside speakers — typically one of their economists or research analysts or a portfolio manager on the firm’s managed money program.
He always buys a table to these lunches — while the bulk of the people he invites are clients, he also aims to get one or two prospects out. He’s found that prospects are more comfortable being one of six or seven at a table than meeting with him one on one — and once someone has come out to that lunch, his success rate at booking a follow up meeting goes up dramatically.
If you’re in the Toronto area and like this idea, below is a link to information on a luncheon presentation by Mark Carney on December 16.
Tables of 10 are $700 — consider splitting a table with a colleague and inviting three key clients and one prospective client you’ve been talking to.
If you’d like more ideas on what’s working today to attract clients, here’s a link to a recent conference call:
Conference call: Making 2010 your best prospecting year ever — with Duncan Macpherson:
Tags: Confidence, Conversations, Desperation, Disaffection, Incumbent Government, Length Of Time, Logical Successor, Old Adage, Opposition, Pipeline, Prospects, Some Consistent Themes
Posted in Dan Richards, My Practice | 1 Comment »