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Removing Purchase Obstacles to Valuable Benefits

How expected benefits influence a purchase is a function of frequency and price. A purchase that is highly routine and at a low price (gasoline, for example) happens with little thought; both the buyer and seller know what benefits the buyer receives for the price paid.

Financial and wealth management services represent a dynamic at the other extreme, in which the purchase evaluation is infrequent, unfamiliar and high risk. These factors often derail a prospect from hiring the needed services and, consequently, stalling receipt of highly valuable benefits: financial and emotional security.

Few people would disagree about the life improvement gained from comprehensive financial planning, yet the majority of the market does without a plan or acknowledge that a current plan needs improvement. If financial planning’s benefits are understood, why do people remain on the sideline?

When dealing with unfamiliarity and big consequences, consumer psychology leads people to believe that the risk of doing nothing is more comfortable than the risk of making a mistake. This is consumer inertia. A practitioner who understands this force and works to counteract it accelerates sales conversions.

Overcome Inertia While Owning the Evaluation Process
Selling intangible services is difficult because you lack the ability to prove your “sales” words through a product demonstration, as can be done with a tangible product. This is why word-of-mouth recommendations are so powerful to a prospect evaluating professional services practitioners; the prospect uses others’ experience as a way to validate that what is being sold will actually be delivered.

Even with this base, the prospect still must undertake an evaluation and ultimately conclude:  “This practitioner is/isn’t someone I believe will value me as a client and meet my needs, anxieties, and aspirations.”  The problem is few prospects approach the evaluation confidently, thus eliminating from the start the needed force to overcome inertia.

Given little structure, you can fill this void with a due diligence guidebook and, in so doing, own the evaluation process.

A Due Diligence Guidebook for Evaluating Practitioners
You understand due diligence given the many times you’ve researched and evaluated financial and investment products. By taking your experience and assembling a packaged guidebook, you provide a useful pre-sale tool to your prospects while simultaneously producing an evaluation structure consistent with the benefit package your services deliver. An effective guidebook includes the following sections:

Section 1: Due diligence question inventory. Provide specific questions to ask during a practitioner interview/evaluation according to these categories:

  • The firm’s characteristics and resources
  • The services the firm does and does not offer
  • The practitioner’s capabilities and expertise and his or her ability to deliver the expected results
  • The planning process and sample output
  • The plan’s execution and monitoring approach
  • The services’ costs and fees

Section 2: Your answers to the due diligence questions. Repeat the question inventory, but provide your answers in a column to the right or in a row below. This allows you to persuasively position you and your firm to the questions themselves, while also setting a standard that competing practitioners must meet.

Section 3: Essential evaluation documents. Provide important documents to review, such as your Form ADV, a planning process diagram, your monitoring processes and so forth. By taking this initiative, your prospect will be inclined to have other practitioners provide similar documentation, yet it will be known that you took leadership in being prepared and transparent.

Section 4: Identify the benefit inventory. As noted above, every purchase brings benefits to the buyer. With uncommon services such as financial and wealth management, prospects vaguely understand these benefits and the top-of-mind list is incomplete. Provide a worksheet with the expected benefits your services and solutions provide for clients. (Note: you’ll have different lists based on segments such as retirees, business owners, high net worth, etc.)

At this early evaluation stage, use case studies/stories as a proxy to show how benefits accrue to your solutions and methods. Then, when your solution is more fully formed based on what you’ve learned from the prospect, you can document the expected benefits with greater precision in a formal proposal.

Giving a due diligence guidebook allows you to preemptively position your firm in a positive light while also communicating two important messages:

1) You know how to conduct due diligence.

2) You welcome the scrutiny such a process provides.

These messages of expertise and confidence connect directly to any prospect’s hiring criteria.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
President, Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey  

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5 Tips for a Successful Presentation

Throughout the years, many of our clients have requested our support to prepare them for speaking engagements. Whether they were invited to be guest speakers for an organization’s luncheon, industry event, or just speaking at their own client gathering, our goal has always been to make their experience a memorable and effective one.

Aside from training our clients on how best articulate and convey key messages, giving them the dos and don’ts of public speaking, and what to avoid during a presentation, we also exhort them to follow these five important recommendations to ensure their success:

Know Your Audience
Research and learn as much as you can about the organization or event at which you have been invited to speak and the type of audience you will address. If you get to your venue well before your speaking gig, invest some time talking to members and organizers to get information, insights and testimonials about the organization and the event itself. When you step up to the podium, this little investment will pay handsome dividends, as it will enable you to bring up ad-hoc examples and/or anecdotes that will resonate and engage your audience.

Rules of Engagement
Learn well ahead of time what are the rules and norms for speakers. Are you expected or allowed to use visuals and/or distribute handouts? How much time will you have for your presentation? Will that include time for Q&A? Will the organizer be willing to share a copy of the attendees’ list with their contact information?

Practice Your Technology Skills
At home or at your office, practice connecting cable computers, opening and closing flash drives, and pulling up PowerPoint files on your computer screen. Time it, so that you will know how long it will take you to set up your visuals in the unfortunate event that an IT person will not be at hand at the time of your presentation. In addition, make sure to save your presentation on a flash drive and/or a hard disk and have a couple of print copies, just in case the computer and/or projector decide to fail on you.

Be Flexible
If the organizers allow 60 minutes for your presentation, plan for less time. Frequently, events run into delays and often only a few minutes before stepping up to the podium speakers are informed that their presentation time will be reduced. So, be prepared to give a shorter presentation. This will avoid the pressure of having to fly through the presentation’s original format.

Give Yourself Extra Time
Traveling by air, train or car has become a gamble, especially around big cities. Allow yourself extra time when you book flights, train rides or drive to your destination. Contact the organizers to find out traveling time from the airport/train station where you will arrive. Also, ask them about the exact location of garages/parking lots and how far they are from the venue of your presentation. If your destination is a conference center, be sure to identify the closest entrance to your room/auditorium—in large conference centers, it takes several minutes to walk from one end to the other. Also, and this may sound  “old school,” but if you drive, print the directions and do not blindly rely on your GPS, especially if it is the first time you go to that particular location.

As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.


Your Product Is You

When a buyer wants something, and a seller provides it, a transaction occurs. However, before a sale is made, the buyer must evaluate what is being sold against the criteria he or she uses to judge value.

As a seller of services, what you know, what you do, how you think, what you believe, how you speak, and how you work all define you; indeed, you are the product. In parallel, buyers judge you according to three main hiring criteria: your expertise/reputation; trustworthiness; care/concern.

Against these criteria, consider the following challenges people face when evaluating practitioners like you:

Challenges When Evaluating Practitioners for Hire


Comparisons are difficult

Judging different credentials, evaluating experience, and reviewing the quality of past solutions are beyond the abilities of most prospects

Key hiring criteria are a matter of heart

Of the three hiring criteria—expertise/reputation; trustworthiness; care/concern—the latter two relate to the practitioner’s morals, ethics, values and beliefs

Worry as motivator

Anxiety for the future is a difficult-to-define force, but highly relevant

Solutions are complex

Implementing a planning/investment solution involves highly technical tools and language

The downside is great

Making a wrong decision can have catastrophic, lifelong implications

Word-of-Mouth Introductions
Given these challenges, a large majority of people are disinclined to undertake an evaluation without guidance. The Oechsli Institute, in a study titled “Understanding Today’s Affluent Investor: Managing Affluent Relationships,” discovered that the overwhelming method people used to identify an adviser involved personal introductions. (Note: this is word-of-mouth influence and not a client giving a referral list to his or her adviser).

Method Used to Identify an Adviser


Introduced by another professional


Introduced by a family member


I approached her/him directly


Introduced by a friend




She/he approached me directly


Introduced by a colleague


The study concluded:

“The number one method today’s affluent investor used to find their current financial adviser was a personal introduction. Whether from a friend, a colleague, a family member, or another professional, word-of-mouth influence was at work.”

The First Meeting … First Impressions
A person who learns about you through an introduction takes the first of many steps in the hiring process. The next step is to review your website and learn about you (as it is for people doing a direct Internet search).

Your homepage is your store front. How a store front looks and how it merchandises products in the window determines whether a passerby will decide to make an initial commitment and enter the store or continue walking.

So it is with your website homepage. The key difference is the product being merchandised is you.

At this stage, you don’t even know a potential prospect is at hand, but there is a meeting taking place; unfortunately, it’s a meeting in which you are not physically present. Yet, first impressions are formed, and the resulting opinion determines in large measure whether your site visitor chooses to call you for an appointment, send an email inquiry or consider other practitioners instead.

Effective Product Merchandising
Although this first “meeting” is electronic, prospects want to know about you just as though you were there to tell them.

  • Why you feel your work is important.
  • What motivates you to serve.
  • Why you believe what you do.
  • How you attend to clients’ needs, anxieties and aspirations.
  • How your solutions solve problems.
  • Why you’re someone who can be relied upon.

This content rightly resides in your bio as well as describing the firm’s mission statements; each should represent the core of your website’s content. Write passionately about how your solutions benefit your clients’ futures, even to successive generations. Use actual pictures to give evidence of your trustworthiness and care/concern in action. Tell how your solutions brought valuable client benefits, including peace of mind, confidence and comfort.

Equally true, your website is an active storybook. Too often, website content, once produced, sits idle even as important advancements are made in the business and with clients. A store that never changes its window merchandising will be ignored.

This is not to say your website service descriptions are unimportant. They are just less important than you. Think of it this way, before any service can be delivered, you must be hired first. It is you that transforms a service that otherwise could be provided by innumerable practitioners into something special. Each time you transform services into valuable client solutions, a new story is to be told.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
President, Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey  


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