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When a Positioning Statement Trumps the Elevator Pitch

A plethora of books, videos and seminars are devoted to writing an effective elevator pitch—a 30-second commercial to be swiftly delivered at a moment’s notice. Although elevator pitches still serve their purpose at business networking events, they are less suitable in social situations when an adviser is inevitably asked what she does for living.

At a social gathering, such as party or fundraiser, I recommend that our firm’s adviser clients refrain from addressing the question “what do you do?” with a canned commercial. Its ready-made nature does not help the adviser make a good first impression and establish a bond with the other person. Regardless of how well articulate, grammatically impeccable and smooth flowing an elevator pitch is, people can easily sense that you are reciting a nonspontaneous answer.

As the financial advisory space continues to undergo myriad changes, advisers must understand that what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future. The relentless progress made by technology makes all of us feel somewhat harassed by the unending influx of commercials on TV, radio, computers, phones and tablets—the last thing we want to hear is another pitch for a service or product we may not need. When the question “what do you do for a living?” pops up, advisers should take it as an opportunity to lead the conversation and create a response that induces the other person to ask, “How do you do that?”

At our firm we help advisers craft concise positioning statements that focus on the problem they solve, not the service they offer. A well-crafted positioning begins with your name or that of your firm and encompasses the following three core elements:

  • A strong action verb to define what you do—I devise, preserve, build, create, etc.
  • The problem(s) you solve—I help transfer wealth, maintain lifestyle, leave legacies, etc.
  • Who benefits from your expertise (who your clients are)—business owners, high-net-worth-families, CEOs, female business owners, etc. 

Here are some examples:

We create customized strategies that empower affluent families to maximize the accumulation, preservation and transfer of their wealth.

ACME Advisers helps business owners create and implement successful transition plans.

I empower individuals and families to achieve their financial dreams and goals.

What is the key benefit for advisers to use a positioning instead of an elevator pitch? The latter, by its own nature, pushes your mini commercial onto the audience. The former instead attracts the attention of your audience pulling it into the conversation and prompting it to pose questions.

To effectively engage a potential prospect’s attention, you must persuade her that you are capable of solving her problems. If your positioning statement is effective, that individual will likely feel compelled to pose you a few specific questions about problems and issues you may be able to address. When that happens, listen actively to fully understand the nature of her problems and then offer your best insights and guidance. This will help position you as a trusted expert source, peak her attention and prompt her to continue the conversation.

Remember, in the end, your personality is what counts the most in an interaction. People will be attracted to you if you take the time to conscientiously listen to them to gather good intelligence about what they worry and care about. Your attention rather than your elevator speech will create for them a memorable moment.

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

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More Intelligent Referrals Step 3: Specialize and Target for Increased Results

Take your referrals to the next level. Now that your process is thought out and you know how to approach your clients in a way that builds trust, you can be even more strategic and thoughtful in how you earn new business. Over time, your message and the materials you use to implement your referral plan will become more defined.

These final few strategies from Frank Maselli’s book Referrals the Professional Way: 10 Strategies for Networking with Top Clients & Centers of Influence, can be used as an approach for expanding your referral plan and message:

Target a Specific Industry or Client Niche

Specializing in a certain industry or a type of client can dramatically increase your referrals from those groups. The goal of becoming the “go-to” adviser for an entire industry can be a major career driver with benefits that go far beyond referrals. Selecting an industry or client group to target is a simple process that can be replicated for scalable business results. Develop a genuine interest and expertise in the niche areas you choose by reading industry publications, talking to leaders, and attending regional or national conferences. This will take time, as you have to become a known insider and provide value to the group before you can seek a business relationship.

New Specialty Referral

Your long-term clients may be the perfect source of potential referrals, but asking for a referral can change the implied rules of the relationship game as you’ve both played it for many years.  The new specialty referral lets you go back to your best clients for referrals without looking like you just blew up your business. It also sends the right emotional messages about your success and development as a professional. Pick a critical topic of importance to your people and master it, then use your new specialty to approach your client with a new opportunity that themselves, their colleagues or their friends might also be interested in.

Use a Referral Guide

High-net-worth clients and centers of influence want to know that you take referrals very seriously and that when they give you a name of a client, friend, or colleague, you are going to treat that person with extreme care and professionalism. Using a “referral guide” is a psychological positioning tool that sends all those messages and allows you to expand your client’s story-telling ability beyond a two-sentence conversation fragment. Combine your referral materials into a binder to give as a resource to your client—items like an introductory letter, sample newsletters, articles, list of services, team biography, referral questionnaire, ideal client profile, etc. These items should convey your brand and your expertise in an organized, serious and professional package.

Take it a step further and enhance your referral guide with a book, authored by you, targeted to your specific industry or niche that highlights your knowledge in your specialty area. With a referral plan in place that is created out of genuine service to others with a targeted message, derived from a place of expertise, and supported by professional client-driven materials, you will find that referrals can become a powerful business growth tool.

Allison LooneyAllison Looney
Marketing Associate
Advantage Media Group
Charleston, SC

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The Flip Side of Foolish: Reverse the Dialogue

In a recent coaching session, I gave Sammy, a financial adviser with more than 30 years of experience, a little homework to do before our next session. She had been concerned about prospects not seeing the value in getting her opinion on their portfolios and she wanted to know how to convince them that they should.

We had just mapped out a process that I refer to as Reversing the Dialogue, which works back from the conclusion you’d ultimately like your prospect to come to and the questions to ask to most get them to realize that conclusion most effectively. In Sammy’s situation the desired conclusion was that getting an opinion from her was in their best interest.

“I will work on it and let you know how it goes,” she said with excitement in her voice.

“Actually, why don’t you type it out and email it to me then in our next session we can role play with it,” I replied.

One of two things typically happen when I mention role play to a coaching client: either they look forward to practicing and can’t wait to start, or they have anxiety and can’t wait to explain why they don’t want to do it.

“I hate role play,” she admitted. “I’d rather just go out and practice this on prospects and tell you how it went.”

“Why?” I inquired, curiously.

“Well, it’s because I don’t want to sound foolish in front of you,” she replied cautiously.

“Ah-ha, you need to understand the flip side of foolish then,” I responded with a laugh.

After a significant pause on her end, I continued on with my explanation. Feeling foolish is like looking at only one side of the proverbial coin, I told her. There is the negative side, which for her was feeling embarrassed or inadequate; however on the flip side there are multiple positive reasons why role playing was a smart best practice.

“When it comes to role play, the flip side of feeling foolish is the fact that you WILL learn from practicing with me,” I’d told her confidently. “You WILL get better at asking questions, moving people down the pipeline and accomplishing your goals. Aren’t all of those outcomes worth a few minutes of feeling foolish?”

“When you state it that way, I’d much rather feel foolish and learn how to do it right BEFORE meeting with clients/prospects,” she said sheepishly.

In our next session I reassured her that there were no incorrect questions and that role play was merely a method that she would learn from. After two or three role play conversations she became more comfortable and relaxed with the technique of applying (and adjusting) the questions she had mapped out.

Nice job! You took me down a path of questions to help me understand why I should get an opinion from you. I absolutely felt connected and engaged while you were doing it,” I told her. I could feel her smile over the phone as she replied, “I didn’t feel foolish doing the role play with you at all. I’d like to do it more often!”

Often in order to grow our business, we have to be open to leaving our comfort zone to strengthen our weaknesses. Being willing to stretch beyond what you already know and feel comfortable with allows for you to find what your “flip side of foolish” might be.

If you read this article and find yourself wanting to learn more about how to incorporate role play into your best practices, email me at dan@advisorsolutionsinc.com for a complimentary consultation. I can help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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Retirement Readiness: Beyond the Numbers

The word “retirement” is a growing enigma. In fact, the Americans’ Financial Security: Perception and Reality survey conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that only 26 percent of Americans view retirement as a period in life when they stop working completely. Twenty-one percent of survey respondents said they are never planning to retire, and 53 percent anticipate doing something else, such as working at a different job. Some will work because they need to and others because they want to.

It’s clear from these results that boomers are redefining what retirement means. In time, we will likely have either a new definition or a new word to describe it. In any case, financial advisers will need to help their clients prepare for this “new” retirement. To do this, you’ll have to start looking beyond the numbers.

Emotional Readiness
While the masses may be unprepared financially, there’s an equally large concern that pre-retirees are unprepared emotionally. As financial advisers, you know these individuals. They’ve saved carefully and certainly have enough money to support their needs in retirement. But they may have no clue as to how to replace the benefits that work can provide to most people. These benefits include some combination of:

  • A sense of purpose
  • Financial reward
  • Status
  • Time management structure
  • Source of social contact

Woe is the person passionate about work who doesn’t attend to this critical dimension of life satisfaction and fulfillment! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The replacement of work is just one of many factors to be considered. Others include:

  • Attitude toward retirement
  • Family responsibilities—whether that means caring for an aging parent, the return of adult children or the impact of grandparenting
  • Health perception in different stages of retirement
  • Adaptability: the requirement to change increases rather than decreases with age

Many quit their jobs only to wallow in the muck of having no vision or plan for making the next chapter of their lives a continuation or enhancement of success and satisfaction. Given this, how do you help your clients truly prepare for retirement?

The Role of the Financial Adviser
Although Retirement Options identifies 15 dimensions of retirement success, only 1 dimension deals with financial security. As financial advisers, you’re in a unique situation to help your clients prepare for both the financial and nonfinancial aspects of retirement readiness. This role ranges from “do no harm” to formally coaching clients to prepare for the next life stage (even when it means the client continues to work). Between those two ends of the spectrum, you can, for example:

  • Share resources such as books and websites that focus on all aspects of retirement readiness
  • Offer a seminar on holistic readiness
  • Write about the importance of thinking about retirement in a more comprehensive way than just financially (in letters, newsletter articles, white papers, e-books, etc.)

Be a Role Model
As you see your clients address how to make the next stage of life successful, isn’t it interesting that many of you are tackling this same issue personally? Perhaps the most authentic way to enlighten others and increase awareness about the importance of planning is to apply your recommendations to your own life. Be a good role model by creating your own retirement vision and plan for a fulfilling next chapter of life.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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More Intelligent Referrals, Step 2: Create a Powerful and Meaningful Message

Now that you have a new outlook on referrals and have built a system to support creating real relationships with key clients, the next step is to consider the client’s point of view and position yourself as the front-runner by anticipating their needs and emotions. Referrals take trust, and trust must be earned. You might have found that other referral strategies can feel disingenuous and ultimately erode trust rather than built it. Change your approach now and position yourself as someone your clients know, like, trust, and remember.

Start by considering these three top strategies, continued from Frank Maselli’s book Referrals the Professional Way: 10 Strategies for Networking with Top Clients & Centers of Influence to help you earn trust and position yourself positively in the eyes of your top clients:

Position Referrals from Strength

Referrals can sound desperate if not positioned carefully. Remember, you are the “Financial Lifeguard” with unique and powerful skills. Without your help and guidance, high-net-worth investors in your community will not reach their financial goals. Your message should be based on your concern for the successful financial future of others and positioned as a limited opportunity. Believe in this philosophy, communicate it genuinely, and make it the cornerstone of your referral approach.

Stay Top of Mind

Your clients are busy people. They’re not thinking about you or who to refer to you. But, every day they interact with other people to whom you would love to be referred. Stay on the client’s personal radar screen in positive and creative ways that help them remember you exist and are worthy. Use phone calls, emails, newsletters, events or special gifts—anything for the client to have on hand for reference and bring you to mind when someone asks, “Can you recommend a good financial adviser?”

Address the Risks and Emotions of Referrals

Top clients and centers of influence run huge personal and professional risks when referring friends, families and colleagues. Making these risks go away will dramatically increase the number and quality of referrals you get. Demonstrate an understanding of these risks and fears by discussing them openly and showing in detail how you handle referrals. Doing this will boost your odds of getting referrals and will distinguish you from other financial professionals.

Implementing these strategies into your referral approach will put you in a position of trust and likeability with your top clients while further building solid relationships. Stay top of mind with powerful materials that further position you as the expert in your field.  Discover how becoming an author can benefit your financial planning business and provide you with the ultimate business card to support your referral approach. Referrals will seem like an easy next step for your clients if you continue to add value, solve problems, address needs and make it easy and natural for your clients to participate.

Allison LooneyAllison Looney
Marketing Associate
Advantage Media Group
Charleston, SC

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You Are Insurance to Uncertainty

A client pays an adviser an ongoing fee to develop and implement a plan that will meet his or her financial needs, release anxieties and provide an avenue to achieve aspirations. Although the plan itself—and the financial and investment tools used to implement it—focus on the uncertain future, the sheer fact that a plan is in place brings the client peace of mind.

An insurance product has a similar structure in which premiums are paid with the expectation that protection is provided if the insured event occurs at some point in the future. With protection in place, the policy owner’s present benefit is the release from anxiety.

While insurance products and wealth advisers produce the same result—confidence to handle an uncertain future—society is well grounded in the need for insurance. For example, to get a car registered, buy a home or get a doctor’s appointment, insurance must be in place.

Using Insurance Principles as a Selling Metaphor

Since the need for insurance is well settled in people’s minds, using an insurance metaphor helps clients relate to the important protections wealth management provides.

Loury_March 2015_Figure

Keeping Purposes Fresh

Either through personal experience, a person’s own relationship network or insurance commercials, people understand the financial and emotional trauma that can occur when a car accident happens, a fire destroys a home or disease takes hold. Insurance companies work hard to keep these adverse possibilities in the buying public’s mind; as stories, they shift insurance from a concept to an experience.

The threat of an adverse event in the future is real. In fact, most elements of a wealth plan seek to deliver protection against what otherwise would be adverse outcomes: insufficient income; financial insecurity; wasted money; complexity; family disharmony.

With the hope that an executed wealth plan will produce financial security and peace of mind, a client willingly starts paying an ongoing advisory fee. Unfortunately, years may pass before benefits are received while the costs remain; this is especially true with younger clients.

Planning with Execution

The plan itself ties directly to an intended solution producing protection in one form or another. Think of the wealth plan as an ever-ready agenda that guides client communications to a straight line spotlighting these types of protective benefits:

  • Budgets to set spending priorities
  • Portfolios designed to minimize losses
  • Tax programs that keep more money in the family
  • Lower-fee investments that increase net return
  • Trusts that efficiently transfer wealth
  • Estate plans that smooth life’s transitions and prevent discord

People hunger for this insurance-like protection, and they’re willing to pay for the wealth planning and execution that produces it. Keep these protection stories alive in your communications and the benefits will remain real.

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

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3 Strategies for a More Intelligent Referral Approach: Building the Foundation for Success

Referrals aren’t just an effective way to grow your business using your top clients and centers of influence. At the core, referrals mean that you want to help more people fulfill their dreams and goals by providing your professional financial services. If you approach referrals from this perspective, and truly tap into your desire to help others, referrals can feel like less of a sales pitch and more like a built-in professional relationship process.

These three key strategies, from Frank Maselli’s book Referrals the Professional Way: 10 Strategies for Networking with Top Clients & Centers of Influence, will help you prepare your business for the implementation of a successful referral strategy:

Develop a Referral Plan

This is the first step to success; it will help your idea come alive and will keep you on track. Start gathering data and intelligence, developing awareness of your client’s world. Create a Referral Intelligence File (RIF) for chosen clients and prospects that notates their personal and professional interests and their community involvement, and then do your research and note potential referrals within their network to suggest, so they don’t have to do the work for you.

Provide Excellent Service

Take the time to assess and perfect your service model. Manage expectations and learn to anticipate the needs of your top clients to deliver service beyond their expectations. In addition, it’s key to build a great partnership with your assistant and ensure he or she is trained properly and compensated well. Your assistant is the front line in strengthening client relationships and an asset in ensuring top-notch service.

Build Your Brand Identity

What makes you special and different from your competitors? Make sure you develop a strong brand identity that includes your differentiated value, explains what you consistently do well, and does so in a compelling story to share in your marketing and referral efforts. Build your brand identity in a clear way so that your clients can easily tell your story to their friends.

By planning and establishing these three strategies you will set yourself up for a referral approach that is built on a strong foundation and a written plan.

As you create a referral plan, think about the materials you will need to support your brand message and promote your top-notch approach to client service. Having a powerful resource, like a book, and positioning yourself as the expert in your field, as an author, can help increase referrals. A book is your brand story, your marketing, and your sales material in one package. It can be the perfect tool for supporting an innovative and intelligent approach to referrals. Request additional resources and discover how becoming an author can benefit your financial services business.

Allison LooneyAllison Looney
Marketing Associate
Advantage Media Group
Charleston, SC



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