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Mindful Listening—Meeting Your Clients in the Present Moment

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid to me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”    –  Henry David Thoreau

The frequency with which we do things in an inattentive manner in our daily life is simply astonishing. From driving a car to interacting with a client or a prospect, way too often we are on auto-pilot, going through the motions but not being present. The consequences of this inattentiveness are way too dangerous to be quickly dismissed.

Attentiveness is generally defined as staying in the present or mindfulness. It is paying full attention to what is at hand—the note we are writing, the coffee we are sipping, the person we are talking to, whatever is around us as we move through our day. A client meeting, talking on the phone to a friend, shopping at the supermarket are perfect opportunities for us to test our ability to be mindful.

Mindfulness is something that we all possess and need to ensure our survival. However, its nature is highly elusive. As we sit down with a prospect, completely determined to convert her into a new client, despite our best efforts, our ability to mindfully listen to her can disappear in an instant. It takes a fraction of a second for our mind to lose its focus and swiftly engage in worries, speculations, projections and fantasies about the future.

To practice mindfulness you do not have to drastically change your life. You will continue to perform your daily activities and chores — however, you will carry them out with a different level of awareness. That heightened degree of awareness will trigger some changes in your behavior. You will not change who you are, but you will become more fully present with every situation. As a consequence, you will be able to better observe your thoughts, feelings, and preferences.

Mindfulness makes us more sensitive to the present moment. It generates an energy that empowers us to actively notice new things, take advantage of opportunities as they manifest, and be able to produce more positive outcomes.

Life is nothing but a sequence of moments. Consequently, the more we focus our attention to make each moment matter, the more our life will matter. During a meeting, do not let your mind race forward worrying or engaging in speculation about the meaning of the short pause your client made while answering your question. Rather, just notice it, acknowledge it in your mind and come back to the present, to the conversation, to her.

A Magnetic and Creative Force
Listening mindfully is one of the hardest things for a human being to master. Many of us experience unconscious barriers to good listening that prevent us from clearly recognizing when we are not listening. Mindful listening is a magnetic and creative force. When people listen to what we say, we experience a satisfying expansion and become highly creative. It is this creative force that actually enables ideas to spring within us and come to life. We experience it countless times but, regrettably, we easily forget. One of the most valuable rewards of listening in a mindful manner is the opportunity we get to learn something we might not know. Conscientiously listening to your clients enables you to gather good intelligence about what they worry and care about, what motivates them and, ultimately, why they work with you — and what they really “want” from you.

By listening mindfully, your will be able to facilitate their pursuit for financial freedom, better address their demands, and even dispel some of their financial fears. During a client meeting, pose a question, such as “What are the most important challenges our firm has helped you successfully address?” Then, commit yourself to mindfully listen to every word your client will say. Her answer may yield valuable information, some of which she may have mentioned during past conversations, but because you were on auto-pilot…you missed.

The ultimate goal of mindful listening is simply to listen—nothing more and nothing less. Focusing attention and activity on what we are doing in the immediate moment, whole-heartedly without getting side-tracked by premature ideas and projections of future personal gain, which incidentally are not pertinent to the present moment and may or may not happen in the future. When you are completely “present” in that way, each activity becomes the most important activity you can perform for your highest and greatest good and that of your clients.

As always, I welcome comments and questions.

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


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3 Ways to Find Out if Your Web Marketing Is Paying Off

Results are priceless. There are literally thousands (or more!) way to market your firm to achieve business growth and success, but how do you know which tactics actually work? The age old problem with marketing is that it’s kind of a gray area in terms of its effectiveness.

Well, it used to be.

Part of the beauty of a strong web marketing strategy is that, in today’s tech-savvy world, we can literally track and measure what works and what doesn’t work. Google Analytics is a powerful resource that reveals many details about our web visitors and what actions they take online.

Setting goals and measuring your performance is key to any good business strategy, and in marketing it can be used to test whether your current initiatives are reaching the right audience and meeting your goals. Here are three measurements that can determine whether your web marketing efforts are paying off or not.

For all three of these measurements, I suggest reviewing the numbers on at least a monthly basis. Create a simple spreadsheet and input the numbers of a monthly basis. This is one really simple step that will help you visualize the effectiveness of your marketing strategy and spot trends.

1. Web Traffic
A great website isn’t so great if no one uses it. It’s sad, but it happens more often than you can imagine: a great-looking, user-friendly website that virtually generates no traffic because nobody knows the site exists. A great website generates a healthy and growing amount of traffic on a monthly basis.

The more qualified visitors you have to your website, the more likely you will be to convert the visitors to leads or clients. After about a month of data, you can begin to see patterns in what is working and what isn’t.

3 ways to increase traffic:

  • Above all, provide value. Web visitors are savvier that ever and won’t waste their time browsing your site unless you’re giving them something in return (like a white paper).
  • Include your web address in all marketing material (newsletter, business card, etc.).
  • Use social media to drive traffic back to your website.

2. Bounce Rate
A web visitor “bounces” away from your website after viewing only one page of content. For example, if 10 visitors arrive on your website and seven of them leave after viewing only one page of content, your bounce rate is 70 percent.

A high bounce rate indicates that the content on your website isn’t what web visitors are looking for. As a result? Nine times out of 10, web visitors will leave and not return.

2 ways to reduce a high bounce rate:

  • A clean, professional homepage design. Web visitors form an impression really fast; they are likely to bounce away if the site is outdated or unprofessional looking.
  • Clear navigation. If your web visitors can’t find the information they’re looking for, don’t expect them to stick around.

3. Form Submissions
The best adviser websites play a role in earning new business and sustain meaningful, strong relationships with existing clients. Your website can be your most powerful marketing tool, generating leads and helping your firm reach its growth goals.

Allowing web visitors to request information from your website can be a powerful lead generation tool. This can be a simple process: ask web visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or request a meeting.

2 ways to increase form submissions:

  • Place valuable content (like a white paper or educational video) behind a form. Word to the wise: keep the form fairly short and simple; don’t make people feel as if they’re signing their lives away to access your content.
  • Advertise content with an enticing calls-to-action.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

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How to Secure Speaker Spots

Introverts rejoice!  Guest speaking can be a perfect venue for you to come alive – you can plan your message, deliver it, answer questions, and be done.  The bigger challenge is how did you line up these coveted opportunities?

The following steps will help secure speaking engagement as part of your marketing plan:

  1. Know Your Target Client - All marketing starts here.  If you don’t know whom you want to attract, you will not be able to determine if the organization with the speaking opportunity is a worthwhile match.
  2. Know Your Signature Topics – Title and summarize three topics that you could teach to your Target Client.  A decision-maker is more likely to consider you if you package up your presentation.
  3. Create a Speaker Request Form – Do you have a dedicated page on your web site for speaking?  If not, it’s time to add a tab.  Include your signature topics and a “Speaker Request” form to capture speaking engagement leads.
  4. Create Your Speaker Kit –Design your ‘Kit’ to include an introduction letter, your bio (see “The 5 Essentials of a Bright Biography”), your speech topics (#2), and other visuals or information that is relevant.  Have printed pieces you can mail as well as downloadable pdfs.
  5. Find Outlets with Your Target Client – What organizations, clubs, memberships, and companies have an audience that closely matches your target client?  Build a list of prospective partners.
  6. Identify Specific Opportunities – As you research, take note of the specific meeting, conference, webinar, or other content-sharing opportunities available.  You want to ask for a specific event and date when you request a spot. 
  7. Reach Out Systematically & Intelligently – Direct your resources for distinct periods of time to campaign for speaking spots.  Send out your Speaker Kit to 10-15 organizations at once, customizing your letter with the group’s pain points.  Request the privilege to speak at the event date (from #6).  Follow-up three times over the next two weeks.  No response? Add a tickler to email them with a link to your form (#3) in 3 – 6 months.
  8. Promote – Once you’ve secured your spot, you want to share the news.  The organization will appreciate your efforts, and you reinforce your expert status.  Tweet, post, update, and share with your followers, prospects, and clients!
  9. Show Up – I mean SHOW UP.  You’re there to educate their audience, whether it is two people or 200.  Bring your best game and deliver incredible value to their members. No exceptions!
  10. Appreciate – A hand written thank you note or a small gift to the organizer(s) goes a long way as a gesture of appreciation. 
  11. Circle Back – Strike while the iron is hot.  Inquire about additional content sharing opportunities such as guest blog posts, newsletter articles, or webinars.  Be sure to indicate your interest in participation in the next scheduled date of the event you just finished.
  12. Update Your Website – Make sure you update your speaker page with this new experience and make note of the results of the event.  You’ll want to weigh this opportunity with others as you begin to secure more spots!

Structure and follow this system and you eliminate the angst that often accompanies your requests for consideration.  When you reach multiple organizations at a time and adhere to the process, opportunities to share your knowledge will start to emerge!

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
San Francisco, CA

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Tips for Making Your Vacation Count

For those with an overactive work ethic, taking a vacation—and really enjoying it—can be a challenge. (You know who you are. You come back from vacation needing a vacation.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a big advocate of Stephen Covey’s principle of “sharpening the saw.” Just as a sharp saw cuts more wood than a dull one, taking time for self-renewal promotes efficiency at work. We should embrace vacation as an opportunity for mental, spiritual, emotional and physical renewal, helping us boost productivity upon our return.

For many advisers, though, following that advice is more difficult than it sounds. Even if we manage to schedule a vacation, actually taking our mind off work and enjoying it is another matter.

Before my recent trip to Europe, I perused a number of blog posts and articles for tips on how to unwind on vacation. (You’d be surprised how many are out there!) Here are a few of the nuggets I found most useful:

  • Finish work in progress. Before you set off on vacation, wrap up your most critical tasks. Tying up loose ends and clearing your desk will prime your mind for relaxation.
  • Start strong. Whatever helps you relax—whether it’s drinking green tea, practicing hatha yoga, or doing a Sudoku puzzle—be sure to implement it on day one of your vacation.
  • Set aside your to-do list. Before you know it, vacation can become a frenzied rush to do all the things you don’t have time to tackle in your everyday routine. To really recharge, leave your to-do list on your desk chair before you head out of the office.
  • Consider unplugging. While some people prefer completely unplugging from technology on vacation, others find the prospect of coming home to thousands of e-mails incredibly stressful. On my recent trip, I discovered an effective system: checking e-mail for 15 minutes at the same time each evening. This helped ward off inbox anxiety but was enough of a break from the norm of constant e-mail checking that it still felt like vacation.

Remember, the extreme of any strength tends to become a weakness. A strong work ethic will serve you well most of the time, but never leaving work can come at the expense of self-renewal and, ultimately, efficiency.

Long story short: When you go on vacation this summer, don’t just change your work venue. Really be on vacation.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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Clearing the Smoke: How to Overcome Objections

How many times have you asked a prospect to meet with you and they simply reply, “I’m busy, call me in a few weeks.” Or, perhaps you’ve taken hours to prepare customized investment and insurance recommendations, explained all the features and benefits, and just when you believe your client/prospect fully understands you ask for the order only to hear them say, “Let me think about it.”

If you have been in the financial services industry for any length of time, you may have heard these types of objections more often than you care to remember. By now you may have realized that some prospects won’t tell you the complete truth, that they aren’t really that busy, or that they don’t really need to think about it, instead they are simply giving you a “smoke screen” objection.

Understanding the “Smoke Screen” Objection

The “smoke screen” objection is a polite excuse people use when they don’t want to make a buying decision with the classic example of the aforementioned, “I need to think about it.” The reality is, they probably don’t need to think about it, but instead have not admitted their real concern, which often times is not discussed because they do not want to offend you, admit the concern to you or themselves, or address the concern at all.

The key to getting past their smoke screen and to their core objection is to acknowledge it with a neutral statement such as: “In addition to (smoke screen objection) what else is holding you back?” After their reply, if you are still not sure you have reached their core objection simply repeat the process again. Remember that your real goal is not to overcome this specific objection, but to find out what their core objection is so that you can begin to overcome it.

Here’s a three-step process to uncovering the smoke screen objection using the example “I need to think about it.”

Step 1: Listen, Evaluate and Empathize

If the objection seems vague, it may be an indication they are masking their real objection. At this point, it is important to test your theory.

Adviser: “I can understand that. This is a big decision.”

Step 2: Question the Validity of the Objection

Adviser: “What is it that you need to think about first?”

Prospect: “I guess I need to think about the cost. It seems kind of expensive.”

Step 3: Is This the Only Objection?

You must question if there are any other objections or if this is the only one. That way you can begin the process of overcoming their core objection.

Adviser: “In addition to the cost, is there anything else holding you back?”

Prospect: “No, not really, it just seems kind of expensive.”

If you have done the preceding steps properly, the prospect is now admitting their real objection, taking you out of the endless loop of excuses. You have now cleared the air and can move forward to face the real objection head on. I discuss this further in a white paper titled “Handling Objections: Preparing for the Inevitable.” To receive a copy of the white paper, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions Inc.

Daniel C. FinleyDan Finley

Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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Embracing Objections for Stronger Relationships

An inventory of dire outcomes that people face would certainly include disease, accidents and failed relationships. These outcomes literally change the course of a person’s life.

The past 15 years have taught us that personal financial catastrophes can and do push lives in terribly negative directions. Having experienced such an outcome, a person naturally feels regret not just for the outcome, but especially considering what could have been done to prevent it.

“I should have been smarter.”
“I shouldn’t have been taken in by promises that seemed too good to be true.”
“I should have done more research.”
“I shouldn’t have given away so much control.”

These “should have” and “shouldn’t have” regret statements can become all-consuming. Unlike disease or accidents, a key difference with a financial calamity is a person most often was an active player in forming the circumstances that led to the life-altering outcome. There is real personal accountability in the regret.

Take Leadership: Encourage Objections

Strong relationships have no basis in regret. Given the high distrust of financial services broadly (see the CFA Institute study “Investor Trust Study 2013”), we acknowledge the existence of reasonable skepticism and the need for effective due diligence (see the blog post, “Removing Purchase Obstacles to Valuable Benefits”). This means necessarily that we encourage, not shun objections.

Recently, when a group of practitioners were asked if a prospect meeting with no meaningful objections would be considered a success, they all said “Yes.” In fact, a meeting with no objections illustrates the prospect’s detachment with the practitioner given the ramifications should a bad path result.

Similarly, there’s a strong tendency, following our well-crafted, eloquent sales presentation, to feel a bit put upon, disappointed or defensive when our prospect raises an objection. Let’s lose these feelings now.

An Objection-Handling Process

It’s a pleasure to work with smart, savvy clients, right? Well, clients such as these are prudent and engaged … just the type of people who want to know more and not less; who want depth and not a veneer.

Because many wealth management practitioners find objections difficult, awkward or worrisome, deciding for yourself to be a strong objection handler makes you a more able competitor. Take encouragement that handling objections effectively (a person whose answers advance the sales process and not hinder it) is a skill and not a talent.

Steps to Develop Objection-Handling Skill

  1. Write out all the objections that you’ve either been asked or could be asked about your service, your business and you as a person and practitioner.
  •  The best objection handlers employ the concept of “healthy paranoia” that anticipates any and all tough questions and prepares competent answers necessary to produce a strong result.
  1. Rank the objections in your list from those that have high business impact (fees, expertise, etc.) to those with low business impact (credential types, etc.).
  2. Work on a couple per week and write out answers as you would speak it, not in bullets. You do this for two reasons:
  • To develop power phrases (such as, “You gain net benefits for the costs incurred.”) that are memorable for you and the prospect.
  • The words help you avoid saying “Uh” and “Umm” that suggest either a lack of preparation or evasiveness.
  1. Incorporate stories and analogies to shift from jargon to understanding (a precondition to forming a trusted relationship).
  2. Practice the answer with those who will give you honest feedback. It’s not just speaking the words, but doing so with confidence, passion and certainty.
  3. If you know an objection is going to be asked, ensure you drive the answer through all content sources, such has face-to-face meetings, presentations, proposals, the website, etc.
  4. Should you not win business, get in the habit of having a follow-up meeting with your prospect and identify why you fell short, as these are objections that didn’t have a satisfactory answer.


A New Perspective

An objection, in a benign form, simply works toward better information or understanding; we can say toward certainty. Yes, a question or comment may be stated with elements of judgment or skepticism or be said sternly or nicely, but the question or statement deserves a well-reasoned, patient answer. The prize at the end is greater achievement when the call comes that you’ve been hired, having won over the tough and demanding prospect instead of one who just says “OK” at the start.

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


Top 3 Excuses for NOT Using a Website to Market Your Firm in 2014

1. “I’ve been practicing for 20+ years and never needed one.”

Gee, if I had a dime for every time I heard this one. It’s true. There are advisers practicing today that have never had a website because they’ve never “needed’ a website. I’m assuming these are the same advisers who hung on to the pager until 2002 because they “didn’t need a cell phone.” Once you learned how to use that brand new cell phone, it may seem like you couldn’t function without it.

Now, I’m not comparing cell phones and websites (they’re apples and oranges, really) but, the adoption of new technology is often inevitable because it truly adds value. A great website adds value by helping connect you with your ideal client, make you look really great online and earn new business.

And … what if you did have one for those 20+ years? Or, think about even the past one year. Consider the impact a great online presence can have for your business. If your business is doing well without a website, think about how great it could be with a website.

2. “I get all of my new clients from referrals.”

I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia from South Georgia (YOLO, right?) in 2012 and every time I visit home I make a trip to see my family dentist. Until now. I actually asked around and got plenty of referrals for dentists in Vancouver, and what did I do? I Googled every one of them.

It’s kind of a new fact of life. The first thing a referral will do is Google your name or the name of your firm and seek information about you before they pick up the phone (almost 90 percent of Americans do this today). If they don’t like what they see (or, if they can’t find any information about you at all) you can’t really expect a call.

Here’s a small piece of homework: Google yourself! What shows up on the results page? Try and view it from the perspective of a referral. It’s really great when you get a referral, right? Just make sure you are making a positive first impression when they search for you online.

Here’s an interesting idea: what if your website actually helps you get more referrals?

3. “Websites are money-suckers.”

Here’s the thing: actually, some websites are money-suckers. Marketers (like myself) are always saying that your adviser site needs to be current, fresh, and up-to-date. If you have to pay someone every time you update your site (the horror!) then it probably is sucking up a lot of money if you’re dedicated to maintaining it.

From the perspective of this marketer, a great website is a website that adds value to a firm. Does your website help you earn new business? Connect with your existing clients? Validate your expertise and experience? Help visitors create a really great first impression?

I’m a firm believer that your adviser website should deliver a strong ROI. If you have a website that’s draining your marketing budget but not actually helping win new business, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia


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