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Time Is on Your Side—Yes It Is!

Despite what the Rolling Stones said about time, most of us feel just the opposite, whether it’s in business or our personal lives. I bet if we replayed a tape of our daily conversations, one of the most frequently used phrases would be “I don’t have time.” But is that really true?

Perhaps our sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and personal joy has more to do with how we choose to use our time than it does with the actual number of hours available. Instead of “I don’t have time,” maybe it would be more accurate to say, “I don’t make time for the things in life that I say are important.” Or even more fundamental, “I don’t have time because I never really sit down and clarify what’s most important in the first place.”

Strapped for Time? Pare Down Your List

At the start of a new year, it’s tempting to overestimate what you can get done in the next 12 months. Whether it’s your bucket list, your business plan, or your personal to-do list, being realistic and carefully deciding what deserves your attention is a critical first step to freeing up your time.

Many advisers make yearly to-do lists that are nearly impossible to complete: form a partnership, find a new adviser or two and get them up to speed, grow production and increase profitability, move to a model management system, hire a new support person, enhance the culture of the firm, sign a continuity agreement with another adviser, open a branch office, and so on. Add that hefty list of tasks to your ongoing responsibilities—tending to client needs, nurturing staff, dealing with the daily surprises of business and life, and maintaining your own sense of balance—and it may be a bit much!

Setting a stretch goal or two is a good idea, but stretching everything and everyone around you isn’t likely to be a successful long-term strategy. It’s been shown that achieving goals helps create a habit of achieving more goals in the future. When we overextend in every area, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Why not position yourself for success in 2015 by putting fewer tasks, projects and goals on your list in the first place? Whether you’re planning what to do with a day, a week, a month or a year, if you carefully focus on what’s most important, you may discover that time really is on your side.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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What’s Holding You Back?

A client and I were talking recently, and this analogy came to mind as we brainstormed on moving the business forward.

Remember when you were a kid and you went outside after it rained? There were puddles everywhere! As you explored, you discovered streams and creeks clogged with debris, washed down by the rain. Leaves, branches and occasionally trash hampered the run-off preventing the water from moving on. Ever the curious kid, you pulled out the branch or leaves and watched in amazement as the water went rushing by, draining the puddles, the land, and moving onward to its destination.

This analogy was just enough to get my client thinking about the blockage in the business. Yet the story got me thinking … what happens when a blockage is not removed?

A creek that is blocked from flowing stagnates. Not much moves in the water and a film develops on top. Add a few more days and a little sunshine, and the whole area begins to stink.   Downstream, the water barely trickles along, and those dependent on the flow look for other resources.

Perhaps you discover the blockage a few days later with the stagnant water and the dry creek below. You work to remove the blockage and release the held-back water. The effects are immediate. The smell dissipates and the still back-logged water begins to move and appear fresher with the film now gone from its surface. The creek and vegetation below spring back to life. If you have ever experienced this, you can literally smell the shift and feel the change in the atmosphere.

Wow. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Ask yourself, “What is not working in my business?”

What blockage is holding you back from truly moving forward? Is your technology due for an upgrade? Is there a role that needs to be filled, or unfilled and refilled? Are you the branch damming up the flow, holding on to too many things and not letting others flourish and grow?

Look closely. What can you remove to get things flowing?

If you need help figuring out what is holding you back, download the Accelus Partners’ Practice Directions Assessment and gain access to a complimentary business consultation.

Barbara Stewart, CFP®Barbara Stewart
Coach to financial advisers
Owner and founder
Accelus Partners
Houston, Texas


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Accomplishing Plan A

As a new year begins, you may be saying to yourself, “This year is going to be different. This year I’m going to accomplish my goals!” But what will make this year any different from past years? Did you rush in the final weeks of 2014 to attempt to check off some of your annual goals, or did you accept the realization that your goals would just have to wait for a fresh start in 2015? Regardless of your answer, to reach your goals this year, the difference is all in the planning.

Here are four steps to accomplish your “plan A” before you end up defaulting to plan B months from now in an attempt to play catch-up.

1. Map Out the Details of Your Plan

Most advisers create a business plan (let’s call this plan A), but only accomplish a variation or a small percentage of their business plan by year’s end. Why is that? Because most individuals do not compartmentalize their goals down to manageable daily activities. Having an overall vision of success is important, but having tasks broken down into steps that contribute to that vision is a core component in your desire to succeed.

2. Create Your Daily Discipline

Once you know what you need to do on a daily basis, set a consistent time to do it. Take prospecting, for example—to grow your business you must prospect daily to ensure it becomes a daily habit. I recommend you prospect first thing each morning, before interruptions and other items consume your schedule. Reward yourself for accomplishing your daily goals; it will help reinforce your prospecting behavior. It may sound like a silly thing to do, but it truly does have an impact and will make you think before you procrastinate or substitute a task instead.

3. Realize the Domino Effect

As you continue to build your daily discipline, you will notice that your pipeline is filling more steadily, that you are setting more appointments, that you are meeting with more people and closing more business. The more structured and effective your activity, the better your outcomes will be as they pertain to your plan A.

4. Reap What You Sow

As you move through this process, you may encounter setbacks. Be open to making course corrections. If you are sticking to your daily discipline and you are not experiencing a domino effect of success, then it’s time to determine why by identifying your challenges, and finding and mapping out the solutions.

Having a plan of any sort requires planning, and yet so many individuals skip this step and find themselves wondering 12 months later why they couldn’t fulfill their goals; don’t let yourself be one of them as we embark on a new calendar year.

If you’d like help mapping out your 2015 goals, email Melissa Denham, Advisor Solutions’ director of client servicing, at Melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
President

Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


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Create a Choice by Asking for the Prospect’s Business

Prospect Theory tells us that the fear of loss (objective: wealth preservation) is greater than the hope for gain (objective: wealth creation). This fear dominates when it comes to financial circumstances, especially among those with accumulated wealth.

A wealth management business can only grow with clients willing to take a risk that the likelihood of the proposed solution’s stated benefits are greater than the easier choice, keeping the status quo. In other words, getting a new client requires the prospect to believe strongly in the hope for gain. While alternatives are in front of the prospect, a choice doesn’t actually arise until a question is posed to make a decision.

Confirming Proposed Benefits

Today, with e-commerce, the sales process is shifting from personal persuasion to objective evaluations.

The marketplace accesses a wide array of expert and current-user opinions about a service/product’s advantages and disadvantages. While other customers’ opinions have always mattered, no longer is it the neighbor down the street who weighs in on a product’s merits, but people scattered near and far, with structured star ratings accessible by a mouse click.

There’s a four-step evaluation process at work:

  1. Benefits are presented
  2. Current customers are sought to confirm the validity of these benefits (i.e., ratings, references, recommendations)
  3. The proposed benefits’ value is either believed or dismissed
  4. A decision must be made


A Decision with Life-Changing Implications

Wealth management in all its forms has one underlying pressure on the prospect’s mind: “The adviser I choose can change my life and even the lives of my children and grandchildren.” The implications of a bad choice weigh heavily—and justifiably—on the decision and the necessity for thoughtful due diligence. The prospect only needs to read the headlines to appreciate the catastrophe that befalls those who pick the wrong practitioner.

This weightiness leads to inertia. To break inertia requires a more powerful force.

Asking Is a Force

In the absence of choice, people will stay in an existing comfort zone. However, when we’re asked to do something, a choice emerges between the comfort zone and the new path. Only a “Yes!” decision ignites the benefits from the new path.

Placing a decision point in front of someone forces a conclusion. Either the prospect believes in the hoped-for benefits and says “Yes!”; the prospect believes that other options are more attractive and says “No!”; more information is needed or the timing isn’t right and the prospect says “Not now.”

Regardless of the answer, achieving a response brings clarity. The following are basic principles that form the foundation for advancing the sales process to a decision.

1. People want to be asked or invited. Our social nature, combined with a fear of rejection, makes people appreciate being invited to belong. Directly asking for business can be a relief to the prospect: “I want you as my client. Are you ready to move forward with me?”

2. Asking in person. Holding a face-to-face closing meeting conveys confidence, importance and stature to the prospect. This also intertwines the solutions’ benefits with the practitioner (see my blog “Your Product Is You”).

3. Closing the process. Selling wealth management services involves many steps. A practitioner who closes the process sets an expectation for action. For example:  “We’ve learned a lot about each other through our meetings. I strongly believe the X, Y and Z benefits I’ll deliver are key to your long-term success. Is there anything standing in the way of you choosing to hire me?”

4. Getting to a final answer. A practitioner in a sales relationship has invested time and advice with a hoped-for revenue payoff. Therefore, it’s vital to get a final answer—“Yes” or “No”—as quickly as possible. (A “Not now” answer after the sales process has concluded puts the onus on the practitioner to make one of two business decisions: (1) continue investing time to remove obstacles, or (2) close the process and move on to other opportunities.)

The social dynamic of asking for something and the corollary fear of being rejected operates strongly for most people. What’s often lost in the practitioner’s personal anxiety are other important business advancements such as investing time wisely, seizing opportunities, reaching objectives and meeting client needs. These advancements require the practitioner to believe that his or her hope for gain is greater than the risk of rejection. If this belief isn’t strong enough, a business won’t thrive.

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


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6 Steps to Create a Fulfilled New Year

Goal-setting may become a jaded topic at this time of year. Of course we want to think about what we want in the new year ahead, but sometimes just setting business goals is not enough to feel driven each day to rise above the challenge and pursue “the dream.”

Imagine if each marketing action you take impacted your ability to achieve a bigger life goal. What if you internalized that connection? How motivating would that be to overcome your hesitancy to market your practice?

Here’s how it works: follow these six steps and you’ll learn how each blog post you write or each follow-up call you make actually takes you closer to your fulfilled year and, yes, your fulfilled life.

1. Claim Your Next Big Life Goal 

What is something big, something fulfilling, something that takes effort—perhaps months or years of commitment and pursuit—something you truly want?

Do you want to live in another country and run a virtual practice? Do you want to compete in the Iron Man? Write a mystery thriller? Take six months off to travel?

Don’t just know your goal, claim it out loud. Write it down or draw a picture of it. Bring it to life.  Share your goal with your study or mastermind group to elevate your commitment.

2. Set a Due Date 

“A goal without a date is just a dream” is a wise quote from psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson.  If you truly want your goal to happen you must give yourself a deadline. Are there outside triggers that drive the timing? Do you have a sense of how long you’ll need? Pick a date that feels right; it will give you a framework for developing your timeline and dependent actions.

3. Secure Alliances   

As entrepreneurs, we wear many hats and know how to make things happen on our own. However, the pursuit of a big goal can be much more manageable when we have allies who support us. Whether it is your spouse, parent, child, mentor, employee or business partner, you will enjoy the journey more when the key people in your life are on board with your life goal.

Discuss what it will take to reach your goal and get agreement on your direction. Work closely with this person to define your specific roles and responsibilities in the plan.

4. Consider the Impact

In what parts of your life will you need to take considered action to realize your goal? Craft a mind map (try MindMeister.com or Novamind.com) to help you organize your thoughts and see the full impact of your new endeavor. Nearly any goal you wish to pursue will impact your financial adviser career. You will either add more resources to develop and run your practice, or take time, money or energy away.

5. Drill Down into Specific Actions 

Tying your big goal to day-to-day actions requires that you drill down into specifics. Extract the key initiatives from the mind map that you need to complete and label them in priority order. Start with the highest priority initiative and specify the actions required to complete it. Bucket your actions first by quarter, then break out week-by-week actions. Incorporate each initiative’s actions in chronological order to form your master plan for realizing this life goal.

Be sure to include your drawing from step No. 1 to keep the overarching goal visible through the plan. This will help you tap into the energy of the bigger vision while handling mundane tasks.

6. Pause and Check in Along the Way   

When executing on a plan, we can often get lost in the weeds. Take time each quarter (if not each month) to check in on the overall plan. How are you progressing? What needs to change? Where are you too optimistic about timing, or where are you ahead of schedule? Make adjustments to the master plan, recommit and dive back in.

You will face many choices as you go that could pull you away from your plan. Be sure to ask yourself, “Will this choice take me closer to actualizing my goal?” If the answer is “no,” turn away and keep working the plan. When you do, you’ll find yourself with a sense of fulfillment throughout the entire year.

All the best for you in 2015!

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
San Francisco, CA


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6 Tips for Effective Media Outreach

Leveraging the power of media to grow your business is an investment that can pay attractive returns.

A few column inches in a newspaper or a three-minute interview on your local TV or radio station offer a rewarding opportunity to get your company name noticed by your target audiences. More importantly, it empowers you and your firm with the most powerful third-party endorsements.

Because many small firms cannot afford to hire a PR expert to build their media relations, here are some guidelines on how to effectively approach the media on your own:

1. Is Your Story Newsworthy?

The mission of reporters is to “report” about new developments that will engage and resonate with their audiences. Before contacting the media, ask yourself: I am very excited about this story idea, but will anyone else be? If you can’t honestly answer this question, refrain from contacting the media and wait for a better opportunity.

2. Research, Read & Familiarize

Prior to approaching a media outlet, do in-depth research about the type of news they cover and the audience they serve. The more you understand their audience and the stories they typically cover, the more likely your pitch will be successful. Read their reporters’ articles to learn their beats (topics they write about). Make sure your idea is a match and prepare to explain how it would help them further expand on their subject matter. If a reporter has recently written about the topic you have in mind, abstain from calling her and wait a few months.

3. Establish Your Contact List

A great number of media websites publish their journalist’s contact details in the Contact Us section. Some outlets ask to submit story ideas to generic email addresses, like editors@, news@ or features@. Do not use them, as those email inboxes get clogged and are not regularly checked. Ring up the publication’s general number and get the name and contacts of the journalist who is in charge of selecting stories. Try to follow on Twitter the journalist(s) you are planning to contact. In many instances, they may respond much faster to a direct Twitter message than they would to your email or call.

4. The Power of 3 in 30

Whether you are planning to contact a reporter by email or phone, your first task is to encapsulate your idea in a clear and concise manner. Here’s a tip that will help you.  Write down the three key concepts you want to convey in maximum 30 words. At first it may be difficult, but picture yourself as a radio or TV presenter announcing it in sound bites.

5. Be Brief!

Limit your pitch email to a maximum of two paragraphs. In the subject line write “story idea” or “editorial inquiry.” Use the first sentence to convey the essence of your story and the remaining two paragraphs to expand on it. When applicable, include data or statistics and reference them. Although it sounds obvious, do not forget to include your name, that of your firm and your phone number. If a journalist likes your story idea, she will likely contact you by phone. Remember: You are pitching a story idea, not your company!

6. Follow Up

A journalist who takes an interest in your story will usually call you back within 48 hours. If you do not hear back from a reporter, ring her up. When you call, first ask “Are you on deadline?” If she is, find out when is a good time to call back. If she is not, state concisely your desire for an interview to discuss your story idea underscoring why you think it would be good for the publication. Reference the email you sent her and provide date, time and subject line. If the journalist requests to interview you at a specific date and a time, make sure to make yourself available.

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

 


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7 Steps to a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

If you’re like most financial planners, your workday is filled with client meetings, planning, employee management, and the many other tasks that keep your business running. Sure, you’d like to spend time composing thoughtful marketing emails to send to prospects, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. With a little work up front, you can “set it and forget it.”

Autoresponder systems are great marketing tools that every financial planner should be taking advantage of. They’re inexpensive, and they allow you to create a personalized series of messages and then schedule them to go out over a period of time. The best news is that you can automate the entire process so that it runs completely on autopilot.

These messages should focus on client problems that are evergreen or timeless, such as the fear of running out of money during retirement—that’s a concern people have had (and will have) forever.

Here’s an overview of the seven emails needed for a successful email marketing campaign:

Message 1: Create a free report to entice prospects to receive more information from you and eventually become a paying customer. (For instance, your report might be “5 Myths about Saving for Retirement.”) Your first message template offers the recipient the link they can use to download your free report.

Message 1 subject line: “Here’s the ‘5 Myths about Saving for Retirement’ Report You Requested.”

Message 2: This message will go out one day after your prospect signs up. It should be a quick follow-up message to make sure they received email No. 1. Make sure you include the link to access the free information again.

Message 2 subject line: “Quick Follow-up.”

Message 3: You’re going to focus on a particular section contained in the free report. It might be a particularly interesting story that you tell in the report, or the one nugget of information you think is the most relevant to your audience. Anyone who emails you with feedback is beginning to engage with you on a personal level. So, regardless of whether you agree with their feedback, acknowledge their comments.

Message 3 subject line: “A Quick Question, (First Name).” (You are more likely to convert a prospect into a client if they read your report, so this is another way to motivate them to look at it.)

Message 4: You’ll be telling a story about someone who has used the information in your report. You don’t need to mention a specific name or company. The idea is to communicate that others who are similar to the reader solved their problems by following your advice.

Message 4 subject line: “How (Name) (what he or she accomplished)” (e.g., “How Sarah Created Her Nest Egg”)

Message 5: You will share something that you “forgot” to include in the free report, such as an additional tip or idea. To choose a topic, ask yourself:

  • What benefit or result do your clients or customers want that you might not have mentioned yet?
  • Can you make a list of dos and don’ts?
  • What’s a big mistake people often make that they need to avoid?
  • What success stories do you have that you haven’t used yet?

Message 5 subject line: “(First Name), I Forgot To Mention This”

Message 6: Use this message to answer a question a client recently asked you. Ideally, you want to either show off another benefit that comes from working with you, answer a question that overcomes a typical objection that stops people from working with you, or pick something that adds to your credibility as an expert.

Message 6 subject line: “A Question Many Investors Are Asking.”

Message 7: The next step after your prospects get to know you through your emails and your report is to speak one-on-one with them. So, in your final message, you’ll offer a free 30-minute consultation.

Message 7 subject line: “Of Potential Interest to Some.”

After you’ve created your series of messages, all you have to do is load them into your autoresponder. It’s quick and easy.

Mark SatterfieldMark Satterfield
Founder and CEO
Gentle Rain Marketing Inc.
Alpharetta, GA
Author of The One Week Marketing Plan

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