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Learning the Language of the Layman

It’s been said that people won’t buy what they don’t understand. Most confused prospects and clients won’t admit that they’re befuddled. Why? Because they don’t want to look foolish.

Planners who like to dazzle prospects and clients using industry specific terminology may be creating a real disconnect with them.

For these planners, learning the “language of the layman” isn’t so much about dumbing down their recommendations as it is about simplifying the message. Let’s take a look at some simple ways to make the translation.

The following is a step-by-step process to help you make a great connection.

Step 1: Help them Understand Why to Buy

Most planners want to begin an appointment by selling their recommendations because they are so adamant about what they are recommending. Unfortunately, people hate to be sold to but they love to buy. For them to want to buy, they have to understand why they need what you’re recommending. To get them to that place, you must first ask questions.

Some examples of questions that I’ve used while prospecting are around taking too much risk: Do you know what percentage of your portfolio is in stocks? Why do you have so much money in just a few companies? If the market pulls back, what happens to your portfolio? Since you are already retired, what do you think is the best course of action for you?

The natural rebuttal is, “We shouldn’t be taking that much risk.”

Step 2: Find out What They Know

In the aforementioned example, it doesn’t take a prospect very long to start understanding that there is a challenge. In this case, that they have a large percentage of their portfolio in just a few stocks and that they need to diversify. The next step is to find out what they know. The following are just a few examples of questions that I have used to find out what prospects know about mutual funds:

“Have you ever owned mutual funds? How long have you owned them? Has anyone ever explained to you what mutual funds are?”

I asked these questions of a couple in their late sixties. Although he knew what mutual funds were, she informed me that they have owned mutual funds for over 40 years and nobody has ever fully explained them to her.

Step 3: Tell Them a Story

The final step to speak layman’s language is to tell or share a story. Clients and prospects alike connect with a great story because they understand your products and services better when they can relate it to something that is familiar to them. The following illustrates my point:

A mutual fund portfolio is like a grocery bag. When you go to the grocery store, you buy products that you know that are made by companies that you are familiar with such as Coca- Cola, Kellogg’s and General Electric. If you bought a piece of these companies you would be buying a stock.

When you go to check out of the grocery store, the bagger puts your products into a grocery bag. A mutual fund portfolio is grocery bag of stocks and/or bonds.

What I have done is created the grocery cart or a portfolio of six mutual funds that complement each other and are right for someone who is retired. Each grocery bag, or mutual fund, will have two hundred or more positions.

Can you see why having a portfolio of six mutual funds made up of over 1,200 positions will reduce your risk?

Connection, Not Correction

After I told the preceding story, my client thanked me for taking the time to explain and both saw the value in reducing their risk. The reason why they bought my recommendations was because I did not try and correct them, rather I tried to connect with them to help them do what was in their best interests.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

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3 Steps to Find Your Business Bearings and Go Beyond

It is not uncommon for most financial planners to not know where their business is heading at some point in their career. You be one of those planners just going through the motions of the day-by-day without any clarity about whether what you’re doing is helping your business reach its next level. However, you don’t want to become complacent and run your business to just get by.

The following is a step-by-step process to help you find your business bearings and go beyond where you are to where you want to be.

Step 1: Determine Where You are Right Now. Take an honest look at where you are in your business; are you happy with the assets you have under management, the types of clients you engage with and/or the products and services you provide? Does your business leave you fulfilled? If not, do what my client did to get his business bearings.

John P., a 15-year veteran planner client, recently realized that his real challenge wasn’t the lack of gross production he was having with his business but the lack of passion he had for his business. Somewhere along the way he had lost his purpose and it was important to redefine his purpose and reignite his passion.

Step 2: Create Your Business Vision. Create a vision of what your “ideal” business would look like. Write it down. Map it out. When you know what you want your business to become, you have a much higher probability of attaining it.

After further discussion, John shared that what motivated him to get into the business in the first place was the joy he experienced the day he helped his father understand how to choose the right asset allocation for his 401(k). Unfortunately, his father had been contributing to his company plan for ten years and never realized that he was in the most conservative mutual fund option possible—a money market fund—and as a result, he never saw any substantial growth in his portfolio.

John’s purpose was to help those who needed and wanted his help not by just selling them products but by educating them about what they should buy and why it would help them have a comfortable retirement. It was the fulfillment he got from changing his clients’ lives that fueled his passion to build his business. This became the new center of his business vision, to help as many people as he could.

Step 3: Create Your Course. Determine the best possible route to ensure that your vision becomes a reality. In other words, you can have the plan but you need actionable tasks and accountability to stick with it.

Over the years John had lost sight of his purpose and focused on trading stocks for a chosen few in order to continue living the lifestyle he’d grown accustomed to. Once he understood that incorporating financial planning and bringing in those who specialized in risk management and estate planning would help his clients gain a bigger impact towards their retirement goals, we mapped out a plan to increase his financial planning knowledge and how best to let his clients know that he was expanding the scope of his services.

Why Going Beyond is Important

He ended up telling his father’s story to his clients and many of them were very open to his new level of service. As a result, he was able to indeed effect larger and more significant outcomes than he had ever thought possible because he found financial planning, insurance and estate planning solutions to challenges he (and his clients) didn’t know they even had.

Schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session me by emailing emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

 

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

 

 

 

 


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Telling It Like It Is: What’s Your Truth?

Sometimes, it is just plain hard to see the truth—especially when we have a particularly difficult situation to confront. At times like these, everyone else seems to have 20/20 vision, while we may be blinded to what’s right in front of us.

In my experience, advisers are not immune to this difficulty, particularly when it comes to their business. Let’s take a look at some common scenarios I’ve seen over the years. As you read, I encourage you to ask yourself, does this sound like me?

The lingering practice. An adviser reaches a stage in his career where he is allowing his business to linger. It has gone beyond having a “lifestyle practice,” although those are the words he uses to describe it. The practice has been shrinking for years, the adviser has slacked off on staying up to date with industry developments and he has become sloppy in his interactions with clients. In fact, he has become quite lax in managing the business itself. Still, the adviser thinks he can continue down the same road, unable to see a reason to change.

The faux mentor. An adviser tells herself that she is acting as a mentor to an associate adviser. But what is she really doing? Simply providing a salary and a desk in the office. Of course, young advisers don’t learn by osmosis! They need face time with their mentors, as well as structured practice and feedback.

Business development (in)activity. An associate adviser believes he is actively pursuing business development. The reality, however, is that he is spending his time reading journals and perusing social media. There is no networking, no asking for meetings and no pursuit of new business. If questions about this lack of business activity come up? The adviser is quick to point out that he is busy servicing clients or analyzing the market.

Poor people management. A firm has high staff turnover, but the founder tells herself that this is due to a competitive marketplace, incompetent employees or poor hiring decisions. The core issue, however, is that the firm does not have strong people management practices in place. Performance reviews are given lip service, job descriptions do not exist and a culture of motivation is sorely lacking.

The flip side. Of course, “telling it like it is” may look quite different from the examples above. Plus, there is a flip side to consider: many advisers are (too) hard on themselves. For example, take the adviser who focuses only on the problems and all that is wrong. In fact, he is an excellent adviser to his clients, as well as an excellent CEO of his business. This, too, is a truth that should be acknowledged.

What’s Your Truth?

A hallmark of a good consultant is telling the truth. A hallmark of a great consultant is asking the questions that help you discover the truth for yourself. So, what are the hard truths you need to face? If you can’t find them, I encourage you to enlist the support of a great consultant to help you dig just a bit deeper.

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Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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Why Don’t People Work with You? Here Are 3 Reasons to Consider

Your firm offers a solution that people need.

So why don’t you have a line of people out your door, begging to work with you?

For one, people don’t know what you know—if they did, you could look out your window right now and see a crowd of people clamoring for your attention.

The job of good marketing is to communicate your value to people who would make excellent clients for your firm—and to do so in a way that resonates with them.

Pro tip: that might require that you talk more about your problem than your solution.

But let’s assume you’re already doing that. Let’s say your marketing does an excellent job of communicating the right message to the appropriate people at a time when they need what you offer.

Yet you still fail to get new clients in the door. What’s going on?

The Main Reasons Your Perfect Prospect Walks Away

There are countless reasons people make the decisions they do. Some are obvious and overt. Some are more subtle and harder to understand.

The first reason we, as the people making the offer, often jump to is, “people just don’t know about me yet.” Or we say, “people just don’t understand the value of what I’m offering yet.”

Those are easy. Sometimes it’s true. But many times, they’re more like excuses for yourself than reasons people don’t hire you.

If people just don’t know about you, go place advertisements in your local paper or pay to rank for important key terms like “financial planner in [your town],” or “fee-only CFP® for doctors.”

When people still don’t hire you, you can no longer say it’s because they aren’t aware you’re there for them.

When it comes to the financial planning industry, we need to dig deeper to find the main reasons people don’t work with your firm (even when it would be to their own benefit to hire you as their planner).

Here are some of the real reasons perfect prospects choose to walk away from your ideal solution for their needs.

They’re afraid of change. Going from the state of being that is called, “I don’t have a financial planner or a financial plan,” to “I have a financial planner and plan” requires a change. Some people get overwhelmed by that change.

It’s human nature to be afraid of change before you have to go through it. There’s a big unknown on the other side—even when that change is probably going to be good for you.

So we get stuck or refuse to take action, because we don’t want to deal with the discomfort of altering our current state of being.

When you market your firm, consider how you can make that change less scary. Usually, that means eliminating uncertainty and making it very, very clear what’s involved with the process.

They have a problem different from the one you’re trying to address. When you market your business, you need to understand what problems and challenges people have. Then you can offer a solution or provide relief.

The thing is, understanding the root of someone’s problem is really hard. It’s more art than science, and requires a little bit of research, a lot of empathy and a dash of guesswork.

As we discussed a few months ago, you can (and should!) ask your audience what they want from you. But you have to do that knowing people:

  • Might not know what they want.
  • Don’t want to tell you what they want.
  • Can’t articulate what they want.

In identifying someone’s problem—even when they explicitly tell you what the problem is—there is always room for error. You might misidentify the problem. You might misunderstand it and represent it the wrong way in your marketing.

As a result, your perfect prospect is going to walk away thinking, “this firm doesn’t understand my actual challenge.”

Always work to hone your message and your market research. Obsess over understanding your market and take consistent action to get deeper and more accurate insights on how they think.

They don’t trust you. When it comes to the financial industry, this is the reason of all reasons that a prospect won’t work with you. They just don’t trust you.

They don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart, they don’t trust that you’ll deliver on your promises, they don’t trust you can do what you say you can do… the list goes on.

It’s a very simple problem that can feel impossible to solve. It’s going to take time and a lot of effort—but you can win people’s trust before they work with you.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Always be authentic. Strive for transparency and full disclosure.
  • Use content to show people who you are (don’t just tell them). Share personal stories and experiences. Deliver that content as if you were sharing it with just one person (so be personable; don’t act like you’re delivering an address full of facts to a faceless crowd).
  • Make it easy for people to learn more about you and understand how you work before they have to commit.
  • Don’t carefully guard your processes, knowledge or ideas. Share them freely and distribute them widely. People who are open and generous with their knowledge attract far more paying clients than those who are mysterious, secretive and stingy.

If you’re struggling to get clients in the door, don’t just assume it’s a failure on the part of your target market—like a failure of being aware you exist or a failure to understand how fantastic your firm is.

Consider taking responsibility instead. Consider if one of these reasons might be the cause. Doing so will lead you to far more productive action than just shouting louder for attention, or arguing more aggressively to make your case that you’re better than the other guys.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Hawlk is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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You Need Proactive Risk Management

Picture this scenario: you find the perfect employee. You groom her and train her to be your right hand—the one person (other than you) you need to keep your practice running smoothly. Then some other company comes and woos her away, promising a bigger salary and a better career path.

She leaves and you’re scrambling. Nobody knows how to do her job. Your business slows down because you need to do her job and your job until you can find somebody else. Then when you do find somebody else, you have to take the time to train them.

That scenario presents a risk to your business.

Vanessa Oligino, director of business performance solutions at TD Ameritrade Institutional, in her October FPA Annual Conference presentation, “Securing Your Firm’s Future,” said addressing a situation like that before it happens is part of proactive risk management.

Oligino explained that proactive risk management is about protecting your brand, reputation and future. Part of that proactive risk management is ensuring the continuity of your business in the event of a change to your team.

Oligino provided tips to attendees to ensure that your greatest asset—your team—is engaged and solid in case of blips like this.

Have ongoing communication. This will help you know what’s going on with your key employees. Are they feeling unhappy? Are they feeling stuck or like you’re not giving them enough challenging work? Is their work/life balance off? Are they burning out? Does the career trajectory you offer them match what they’re looking for? Are you paying them enough? Offering attractive benefits?

Have a plan. Have a plan for major “in case” scenarios such as: if an employee commits fraud; if there’s a natural disaster; if you make a bad hire; or if a key employee leaves. Oligino gave the example of the protégé you trained who is the only one who knows how to do her job. She recommended having something similar to understudies to each key role in case they leave, there will at least be one other person who is able to do their job.

Stay up-to-date with compliance and legal requirements. Make it a priority to update your employee handbook. Ensure you’re up-to-date when it comes to compliance issues and conduct annual compliance training.

Verify, verify and verify again. Ensure your employees are verifying that the senders of emails they’re exchanging with clients are, in fact, being sent by the clients. In more than one session at FPA Annual Conference, presenters talked of planners “verifying” information via email because the sender knew information only the client would know only to be the victim of fraud.

“Prioritize making progress on areas of vulnerability,” Oligino said. “There is no risk to your business that is safe to ignore.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.

 


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5 Steps to Run Your Business with Positive Intention

Years ago, when I was a rookie, I was running out to an appointment with a client I was hoping to close, when a colleague wished me good luck. My immediate response was, “Thanks, but he’ll probably have to think about it.” My peer replied, “You’re right—if you go into the meeting with that intention.”

On the ride to the appointment I thought about what my co-worker had said and realized that I needed to run my business by going into each phone call and every appointment with a vision of a successful outcome rather than with my existing, less enthusiastic mindset. I quickly changed my focus—which had been negative—and instead worked on how to handle any possible objections that might arise during the appointment.

The result was one of the smoothest presentations (and closes) I’d ever experienced. Afterward, I made the connection: the reason my meeting went so well wasn’t because my change in focus was attracting success but because I went into the appointment expecting success.

The following are the steps I’ve used in many situations, in business and life, to increase my probability of success. Apply these steps and watch how your business and life can transform for the better.

Step 1: Believe in the outcome you want. When I look back at the aforementioned story, I realize now (20 years later) that although I knew I wanted to close that prospect, I didn’t believe that I would. Knowing what outcome you want and believing in your ability to achieve that outcome can be two entirely different thought processes. That’s why it’s so important to address any doubts you have by asking yourself, “What is the evidence that this is true?” And, in my case the follow-up question was simply, “Have I ever closed a prospect before? If I’ve done it once I can do it a thousand times more.” By questioning a negative belief system you are in fact decreasing its validity and increasing your own belief in yourself.

 Step 2: Know where you are now. On the ride to that particular appointment I had a revelation that I needed to run my business with intention. Up to that point I’d actually run my business by winging it. Believe me, I’ve coached hundreds of financial advisers and insurance agents since 2004 and one thing I learned early on is that winging it doesn’t work. That is why you need to get crystal clear on where you are now and where you desire to be. In other words, what have you been doing that has been preventing you from reaching your full potential?

For me, it was taking the time to prepare recommendations while neglecting to prepare for the presentation and any objections.

Step 3: Decide what to do and do it. That appointment was a turning point in my career because I realized that people don’t want to be corrected, they want to be connected. In other words, people don’t like to be told they have been doing something wrong with their investment strategy but they do what to know that you care about them and that you have their best interest at heart. In order to show them that, you need to ask questions to help prospects see that they have a challenge (if they do) and to realize that you have the solution.

So, I decided that I would focus on having a process for my presentations, ask better questions and lead them down a path to understand what value I could offer them.

Step 4: Prepare for possible pushbacks. In business, as well as life, we’re all faced with the possibility of pushbacks, those unforeseen obstacles that prevent us from reaching our desired results. In the case of presenting the prospect with recommendations, it’s highly likely that they will have objections. That’s why I decided to study a process (and actually develop a system) to handle any type of objection. When you prepare for possible pushback, you increase your likelihood of success because you are ready for the inevitable obstacles.

Step 5: Evaluate the process. A simple barometer for understanding how well your process is working is to observe the results you’re seeing (or not seeing). If you’re obtaining your desired results, than keep doing what you are doing, but if not it’s time to go back to the beginning and start over at step one.

Why Positive Intentions Work

The more often you go into any situation with an intentional, positive attitude and a plan, the more likely that it will become a habit. If you begin each interaction knowing what you want to happen, believe in the outcome and prepare your dialogue for inevitable objections and you will no doubt increase your probability for success. The reason why running your business with positive intentions works is because it’s the antithesis of “winging it” or leaving your business up to chance. Instead, expect success by preparing to succeed.

Schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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5 Ways to Connect at a Conference

With the Financial Planning Association’s Annual Conference coming up in a few days at Music City Center in Nashville, it might be helpful to brush up on some tips for successful communication.

Chances are this isn’t your first rodeo, but for the first-timers, students, interns and the socially anxious among us, tips we recently gleaned from reading How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes, could come in handy, both during one-on-one meetings at the upcoming conference and with your clients.

While we won’t recap all 92 tricks, we can boil it down to the top five recurring themes in Lowndes’ book. These might seem like no-brainers, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher.

1.) Use smiles, eye contact to convey genuine interest: Lowndes introduces what she calls the “flooding smile technique”—don’t automatically smile the same bright smile for everybody. In fact, don’t smile automatically at first when you meet somebody, wait a split second and then have a “flooding smile” that makes the person you are talking to feel you are the smile is unique for them.

2.) Use good posture and fidgeting to convey confidence: Maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking until they are finished. Lowndes calls this “sticky eyes.” When you must look away, try to do it slowly. This will convey your genuine interest.

Standing up tall will make you seem confident and limiting fidgeting (messing with your hair, touching your face, etc.) makes you seem more trustworthy.

3.) Match the mood, actions and tone of voice of the person you’re talking to. If you want to connect with somebody, it is helpful to match them on several levels. If they are rushing to a session, don’t stop them and launch into a long story. If you have impeccable manners and always hold your tea cup with one pinky out while your opposite hand holds the saucer, but the speaker doesn’t, match the way they do things to make them feel comfortable. Echoing their tone of voice is another way to make them feel more comfortable.

4.) Be specific. You are guaranteed to get two questions when you meet new people—where are you from and what do you do. Lowndes writes that you should never have a “naked” response to these standard questions. For example, she says that when somebody asks you where you are from, you shouldn’t simply say your city, add a unique fact about your city. Be specific about what type of financial planning you do or why your practice is named what it’s named (if there’s an interesting story there).

Also, if you’re thanking somebody, tell them why. For example, if you’re chatting up a presenter, tell them, “Thank you—your session gave me some great takeaways for my practice.”

5.) Be inquisitive, interested and curious. People like to talk about themselves and if you want to make a connection, ask lots of questions and encourage them to keep talking. Learn about them and don’t just “umm” along—build off what they are saying and ask them questions. Also, remember what they say, that way when you are in a group, you can introduce that person to the others and encourage them to tell a story they’ve told to you.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you make great connections at conference. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Nashville!

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.