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The Three-Step Formula for Business Fearlessness

In the financial services industry, advisers are surrounded by clients’ fears—fear of the market going down, fear of the economy not recovering and/or fear of making the right investment decisions, just to name a few. For some advisers, handling clients’ fears can feel like a daunting task while for others it’s all in a day’s work. For the latter, the formula for managing fear is increasing knowledge.

If this has happened to you, take comfort in knowing that your clients hired you because they like you, trust you and believe that you have their best interests at heart. Prove your clients right by believing in yourself, in your integrity, your honesty and your commitment to helping them. When you focus on things that you can control, you harness the power of belief.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he said, “Knowledge is the antidote to fear.”

So how can you face your fears, increase your knowledge and be the adviser that your clients want you to be?

Let’s take a look at a step-by-step approach for building up your “business fearlessness.”

Step 1: Acknowledge Your Current Business Concerns

The first step is to get completely honest with yourself by asking, “What am I most concerned about in this business?” Sit with the question for as long as it takes until you find a truthful answer. Next, ask, “What do I need to know in order to overcome this concern?” and “Who has the information that can help me?”

Take Michael S., a veteran financial adviser with five years of experience who had noticed he was holding himself back from working with higher net-worth clients. After he asked himself these types of questions he realized that he didn’t feel qualified to help them because he hadn’t done enough research on what product and services this niche demographic would be interested in much less had done some inquiry to confirm what issues/concerns they might have. Thus, he had spent five years building a business of hundreds of clients with very little in investable assets.

Step 2: Become the Expert

The next step is to do the research and make some calls to find out who could assist you in your desire to work with a new demographic. I have found that the best way to become an expert is to find a mentor in the office who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish.

I recommended to Michael that he make a list of the most successful advisers that he knew (in his office or elsewhere) that work with high net-worth clients. Then, approach the one person who he felt closest to and ask if he could take that person to lunch or for coffee to understand more about how he/she had grown their business. Take notes about their process and research all the types of products and services they mention. Michael did this and was ready for the next step. 

Step 3: Be the Message

The final step is get your message heard! It’s one thing to know what to do but it’s another to be doing it. That’s why you need to take deliberate action steps.

Once Michael got direction from a mentor in the office, we mapped out what to say to potential clients, how to frame it, how to handle objections, what the first appointment process as well as the second appointment process. We did all of this before he ever picked up the phone to make his first prospecting call. As a result of his due diligence and efforts, within weeks he had built a huge pipeline of qualified prospects and now has a thriving practice.

Why Being a Wealth of Knowledge Works

The foundation for making any sound recommendation is based in the amount of information or knowledge that you have for your clients. The more informed you are, the more confident you will be when sharing those recommendations. Clients need, want and deserve a well-informed financial adviser. So the next time you find yourself with fearful clients or faced with fears yourself, take the time to query the reasons for your decisions, support them with facts then share this insight with your clients and watch their fears (and subsequently yours) subside.

If this blog resonates with you and you would like to have a free consultation with me to see if professional coaching is a fit for you, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions at melissa@advisersolutionsinc.com.

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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Creating and Delivering the Ultimate Team Experience

Client and employee retention are both vital to business longevity and are completely tied together. To retain clients, we must consistently deliver the ultimate client experience; but to achieve that end, planning firms must first be delivering the ultimate team experience. Employers who demonstrate a remarkable team experience tend to retain more engaged, loyal and productive associates who deliver phenomenal service to clients. Let’s review the key ingredients of the Team Experience.

1) Communication. Every financial planning practice should have a formalized team communication plan. This plan should include in-person team meetings (both tactical and strategic); and electronic communication, such as standards for how you use email, your CRM and team calendar. Team members need to have a voice in the practice and that they can approach any co-worker with ideas and feedback. When internal communication falters, errors increase, as does employee stress and dissatisfaction. Both the people and the business experience a negative impact. Fundamentally team members need to:

  • Proactively receive information in the business and feel in-the-loop
  • Freely deliver communication and know their voice is heard

2) Appreciation. Relationships, whether personal or professional, are a two-way street; gratitude needs to be prevalent for both parties to feel they are valued. Appreciation goes well beyond paychecks. Many studies have shown that workers are more likely to stay with a company if they feel a sense of purpose and are recognize for their contributions.

Similar to client appreciation, we recommend customizing your associate rewards and recognition. For instance, giving a gift certificate is nice but giving one to their favorite restaurant or store is much more appreciated. Getting to know your team members personally will be critical to customization. Understanding public or private acknowledgement preferences are vital to making an impact.

3) Environment. The surroundings you provide are essential to your employees’ experience. Designated parking spaces, decorating a cubicle/office, breakroom amenities, themed lunches, incorporating family members in events and simply celebrating life successes can all affect the team morale. Likewise, the culture of your practice can positively or negatively impact the environment. Hostility is often bred when problems aren’t appropriately addressed or good times recognized. When walking around your office, consider what you see and hear—do you sense tension and resentment or comradery and respect? A professional but fun and flexible work environment where growth, learning and productivity can be all in balance and will lead to employee retention.

Why not begin by evaluating the entirety of your current team experience. What are you offering your employees now in communication, appreciation and environment? How would you AND your associates score each element? With that information, begin to brainstorm ideas to further enhance your firm’s team experience. Remember, delivering client service with a smile can’t be faked. Commit to your team and the returns will be immense to you and your clients.

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Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions.

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The Essential Ingredient to Success: The Team Communication Plan

In our Know Service book, we show how to create a client communication plan that leads to loyal clients. Clients expect constant communication from their financial professional to make sure that they are on track with meeting their goals and that you are doing your job. Teams are no different. Whether your team is made up of two or ten individuals, a team communication plan engages staff and is vital to the success of your business. As the leader of the business, you must articulate the vision for the enterprise, keep team members focused on the right results and solicit their feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Team Communication Plan: The Why?

Consistent, ongoing and intentional team communication provides many benefits, including the following:

  • It ensures that all team members are on the same page and understand the current state of the business in regard to its goals.
  • It provides an opportunity for the professionals and staff to share the client relationship responsibilities.
  • It minimizes the frustrations and disconnected feelings that individuals may have, and it strengthens the cohesiveness of the team.
  • It gives all team members the knowledge and comfort level to exchange ideas, challenges and solutions.
  • It ensures that you build regular review or evaluation time into your team’s business plan.
  • It helps your business plan become an action-based document that includes everyone’s participation rather than being a dust-gatherer.
  • It helps uncover challenges before they become major problems that can weigh the business down.
  • It increases everyone’s accountability and reminds you of how important it is to reward yourselves and celebrate successes when you reach certain benchmarks.
  • It helps you know when the team needs to make changes.
  • It helps you stick to a disciplined approach, but allows for flexibility and adaptations when needed.

When team communication begins to fall apart, many challenges ensue. Efficiencies decrease and errors increase, which can lead to a stressful environment where team members are disengaged.

Team communication is the foundation for the success of your overall goals. So, ask yourself, do you have and consistently execute a team communication plan? Below we provide some ideas to help you personalize a team communication plan for your business.

Team Communication Plan: The Basics

Depending on the size of your team, the style of your business and the length of time that you have worked together, each team communication plan will vary. There is no single one-size-fits-all solution; you need to create a plan that is customized to your practice and needs. Although each team communication plan will be different, be sure to include discussion around the following critical elements:

  • In-person and electronic team communication
  • Frequency
  • Location
  • Attendance and participation
  • Purpose
  • Agenda
  • Priority system
  • Action Plan and follow-up process

In-person communication. As you develop your team’s communication plan, you should consider both in-person communications as well as electronic communication. In-person team meetings should begin with a purpose—what are you trying to accomplish? Obviously, the purpose, or focus, of the meeting is different based on the type of meeting. Monthly and quarterly meetings are often more strategic in nature and project-driven, whereas daily huddles and weekly meetings are more tactical in nature and task-driven. Additionally, if you are on a larger team with several professionals/planners and many support members, you may want to establish additional meetings based on function (sales meeting, administrative meeting, investment management meeting or marketing meeting). To ensure successful and productive communication, make sure that your in-person gatherings are laser-focused so you don’t end up having meetings just for the sake of having meetings and wasting everyone’s precious time. Also, consistency is vital to effective team meetings. For example, if a weekly team meeting is established for Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to noon, then, unless it is an absolute emergency, no team member should schedule anything during that time frame.

Communication involves talking, listening, tone and body language (or non-verbals). For communication to be effective, all elements must be in alignment. Every team member must have a voice to share thoughts and ideas. Every team member must know when to be quiet and just listen. The tone in the delivery is critical to the right message being conveyed. The words you use will become irrelevant if the tone that you utilize is inappropriate. Remember that every message must be delivered with respect for each other and the team as a whole. Non-verbals are also critical to effective communication. Eye contact, crossed arms, facial expressions, etc., can all influence whether the communication is effective or not. The bottom line is, what you say and how you say it in words, tone and body language are vital to the RIGHT message being delivered.

Ownership and agendas. Each meeting should be owned by an individual team member. This helps maintain consistency and organization. Similar to client meetings, we recommend that each team meeting be agenda-driven. This helps ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that all team members stay knowledgeable about specific project updates. Although one member of the team should have ownership, obviously all team members can provide agenda items. Some items will be constant and remain on the agenda, while others will come and go depending on what the firm is working on (such as special projects or implementing new initiatives).

february (2).pngUnderstanding priorities. One of the most frequent communication challenges that we see in our consulting is the lack of understanding of priorities within the practice. So much can change on any given day that support members end up with 15 items on their desk that they believe are all critical based on the adviser’s communication. They then become frustrated because they know that there is little chance of accomplishing all 15 in any given day. We recommend coming up with a simple system to ensure that all team members know what the real priorities are at all times. For example, using three simple words with defined and understood meanings can help clarify priority status. You might choose words such as urgent, important and low to represent the priority, or colors such as red, orange and green to help communicate to team members the importance of tasks or projects. Often, it helps to include a specific date or time with these words. For example: Low: Tuesday, January 26th by noon.

Electronic communications. With the increasing complexity of our industry, the varied responsibilities that we have each day in our rapidly changing world, and the need to conduct client and prospect meetings out of the office, it’s critical to include how you and your team members will communicate when you are not together in the office. Electronic communication has become a necessary element for all. For most, using a networked contact management system and calendar for all team members must be a foundational element of your business. Having multiple calendars and different systems to capture notes on tasks and strategies will waste time and create confusion among team members. Once you have decided on your medium for electronic communication, implementation should happen daily.

Each member of the team should update the contact management system as activities are completed or new ones are assigned. All team members should be expected to put daily prospect and client updates in the contact management system, and new tasks should be assigned as appropriate with priority requests as specified above. If this doesn’t happen, then you must find a way to make it happen. Some teams utilize dictation services or even hire someone with the sole responsibility of inputting client notes and tasks in their contact management system. Knowledge is only valuable if it is shared with others and subsequently used, so please be sure to seek out a solution for this area of your practice.

Engaged team members need to know how they influence the success of the business..pngPeople are the most important element of your business, and a lack of good communication is the number one reason that problems occur in your relationships. A consistent team communication plan can make a difference to both the revenue and efficiency areas of your practice; the plan can even mean the difference between team member retention and departure. It is so easy to get caught up in daily activities and distractions and become reactive to your day, thereby allowing outside elements to take control. Creating and consistently executing a team communication plan ensures that all members of the team understand their value to the business and how they impact its success. Engaged team members need to know how they influence the success of the business. The ideas provided in this article are intended to help you get started, but obviously, you need to design your own plan based on your team structure and your team goals. Don’t ignore this essential ingredient to success.

Editor’s note: See more from Sarah Dale and Krista Sheets on team development in the new FPA Coaches Corner, a resource for FPA members that serves as a hub for content, tools and resources from recognized business coaches in the profession to help members realize their vision of success.  

 

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Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions.


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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.