Leave a comment

Creating a Childlike Curiosity

We have all heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat,” that implies it is better to mind your own business. However, as advisers/agents do we truly believe that that is the best course of action to make a connection?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us think we ask a lot of questions. Unfortunately, I’ve found that many of the questions that we ask are merely designed to uncover facts and not to truly understand the prospect or client’s situation and how they feel about it.

Young children have a genuine and innate curiosity when they want to get to know someone and they seem to have no problem asking a multitude of questions. Let’s take a look at how this type of curiosity can benefit you and your prospects/clients.

Gives you time to think. During one of my group coaching critic sessions, in which we role-play with our group members as if they were on the phone with prospects, I noticed that one adviser used what I call a “curiosity question.” It was, “That’s interesting could you tell me more about that?” This was in response to a prospect who gave him an objection about how he didn’t like to use certain investment products and thus wasn’t interested in setting up a meeting. After using his curiosity question, his prospect relaxed, opened up and ended up telling a story about his investment experience. This gave the adviser more time to think about what direction he wanted to turn the conversation.

Uncovers important information. The prospect revealed some interesting information about his concerns regarding a financial adviser he had worked with because years ago that adviser put him into a product that he perceived as expensive and it had lost him money when he was told that it was safe. As a result, he felt that he was misled and that consequently all advisers would mislead him. This helped my adviser client truly understand that his prospect’s real objection was trust and not about a specific product at all.

Shows that you care. After listening to the real objection about trust, the adviser acknowledged what he had heard by summarizing how it must have made the prospect feel. “That sounds frustrating, was it,” he posed. The prospect quickly shared with him how frustrated he was and the adviser in turn showed he cared by being even more curious and asking, “Why is that? Why do you think some advisers don’t take the time to fully explain their recommendations?”

Creates a connection. By now the adviser was creating a connection because he was open to getting to know the prospect and the prospect was connecting because he felt that he was being heard.

After a lengthy conversation the adviser inquired, “I’m kind of curious, if we met and I did give you a second opinion on the investments you own, would you be open to speaking with a couple of my clients to hear what type of experience they have had working with me? It’s free and maybe it would help you see that all advisers are not alike.” It didn’t take long for the prospect to simply reply, “Yes, I would like that.”

Why Childlike Curiosity Works
It’s no secret that people want to be heard. The reason that childlike curiosity works is because when you truly exude through your choice of words and tone that you care, prospects are more open to telling you a lot more about themselves. Everyone has a story, so get genuinely curious and find out what it is.

If you are ready to learn this and other valuable techniques for connecting with prospects and clients, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing, to schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session.

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


Leave a comment

Winning the Inner Game of Business

Successful team athletes know that they face two opponents in every game: the other team and an inner opponent—the little voice in their head. Similarly, successful financial advisers know that most sales are won from the inside out, as growing a business is really about having a strong mental skillset to create and then maintain steady successes.

Joe, a financial adviser with 15 years of experience, is a current coaching client of mine. When he initially contacted me to discuss his challenges I quickly realized that this was a man whose inner opponent was clearly defeating him. So I explained that the solution was to increase his mental skillset for winning his Inner Game of Business. Once he could master that, he would be back at the top of his game. Let’s take a look at how he (and you) can make a comeback.

I was curious to know more about Joe and the evolution of his business to get a better idea of his situation, so I simply asked him to share what happened during the first five-year period of his career.

He explained to me that in his first five years he was consistently having record years. As a result, he loved the business and had a positive attitude toward his future. He went on to say that his business plateaued from years six through 10 and he later realized that it was because he was comfortable and complacent. Unfortunately, that resulted in a decrease in his business each year for the past several years until he found himself doubting whether he should continue on or move into another career field altogether.

I commented that typically when a professional athlete is in a mental slump they don’t throw in the towel but instead they may seek out a sports psychologist who would work with them on what’s known as a performance pyramid, which has three levels to sharpen metal skillsets. Below are three tips to win against your inner opponent.

1.) Increase your basic mental skillsets: Sometimes the hardest thing for anyone to do to make a comeback is to accept that they need to get back to the basics. In other words, a professional football player doesn’t want to be told how to hold a football properly. Similarly, advisers in a slump don’t want to be told to change their attitude toward prospecting.

However, the first level of the performance pyramid is about rebuilding a strong mental foundation by focusing on essential mental skillsets such as having a positive attitude, finding motivation, setting goals, establishing accountability, making a commitment and increasing communication. Joe needed to get back to the basics in order to get his head back in the game. So we clearly defined what successful outcomes would look like for each of the aforementioned mental skillsets and then we went to work on putting a plan into action.

2.) Increase your preparatory skills: It didn’t take long for Joe to start feeling better about himself. I decided we needed to go to the next level by sharpening his preparatory skills, the mental skillsets that athletes use immediately before they perform. Examples of that would be a professional golfer taking practice swings or a professional basketball player taking easy shots. The two most important activities at this tier are positive self-talk and mental imagery. For a financial adviser, that may include telling yourself you will get the new client and mentally picturing the prospect signing the paperwork.

Joe quickly embraced the process but was admittedly amazed at how taking five minutes before a meeting with a prospect made him feel much more confident.

3.) Increase your performance skills: The third level of the performance pyramid focuses on what an athlete (or in Joe’s case an adviser) does during the big game. Joe’s “big game” happened when he had a second meeting with a million-dollar referral. To help him close I explained that there are three ways to increase performance skills: focus on managing anxiety, emotions and concentration. In order for Joe to accomplish this, I knew he needed to not only prepare for the appointment but to role play every step of it so that he was conditioned to successfully close!

The Final Score
Joe went into the meeting with a new level of confidence. He was focused, calm and genuinely excited to help the prospect. He asked the right types of questions, made a great connection and effortlessly closed.

The next time you step onto your business playing field, be sure to tap your inner game by preparing for it and sharpening your mental skillsets. That way you are on the road heading toward victory.

If this blog post has resonated with you and you are struggling with your inner opponent, take the next step and email me at dan@advisorsolutionsinc.com to discuss what to change first.

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


2 Comments

9 Things Clients Need to Know about an Adviser

In my last blog, I focused on the importance of having a service plan for those investors seeking a shared decision-making advisory relationship. Winning in this market segment requires a clearly articulated presentation.

However, beyond the now-common “elevator pitch” and “value proposition” summaries every marketing guidebook or consultant mandates, the fact is, investors looking for a new advisory relationship will want much more before making a decision—it’s called due diligence.

Most individuals will not have a clearly articulated process, but all want to reflect on their decision and know that they made a good choice. This is not just for the basic satisfaction of a well-made decision, but there’s real economic and emotional value at hand. An adviser that encourages scrutiny shows confidence and transparency, two characteristics central to a trusted advisory relationship (note: for a discussion about making this scrutiny visible to your market, see “Removing Purchase Obstacles to Valuable Benefits”).

Making Business Personal
Whether a formal or informal process, there are nine key messages that every prospect must know about an adviser. Unlike an institutional due diligence process that emphasizes sterile facts, an adviser personalizes these to not only reach the prospect’s mind but also the heart. Both must exist for a professional relationship to flourish.

1.) The Key Benefits Clients Receive: This goes beyond the service listing often found in standard value propositions to personalizing the importance of each benefit (see “Clients Buy Benefits Not Features”).

Example: “When my clients see their needs and aspirations carefully marked as milestones in the wealth plan, a real sense of financial purpose takes over.”

2.) Pricing Services: Clients’ value a fiduciary’s watchful eye over increasing complexity and uncertainty, and this must translate into an appreciation for relationship pricing such as a retainer or fee on AUM, compared to a commission approach that is inherently transactional.

Example: “We only work for your best interests, and this isn’t something that is turned on or off but rather is a constant, and that’s why we price our services in a bundled fee for the wealth we oversee.”

3.) Services Have Value: Services deliver financial or emotional benefits, and a specific example brings tangibility.

Example: “Our retirement income planning ensures that the income you receive is done so efficiently. Recently, we increased a client’s monthly income by XX percent through improved tax efficiency.”

4.) Your Service Practices: Move beyond the overused term “relationship” to how a client actually experiences the delivered services.

Example: “It’s important that we get to know you and your family. Then, when we have our meetings, you’ll see how our services directly connect to what’s on your heart and mind.”

5.) Why You’re an Adviser: Your advisory business is a service business delivered by a server. It takes a certain personality willing to serve, and the energy source for this is an adviser’s passion.

Example: “My family struggled with financial anxiety and my heart still aches for the burden it caused. I became an adviser to bring peace of mind to my clients.

6.) Your Community Involvement: Your advisory business is a people business, and this is best illustrated in community involvement.

Example: “My family took root in this community back in [year], and we are involved in X, Y and Z. This involvement gives us a deep appreciation for what it means to be a true neighbor and, since many of our clients are local too, we connect on many professional and personal levels.”

7.) Your Credentials: More than listing specific charters, list needs-based expertise.

Example: “My expertise sits right in the center of what you need in identifying a retirement-income plan. I’ve developed similar plans for XX of our clients, so it’s rare that an issue comes up that I haven’t already encountered.”

8.) How You Built Your Company: Knowing why an advisory firm started tells a lot about the adviser.

Example: “It was important to me that my business dedicate itself to specific wealth needs instead of being diluted as would be the case in a larger firm.”

9.) Your Business’s Objectives: An advisory firm is usually a community-based business.

Example: “We’re a small business in town and when our clients achieve financial, social and emotional success, the whole community benefits.”

Messaging to Win
Clients who understand an adviser’s relatable characteristics easily can paraphrase them to others. When a client speaks in this way, he or she not only offers the adviser an important due diligence reference, but the adviser’s characteristics become further internalized.

Kirk Loury

 

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


Leave a comment

3 Tips to Incorporate Health Into the Financial Planning Discussion

untitled-6078

Carolyn McClanahan presenting at FPA BE Baltimore 2016

When a client who Carolyn McClanahan thought was 70 walked into her office, the woman told her she hadn’t been to a doctor in decades.

“Why are you coming in to see me now,” McClanahan, MD, CFP® asked.

The woman, who was actually 98, wanted to participate in her weekly tradition of acting out a play with her friends and needed a doctor to cut a thick toenail so she could fit in her fancy shoes.

When it comes to clients’ health, it runs the gamut from people like the 98-year-old recreational actress to chain-smoking overweight clients to vegan yoga practitioners. McClanahan said it is a good idea to incorporate discussing health into your practice to help your clients save money on insurance rates and overall health care spending.

“People are more comfortable talking about their health than they are about their money,” McClanahan said.

Regardless if your client has health issues, start with Livingto100.com, which helps project people’s longevity so you can do better planning.

McClanahan says incorporating health care into the discussion has three components: getting a health history, finding out what your clients’ health care mindset is and discussing advance directive planning. McClanahan offers the following tips to apply to discussing health with your clients:

The health history: start with open-ended questions. To get a better sense of your client’s health history, ask them an open-ended question. A good one is, “Tell me what you do to take care of your health.”

With that question, McClanahan said, people will tell you all you need to know. If your clients are overweight or they smoke, you can encourage them to get a little healthier before they start shopping for insurance and taking physicals. The cost-savings of doing so are “astronomical,” she said.

A basic health history includes the client’s body mass index, height, weight, smoking status, their exercise habits, whether they use drugs or alcohol, what medical problems they may have and their family history.

The health care mindset: figure out their attitude. Do they go to the doctor for everything? Do they go to the doctor only if they’re really sick? Figure these things out then figure out what it their projected cost of care will be over time based on these habits. Also encourage healthy clients to keep working.

Encourage all your clients, no matter their age, to have advanced directives. Simply having an advance directive can save your clients money. Have them map out their medical decisions now that they are healthy and ensure they have been shared with family members and health care professionals.

To see the slides from McClanahan’s FPA BE 2016 presentation, click here.

AnaHeadshot

 

Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

 

 


3 Comments

4 Tips to Help Grieving Clients

Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, was a 25-year-old with a 7-month-old baby when her husband John kissed her good-bye for the last time to go on a business trip.

A car hit his car and John died instantly.

Florian was devastated. She had money from a life insurance policy she needed to invest so she sought out a financial adviser. He did right by her in terms of investing her money well, but he just didn’t understand what she was going through. He sometimes made her feel like a number in a portfolio rather than a whole person.

“I stayed with him for some time because it was clear he knew how to invest my money,” Florian explained. But then she switched. She found a planner who made her feel more comfortable.

Widows oftentimes feel uncomfortable with financial planners as shown in the fact that more than 70 percent switch advisers after their husband’s death. It’s helpful for your clients for you have the skills to help them deal with their grief.

Helping Them Through
Baby boomers are getting older.

“We had a baby boom,” Florian said. “We’re in for a death boom and we’re not prepared.”

You are going to have to deal with your client’s grief at that first appointment with them after their partner dies. It’s going to be difficult.

“It’s awkward,” Florian explained. “It’s uncomfortable.”

But with these helpful grief support tips, you will help your clients. It is important, Florian said, to note that grief happens whenever there is a transition, whether it’s death or moving to a new city.

Ask open-ended, invitational questions. Some examples include: What happened? Who was with you? How did you find out? Then after a few months have passed: Last time we talked you said you felt a certain way, do you still feel that way now? Grieving people want somebody who will listen.

Stay away from the standard responses, “I’m sorry,” or “I know what you’re going through.”

Know that there are two main styles of grief: instrumental grievers, who focus more on their heads (things like logistics and specific events); and intuitive grievers, who focus more on their heart (the experience of everything, what they are feeling).

Have boxes of tissues everywhere, but never hand them a box of tissues when they are crying as doing so will send the message that you are making them uncomfortable and you want them to stop. Say, “You could use any of these tissues if you’d like, it’s up to you.”

Let them know that your office is a safe space and that they can cry. Encourage them to feel their grief, because that is the truly strong thing to do.

Have them write down their fears. Ask them what’s the worst thing they can imagine happening to them right now and have them write it down. Studies show that when you write down fears, you take away their power.

“I’m teaching you to do the right thing for your client,” Florian said. “It’s what we all should be doing, we just haven’t been taught.”

AnaHeadshot

 

Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

 


Leave a comment

The Value of Vulnerability

Over the past two years, I have had the pleasure of working with a very successful team of financial advisers. As their success has increased so has the amount of advisers that were added to their team. Currently they have nine team members.

Each week we focus on a specific exercise to increase their sales skills that I have designed for their weekly coaching session. The advisers learn the exercise, role play it and I, along with the two principal partners, would critique them. We continue to utilize the same exercise for weeks or even months (if need be) until each team member can do it seamlessly.

During a recent team coaching session, one of the principal partners told the group that they were not making a good connection during their role plays because they were not opening up and sharing their feelings about the subject at hand. In other words, they were not allowing themselves to be vulnerable. He went on to say that the value of vulnerability is that the prospect makes the realization that you have been in their shoes; consequently, in many cases, you are then able to make a connection.

The following is a simplified step-by-step process in finding the value to be vulnerable.

Ask Great Questions: Once you determine that the subject you are talking about is something that is very important to the prospect, it’s time to ask additional questions to uncover how they feel about the subject. Try something as simple as this:

Adviser: “What concerns you most about losing money now that you are retired?”

Uncover the Prospect’s Story and Feelings: At this point, it is important to listen, acknowledge what you heard and ask more questions so you can uncover the prospect’s story and feelings. Here is an example:

Prospect: “Well, I don’t really want to lose anything. In fact, I’m not sure what I would do if I did lose some of my retirement investments.”

Adviser: “I completely understand, but how do you think you’d feel if we had another 2008 and your current portfolio reacted like your portfolio did back then?”

Make a Connection: Next, we need to make a strong connection by talking genuinely about how you feel about the subject.

Prospect: “I would feel sick! I wouldn’t know what to do if I lost 20, 30 or 40 percent of my money. I lost a lot of money back then and it took years to get it back.”

Adviser: “I would feel sick too!”

Get Vulnerable: At this point, you need to explain why you feel this way by telling the prospect what you have experienced in the past. Here is a brief example:

Adviser: “My dad retired in late 2007 and I asked him the same type of question that I asked you about how he would feel if he lost money. He said he wouldn’t be able to handle even a 10 percent loss. Since I knew the market had had a great bull run, I recommended that we get very conservative and reposition a good percentage of his assets into something that wasn’t tethered to the market. We did that and he missed the bear years.”

Ask for the Order: In this example, if the prospect is giving you indications that they can relate by smiling, nodding or agreeing that you did the right thing! Try this close:

Adviser: “We have had a seven-year bull market; how would it help you most if we at least take a look at some alternative strategies so we reduce your risk to the stock market?”

Prospect: “I think that would give me some peace of mind. Let’s do that.”

Why Genuine Vulnerability Works
As the saying goes, “It’s simple but it’s not easy.” The “simple” part is opening up and telling the prospect what you or someone you know has experienced around the subject matter. The “not easy” part is having that topic be something that you genuinely care about. In other words, if it’s not from the heart, you are not going to make a connection. Conversely, genuine vulnerability works because you are discussing something that is important to you and if it’s also important to them then you have the foundation to form that connection.

If you want to learn more about the value of vulnerability, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with Dan Finley of Advisor Solutions by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

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


Leave a comment

5 Steps to the Agreement Close

Have you ever noticed that one of the most amazing moments is when one of your prospects comes to the conclusion that they want to buy? What a terrific feeling to know that they are in agreement that your recommendations are the solutions to their financial challenges.

At some point in your career you will realize that prospects and clients alike enjoy talking about themselves. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a subject that they are very familiar with. During these moments of revelation, you may make a realization that they have a real challenge and that you have the solution. However, just telling them this is not an effective strategy to making a good connection.

A method that may be helpful to close a sale or secure setting an appointment is one I call “The Agreement Close.” In order to utilize this tactic, you must know the steps to get a prospect to that point by using the following steps:

1. The Prospect’s Key Closing Phrase: One of the most important things to remember when using The Agreement Close is to know when to begin. The prospect will unknowingly tell you when that is by making a statement or using a phrase that indicates they are a little lost, frustrated or unsure about something you know you can help them with. The following is an example:

Prospect: “I’m not really sure how I’m doing with my portfolio.

2. Empathy/ Acknowledgement: At this point, just taking the time to empathize or even acknowledging what they said can go a long way in building a connection because it helps the prospect know that you truly and genuinely understand. Try something as simple as this:

Adviser: “I completely understand; most people don’t know how their portfolio is doing.”

3. Agreement Close: Next, we need to strengthen the connection by agreeing with them. This is a very important step because the prospect will find it very difficult to disagree with you for agreeing with them. The following is an example:

Adviser: “And, that’s exactly why we should get together.”

4. Benefit Statements: At this point, you need to add to the statement above and clarify why you said what you said so that the prospect understands what the benefits are to them. Once you do, they will soon be agreeing with you. Here is a brief example:

Adviser: “You don’t want to realize that you are taking too much risk after the market goes down and you lose a lot of money.”

5. Final Close: All you need to do now is ask for the order. Try this alternative close:

Adviser: “Do you have time to meet Tuesday at 3:00 or Wednesday at 4:00, which time works better for you?”

Prospect: “Tuesday at 3:00.”

Why The Agreement Close Works
The reason why The Agreement Close works is because you are agreeing with the prospect and explaining to them how moving forward with you will help them most. In other words, you are acknowledging their challenge, agreeing that it is a valid challenge and that is exactly why they need your solutions.

To learn more about The Agreement Close, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing, at Melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.