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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.

 

 

 

 


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Interest, Curiosity and the Client Education Conundrum

I had the opportunity to attend a day-long session with Brené Brown last year, and among the many powerful takeaways from her talk was my first introduction to a fascinating study from Amanda Markey and George Lowenstein on interest and curiosity. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that, before reading through the research, I didn’t realize there was a fundamental difference between interest and curiosity.

It turns out that, if you agree with Lowenstein and Markey’s conclusions, there is actually a significant difference between the two, and that the distinction can have a powerful impact not only on how we view and implement the pursuit of knowledge for ourselves, but for clients as well.

Lowenstein and Markey said: “We define interest as a psychological state that involves a desire to become engaged in an activity or know more, in general, about a subject. If an individual is interested in pottery, for example, that person may want to sit down and throw pots, or that person may want to know more about the technique, the materials, and the history. Curiosity, in contrast, only arises when a specific knowledge gap occurs, such as, ‘What is the difference between high and low fire pottery?’ Thus, curiosity and interest differ by their objects of desire (specific knowledge vs. general knowledge/activity engagement).”

In other words, to be truly curious about something, you must have a certain level of knowledge about the subject—enough to ask a particular question or questions. For an example, let’s take a look at my initial interpretation of the results of Jackson National’s 2017 Investor Education Survey. Jackson generally runs the survey annually, and releases useful data on investor knowledge and confidence in the U.S.

The key findings from the survey highlight a gap between perceived financial knowledge and confidence (nearly 60 percent of all respondents stated that they did not have the confidence to make appropriate investing decisions) and U.S. investors’ interest level in building their knowledge and confidence (nearly 70 percent of respondents said they are very or somewhat interested in furthering their financial/investing education).

Initially, I looked at this gap as a black-and-white opportunity—if we (the financial services industry) can count on a certain level of interest, we just need to help people find the right resources or help to start educating themselves, right? Then, when they reach the point at which they’re ready for expert help and an adviser relationship, they will take the next step.

Based on the Markey and Lowenstein research, I think the answer is more complicated than that. What we’re talking about is the classic Catch-22 scenario, and it applies directly to both how investors educate themselves and how advisers educate clients. The research suggests that, if investors don’t have the financial knowledge to make appropriate investing decisions, unless they force themselves to understand the basics, they can never be curious enough to answer the fundamental questions about preparing financially for life. In other words, a rudimentary understanding of finance is required for investors (or clients, if they are already in your care) to be curious enough to seek further knowledge.

Thus, while interest remains the baseline (without interest, we are pretty much out of luck), the financial services industry in general and financial planners in particular must take a more active role in convincing clients to take that crucial step toward activating curiosity and the quest for deeper knowledge. As a financial planner, you are likely the primary source for your clients’ financial education, and data from the aforementioned Jackson survey supports that many investors working with financial planners rely solely on their planner when it comes to the sharing of financial knowledge. This is a crucial function of the planner-client relationship, but I believe the Markey and Lowenstein research shows us that it can be a double-edged sword in that too much reliance on the planner may actually reduce clients’ personal interest in or curiosity about financial topics over the long term.

Of course, that’s not to say financial planners should stop offering financial education support to clients. Quite the opposite. But I do think it’s important for planners to make sure that investors are not separating themselves from the pursuit of financial knowledge when they enter into the planning relationship. Planners may need to take on the responsibility of not only providing clients with the proverbial fish, but teaching them how (and why) to fish as well. So, the question becomes, where do we begin?

I wish I could provide a perfect formula on how to motivate clients to master the basics and activate their curiosity, but unfortunately there isn’t a “magic bullet” here. We are all so different when it comes to our current level of knowledge, how we motivate ourselves and even how we perceive what constitutes “the basics,” that to cast a single net designed for universal application would be beyond foolish.

To provide a semi-prescriptive starting point, however, we can look to the Lowenstein and Markey research, which said that the intensity of curiosity depends on importance, surprise and salience.

Importance

To satisfy the first criterion, we need to make clients’ curiosity about financial and investing topics personal so that they will feel important to them. For example, when your clients have children, crafting a will and testament or putting away money for higher education can become an urgent and tangible issue. When an issue becomes directly applicable to our lives, we inherently become more curious.

As a financial planner, you are already adept at tying financial concepts and strategies to a clients’ situation, but the fundamentally fluid nature of “importance” in the context of curiosity is a valuable reminder that a concept or strategy a client had little interest in can suddenly become a focus as a result of a life transition. This knowledge may allow you to pre-empt questions from clients about certain concepts with relevant content, further building the relationship, or provide a useful framework for your prospecting strategy.

Surprise

For surprise, human beings rely on our current understanding of the way things are and use curiosity to test the accuracy of our knowledge. When our frame of reference is broken with new information, we are more likely to dig deeper for even more revelatory insight. Or, as Lowenstein puts it, “the accumulation of knowledge tends to beget the desire for further knowledge.” As mentioned, the element of surprise makes the case for frequently sharing interesting and engaging content with clients in an attempt to spark further interest in a topical area or the world of financial knowledge as a whole.

I think the importance of surprise in sparking curiosity also serves as a good reminder to avoid marketing for marketing’s sake. Instead of sending out something your clients or prospects have already seen or a story they’ve already heard because you are running up against your newsletter deadline, it might make sense to search for or create a new angle on an old story, or to survey your clients on their most burning questions and attempt to answer those in a post. From a blogging perspective, Google always favors quality over quantity, and your readers certainly do too.

Salience

Finally, salience is the degree to which your environment highlights a particular information gap. According to Lowenstein, salience will tend to be high when a question is asked explicitly, and may be “even higher if there is another identifiable and proximate individual who knows the answer.” While not everyone needs or wants expert help when it comes to financial and investing discussions, the importance of salience in enhancing curiosity is an oft-overlooked component of the value of a financial planner.

That someone, somewhere knows the answer to our question is not of great value to us (and can actually decrease curiosity). But if that person is sitting across the table from us, with the added bonus of understanding the most intimate portions of our financial lives, the level of salience increases significantly. As it’s not always easy to find new ways to represent your value as a planner, research on the power of salience could come in handy.

As mentioned, there is certainly not one right way to go about educating clients, and many of you already have an excellent formula that works for you and your practice. That said, my greatest takeaway from Markey and Lowenstein’s wonderful research is the reminder to challenge everything, even the things we think we know best. I think your curious mind will thank you.

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Dan Martin is the director of marketing for the Financial Planning Association®, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. He is an award-winning author with a diverse financial services industry background in marketing and communications. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Denver and his MBA in marketing from the Daniels College of Business.


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5 Signs It’s Time to Move On from a Prospect

Have you ever had a high net worth prospect who seemed semi-interested in working with you but you just couldn’t quite get them off the fence? You’ve called several times; maybe you’ve even met with them and offered recommendations, but something is holding them back from taking that final step to becoming a client. Then, your prospecting efforts become unreturned voicemails or vague replies to your emails. If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the signs and realize it’s time to move on.

Following is a brief overview of what I tell my clients to look for and how to know when to let go.

Sign No. 1: A Family Member in the Business

Most experienced advisers and agents know that when a prospect says, “I have a brother in-law in the business but I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say,” it probably means that they don’t completely trust their relative, however it doesn’t guarantee that they’d change anything. Instead, they most likely will consider your recommendations, talk it over with their relative and still not end up working with you. The reason is because relatives are just too awkward to walk away from when it comes to business dealings.

If you run across this type of prospect, qualify them right away by saying something like this, “If we identify some need for changes in your portfolio, are you in a position to do business with me?” This will help you identify how serious they are about working with you.

Sign No. 2: Wanting to Split their Business

Some prospects may like your recommendations but not want to sever ties with their current adviser or agent. The reason is simple, it’s because they are familiar and have established trust with that person. They don’t know you but they might consider working with you on a trial basis.

Unfortunately, many times they are doing this with the caveat that they can compare results and then let go of the adviser/agent that doesn’t do as well for them. If this scenario is offered—working with you to “see what happens”—it’s important for you to reply like this, “I’m sorry but the clients I work with need to provide reasonable time for my process and recommendations to come to fruition.” When you stand by your value, you may lose a prospect now and again but you maintain your self-respect. As a result, you also build a better client base.

Sign No. 3: They Took Your Recommendations and Bought Online

Years ago, I had a prospect take several of my recommendations and purchase them in an online account. He felt there was nothing wrong with it since it saved him money. I on the other hand believe that if the relationship starts off on the wrong foot, it will end up remaining that way. This type of prospect is merely showing you that they don’t value your services. If this happens, you need to be ready to walk away.

Sign No. 4: You are Chasing a Ghost

At some point, you will have a prospect that needs to “think about it” or “review things.” When you follow-up they may not return your calls. The reason is because they didn’t see the value in your recommendations in the first place.

There may have been a concern or objection that you didn’t address. If this happens, simply leave a message like this, “Hi ______, this is _______ with _______. I have a quick question that only you can answer. Could you please call me when you hear this? My number is _________.” This is what I refer to as the “curiosity message.” If they aren’t curious enough to call you back, they really aren’t interested in doing business with you. If they do call, you need to ask them something directly like, “Are you still interested in (insert three benefits here).” If they are, then set another appointment with them to do the paperwork.

Sign No. 5: You Just Don’t Like the Prospect

If you find yourself dreading any type of communication with a specific prospect (email, phone call or appointments) then you certainly do not want to work with them. No matter how much business you think they can provide, inform them that you might not be an appropriate fit and they could be better served by someone who could provide more of what they are looking for.

Why Watching for Warning Signs is Important

This is not an easy business but when you make a conscious choice to work with people who want to work with you, you can make things much easier on yourself. That’s why it is so important to watch for warning signs that it’s time to move on from a prospect. Life is too short to chase those who don’t see your value.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, 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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Seize the Summer with These 3 Growth Activities

Summertime can be a wonderful time to relax and recharge your batteries after a tough spring. But it can also be a great time to grow. Many advisers and their staff have excess capacity at this time of year, as clients are off on vacation. So, before you leave work early, stop and think about what a productive summer could mean for your business. You could be in high-growth mode come September instead of looking at a long list of tasks you need to complete before year-end. Here are three ways to help you get there.

Here are three growth activities you can do this summer:

1.) Connect with clients. Summer offers many opportunities to strengthen relationships with your best clients. Be sure to actively listen when clients talk about their vacation plans. If they are traveling to a particular destination, follow up with an article or item geared toward their trip. For example, clients going to a cooking school in France might love a whisk, along with a note saying you hope they whip up some wonderful summer memories. Clients heading to a national park might be thrilled to read a timely article on the “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Yellowstone.” These types of gestures could get clients talking about you, leading to introductions to potential new clients.

There’s another benefit to active listening: the ability to source names to follow up on at another time. Who is on the client’s tennis doubles team or golf foursome? Who will be at the lake house? Who’s coming to town for the family reunion? Be sure to add these names to your CRM system or database to keep your pipeline of prospects full and healthy.

2) Get to know clients’ families and friends. Are children, grandchildren or other relatives coming to town? Mention that you’d be delighted to meet them. Perhaps clients are hosting a barbecue you could attend. Or maybe there’s a Little League game in your area where you could watch their son or granddaughter pitch. Imagine their surprise and delight to find you in the bleachers, cheering on their young ones. And if you bring along a small cooler with popsicles or ice cream treats for after the game, you can quickly get introduced to a large number of players (and their parents) and make a great first impression. It’s a great way to turn clients into advocates for you.

3) Leverage community events. Many cities and towns hold free summer events that you can spin into your own unique entertainment offering. Invite clients to attend an outdoor movie in your community, and bring along blankets, popcorn, movie treats and soda to hand out. Or suggest clients come enjoy a band concert in the town square with you, and offer them wine and cheese while they relax to the music. (You’re likely to have clients introduce you to others, too, in a casual setting like this.)

Remember to take pictures (get permission, of course), and leverage the event even further by sharing those images on your website, blog or social media channels. The opportunity to delight your clients and meet potential new ones is all around you this time of year.

Make this summer fun—but make it matter to your business. When you prioritize connecting with clients, and getting to know their friends and families, you’ll create a pipeline full of prospects that can propel your business forward. And you’ll be well positioned to capture business leading into the end of the year.

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Kristine McManus, is the chief business development officer of Commonwealth Financial Network.


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Be A Gen Savvy Planner: Take Off Your Generational Lenses

Our early environments shape us for the rest of our lives.

That’s why there is so much difference between the generations, said Cam Marston, an expert on generational change and founder of Generational Insights.

Marston told FPA Retreat attendees in April that baby boomers are tough and were never told they were unique or special, so they overcompensated by telling their kids—who are Gen-Xers and millennials—that they were extra special. Therefore, those two generations were raised to think they were unique and that their needs were very important.

“What imprints on younger people impacts them for the rest of their lives,” Marston said. “Millennials and Gen-X have been brought up to say, ‘What’s going to make me happy?’

Planners should understand the vast differences between the generations and know how to talk to and communicate with each one.

Boomers. To connect with the boomer, Marston said, you need to understand how they see the world. They’re hardworking and they have the mentality that retirement is going to be great. They want to hear your story and know where you come from.

Hanging up your diplomas or certificates in your office during your meetings with boomers is a good idea.

Key points about boomers:

1.) Understand and acknowledge their work ethic—which they generally measure in hours (i.e., “I work 50-60 hours a week”).

2.) Ask them about their accomplishments and acknowledge what they’ve done.

3.) Communicate that you are on the same page. Emphasize that you are a team.

5.) Pick up the phone and call them and meet with them in person.

6.) Beware of too much technology.

7.) Know the difference between “leading” baby boomers (older than 62 and like communication that emphasizes how they deserve retirement); and “trailing” baby boomers (ages 53-61 and need to be reassured that they’re going to be OK despite setbacks they experienced in retirement savings thanks to the recession).

Gen-Xers. This generation are stalkers of product and services. They demand to be an educated consumer and are leery of “being had,” Marston said. They are interested in how well you can teach them to make a good decision. Your relationship should be a partnership.

Key points about Gen-Xers:

1.) They are going to do research and have you prove why your advice is better than what they found via this research.

2.) They tend to prefer email and your communication should be brief, succinct and to the point.

3.) Don’t waste your time leaving them voicemails.

4.) Make sure your web presence is pristine—they’ll look you up online before contacting you.

5.) The Gen-X mother has tremendous buying power and influence. She’s coming up in terms of her earning, she’s informed and she’s fully engaged. Keep her happy.

6.) Communicate how decisions will affect them personally.

Millennials. Millennials are individuals with a group orientation. They believe they’re unique but they also enjoy being part of a group.

Millennials think, “You tell me about me and what’s going to happen and how I’m going to feel about it,” Marston said.

Key points about millennials:

1.) They’re optimistic.

2.) You will get more attendance from them if you ask them to bring people. Engage them as a group and they will be more interested.

3.) They feel they are unique and special.

4.) They don’t think so much in the long-term as the other generations.

5.) They are achieving milestones (i.e., getting married, buying houses, having kids) later in life than the previous generations.

6.) Communicate via text messages and social media.

Understand these key points about each generation and try to see the world through their eyes when you’re talking to them.

“Everybody pitches and articulates their value from their own generational lense,” Marston said, “but I’ve got to take my lenses off and put on somebody else’s.”

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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


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The Power of Wow

After her particularly stellar basketball season, John Evans, Jr., Ed.D., took his 10-year-old daughter for a trip to the Sarasota, Fla. Ritz Carlton.

On the elevator ride up to their room, he praised her rebounding, her boxing out, her shooting. They settled in, left the hotel, and came back to their room to find a tiny chocolate cake with a message on top reading, “Congratulations on the great season, Susana.”

The bellman had heard the entire conversation and seized the opportunity to give these two guests what Evans refers to as a “wow moment.” He defines this as a unique, emotionally engaging experience that goes beyond expectations and is readily recounted.

Evans, executive director of Janus Henderson Labs of Janus Henderson Investors (formerly Janus Capital Group), told FPA Retreat attendees in April 2017, that generating wow moments for a great client experience, like the one he had at the Ritz Carlton, starts with energy levels, is followed by clarifying your purpose, and ends with expanding your team’s capacity to deliver authentic wow moments (read more about “wow moments” straight from Evans in the June 20 FPA Practice Management Blog post titled, “The Circle of WOW”).

“We have an energy crisis here, ladies and gentleman,” Evans said. “But here is the thing: we can create more energy.”

Evans noted that there are four areas on the energy pyramid: the physical (the fundamental source of fuel, sleep); emotional (the capacity to manage emotions); mental (capacity to organize and focus attention); and spiritual (the purpose beyond self-interest). Of those, we are most stressed in the mental and emotional.

But, Evans noted, stress isn’t always bad.

“Stress is the giver of life,” Evans said. “A life of pillows and marshmallows is no way to live.”

Evans notes that a way to generate more energy in all areas of the pyramid is to embrace stress and abolish multitasking, which he said is “one of the greatest enemies of extraordinary and the pathway to mediocrity.”

It’s counterfeit engagement, he said, and we all need to become more engaged. Focus on one thing at a time, establish healthy habits such as eating right and exercising, and see if your energy levels improve.

Next, advisers must clarify their purpose. Why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? Your cause? Your belief? Actively communicate that from the inside out.

Finally, appoint a “wow czar” or “chief clientologist” whose job it is to help generate these experiences. This person should have tremendous emotional intelligence and be creative.

“We have to be intentional about wow,” Evans said.

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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


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How to Get the Right Prospect to Your Event

It happens all the time. An adviser plans a high-end client appreciation dinner or wine event and spends weeks planning every aspect. The dinner menu, the flowers, the drinks, the guests to invite, the seating arrangements—everything is carefully thought through.

And since the adviser is a generous host, clients are invited to bring a guest. The adviser is casual about it but hopes clients will bring along a great prospect, perhaps an executive-level peer. And then the big night comes and the clients show up promptly, ready to have fun—with their 14-year-old daughter in tow.

That’s frustrating. Disappointing. And a missed opportunity! As the host of the event, it’s your job to make sure people know what to expect and whom they should bring to your gathering. It’s great that you want to meet new people, and your existing clients are wonderful sources of prospects for you. But rather than leave it up to clients to bring a friend, it’s far more effective if you can suggest an appropriate guest.

Listen for Name Drops

When you meet with clients, of course you listen closely as they talk about the people, places and activities that are important to them. But you should also be sure to ask questions, when appropriate, to learn more about their golf foursome, book club or brother who moved to town. Keep track of the names that come up in these conversations so that you have a ready pool of good candidates for your business and events. It’s easy from there to say something like the following:

“You mentioned recently that your tennis partner is a lot of fun. I’d be delighted to have her and her husband as my guests at the dinner as well.”

Hopefully, you’ll get to meet the prospect who would be a good fit for your firm (which you know because you’ve Googled her, just to make sure.) But even if that doesn’t happen, your clients will understand the type of person you’re looking to meet by the names you’ve brought up.

Look for Leads

In addition to your own research, you can leverage LinkedIn to find out whom your clients know. Simply visit their profile and click on “See Connections.” This list will quickly and easily give you some ideas of people to suggest your clients bring, and you’ll be able to learn some important details about these people—perhaps their involvement on a hospital board or a past job or charity work.

Hint, Hint

If all else fails, and you still want your clients to bring a prospect, try something simple, like this:

“I’d like this wine tasting to be as much fun as possible for you. As you know, we won’t be talking any business—this is purely for pleasure. Is there a friend, or a couple that you know, who also shares your passion for red wine? If you’d like to bring them along, I’m happy to welcome them. And you know you’ll have a great time.”

This should keep the 14-year-old daughter at home and hopefully open up the invite to a promising prospect. With these tips in mind, you’ll have more enjoyable events while growing your business at the same time.

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Joni Youngwirth, managing principal, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, helps advisers develop the mindset and systems to grow their businesses to the next level.

 

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Kristine McManus, chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, works with advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching.