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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.


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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.

 


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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.


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How to Make Buckets Work for You

In light of the recent fiduciary ruling by the Department of Labor, you may be wondering how using a bucket strategy can help you act in your clients’ best interest.

Investment research firm Morningstar defines the bucket approach to retirement planning as a strategy that funds cash-flow needs while the client maintains a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and cash. Morningstar offers this helpful video interview with Harold Evensky that further dives into the bucket strategy.

Basically, buckets provide a way for you to ensure that your clients’ short-term income needs are safe from market ups and downs while meeting their long-term growth objectives with market exposure. Buckets provide a way for advisers to create personal plans specific to their clients’ financial goals and needs while helping them understand that plan regardless of their previous financial experience.

Weathering Market Storms
One of the greatest benefits of bucketing is the safety net it casts for when the market inevitably rises and falls. When the market isn’t performing, clients may panic and be inclined to abandon the plan they had previously made for one that will make them feel safe and secure in that moment. Buckets, however, give them a clear picture of their retirement plan down the road. Seeing that they meet their income needs and that their investments will have time to recover from a downturn will help them stick with their bucket plans, which will greatly benefit them down the road.

In addition to bringing peace of mind by providing a visual for their income down the road, buckets provide clients with a steady cash flow in the present. Buckets are a systematic way for a steady income because each year is planned, as opposed to scrambling to liquidate assets so that they have enough money even while the market is struggling. Having that steady, certain income ensures that clients will be able to give great thought to when they sell investments and that ensures that they are selling them at the optimal times. This way, investments are serving at the greatest benefit to bring in the most income.

A Personalized Approach
Bucket strategies can be personalized to each client. Based on their risk profile and financial goals, you and your client can generate strategies with any number of buckets and any lengths of time. The flexibility of buckets even after the plan has been set is an added security because assets and investments can be adjusted, or have time to adjust, while the market weathers its ups and downs.

One of the most traditional methods of retirement income planning, Monte Carlo simulation, does not allow for personalized strategies, and yet, they produce the same rate of returns with the same amount of risk. There is no one-size-fits-all in retirement income planning, and clients forced into such a mold can feel anxious about their funds in retirement. Creating a strategy specific to each client will inspire trust in you and bring them peace of mind knowing that their retirement income plan was created with their unique circumstances and needs in mind.

Seeing is Believing
Bucket strategies can give clients a simple visual. With their personalized strategies, clients will have a better understanding of how their assets and investments will be used during their retirement.

In addition to the simple visual that a bucket strategy offers your clients, buckets create a plan that is easy for clients to understand. They will be able to see exactly where their money is, how it is being invested and how their plan will support them throughout retirement. With this simple, easy-to-understand approach to retirement income planning, clients will be confident in themselves, their finances and, in turn, you.

As your clients approach retirement, it’s important for you to provide them with an income plan that can give them financial security in a volatile market, a simple, understandable approach and a strategy that has been created with their unique needs in mind.

FPA partners with Last Advisor to offer “Bucket Bliss,” a software tool that offers a robust, state-of-the-art financial application designed for advisers to build individual bucket strategies while implementing a comprehensive retirement income plan for their clients. FPA members receive a special rate which can be accessed here.

madison-taylor
Madison Taylor
Clearfield, UT
Social Media and Marketing Director
Last Advisor
1-888–799-4328

Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on the Last Advisor blog on August 15, 2016.


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The Art of the Referral

You will hear this your entire career: increasing your ability to gather referrals will make your practice more successful. Establishing referrals early in our career is even more important. But the reality is that many of us don’t put a lot of emphasis on referrals and do not learn this early in our career. How great is a warm referral from a credible source like a client or another professional?

There are two reasons why we lack successful referral methods. First, there is risk in the referral—there is risk for you and there is risk for the person making the referral. Second, it can be awkward asking for it because people feel the sales aspect of it. As great as it sounds it is simply not that easy.

How do we present a more effective referral? First, we can focus on who it is coming from. Work on developing a professional relationship with a person who can provide consistent dependable referrals that fit your perfect client profile—that may be a CPA or estate planning attorney. Identify that person and develop the relationship with the emphasis on what you provide compared to another adviser. Attention to detail, technology in your practice or an advantage you will bring to that professional. This type of relationship, and referrals from these types of professionals, are invaluable.

Take the sales feeling out of the asking for the referral. Don’t use the typical cliché “is there anyone else you know who could benefit from my service or our relationship?” This has been used hundreds of times. Put your asking for the referral into context so the client doesn’t feel it as a sales ploy but a real offer to help.

Try this: ask the client if they are the beneficiary of someone’s estate. Ask them if they understand how the estate is set up to transfer—most think they do but really don’t. Ask them if the beneficiaries are clear on the transfer of their estate. There are many things they may not be aware of but need to understand. Now instead of saying “Great, please refer me to them so I can help,” say, “Let’s bring them together so we can make sure it is crystal clear and nothing is left for interpretation.” This will bring the referral right to you in a no risk opportunity. A review of information for your client with the referral in the room to help facilitate that explanation will show the true value of your detail and help you gather more referrals. This is a unique approach that many advisers don’t take advantage of.

Building a successful referral method will take time, but if you start to perfect this early on in your career it will be promising and fruitful from the start.
scott-huff

Scott Huff
CEO of Yourefolio and an IAR of JK Investment Group
Cleveland, Ohio

 

Editor’s note: FPA members receive $200 off Yourefolio software, plus a money back guarantee. 


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Top Ten Tips to Implement CRM

Everyone would like to maximize the use of their customer relationship management (CRM) software to reduce the workload, track the progress on servicing and sales and ensure staff is productive. The best way to maximize the use of any CRM is to implement it properly from day 1. Here are our top ten recommendations to successfully implement and maximize the use of your CRM.

  1. Plan the migration. Plan out the migration of data into new CRM thoroughly with the vendor. Know which data is moving, where it is moving to (what fields), when it will move and how long you should allocate for auditing and cleaning up the data. There is nothing worse than being surprised at how long it takes to migrate, to find out data is missing months after you moved to the new CRM or that data was placed in the wrong fields.
  1. Map out integrations. List the types of software that you want to integrate with your CRM to reduce data entry. Examples of types of software could be: form filling, financial planning, email, dictation, custodian AUM data feeds, portfolio accounting system, client portal, robo, online questionnaire, document storage and more. Then ask your CRM and other software vendors if the specific types of integrations exist, how they work to save you time and what are the implementation steps.
  1. Assign only one cook. Assign one staff person to implement and maintain the CRM. Too many cooks in the kitchen causes a huge mess within a CRM. Having one project manager will control the quality and integrity of the data.
  1. Sell, sell and sell. Before implementing the CRM, someone on your team needs to champion the change and sell the benefits to the staff. Change is difficult so staff need to be shown the benefits. Utilize the vendor to sell the system. Utilize a staff person to also show and sell it (use a demo license to show it to other staff). And send a few emails listing all the benefits of the new CRM BEFORE you implement the software.
  1. Categorize. Categorize all your contacts in the old CRM before migrating to a new CRM. Any CRM will allow you to pull up a report of all contacts within a certain category; this ability makes cleanup and use of the data 10 times faster.
  1. Merge, merge, merge. Create mail merge and email templates for all the documents and emails you send out frequently. There is no need to waste time typing in names, addresses or creating the same message repeatedly, from scratch.
  1. KISS (keep it simple). When you build out your drop down lists for fields, keep the number of items to a minimum. The more choices you provide in a drop down list, the less likely your staff will take the time to choose the right item.
  1. Flows are key. Create at least two to three workflows immediately. Building custom workflows is a long process and an art, not a science. By building a few workflows immediately, such as opening a new account, you will get comfortable with building workflows quickly. This is important as workflows are the biggest time saver. They identify your bottlenecks and eliminate wasted time spent on communicating or tracking a repeatable set of tasks.
  1. Limbo land. There is a time period between using the old and new CRM—we call this limbo land. You will want to communicate a policy for where to document contact changes, new additions, task changes, new tasks and so forth while in limbo land. Any change or new item should not be placed in the old CRM after the data is backed up and sent to the new CRM. And you do NOT want staff adding changes and new items to the new CRM until the project manager has audited the data and confirmed it doesn’t need to erased and migrated again.
  1. Sell, sell and sell. After implementing the CRM, provide best practices training every few weeks for at least two months to continue selling the benefits of the CRM. Allow the staff to share tips they have learned and have the project manager or champion train everyone on the proper use and shortcuts within the CRM.

Planning the implementation of the new CRM, or any new software, is the hard work. If the planning is done properly, the implementation and adoption is easier and produces a greater ROI and high adoption.

Jennifer Goldman

 

Jennifer Goldman
Founder
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here

 


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Put Me In, Coach: How to Improve Like An Athlete

Being a financial adviser is a lot like being an athlete. If you have ever played on a team you can probably relate to the feeling of anticipation while waiting to play and all you wanted to say was, “Put me in, coach!” Once you got in the game it was up to you to make the most of the moment and shine.

One example of using this analogy is Amy, a ten-year veteran adviser who wanted to succeed and she needed my help to do it. As her business coach, I helped her determine what her goals were and what actions it would take to work smarter rather than harder. Next, we practiced by role-playing so she could get back to actually prospecting. However, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was not applying what she had learned because her fears where getting in her way and thus she would rather sit on the sidelines than risk losing the game.

Let’s look at the steps I utilized with Amy to create her amazing comeback:

Step 1: Be All-In
What Amy was experiencing is very common for veteran and rookie advisers alike. It’s easy to want to win but it’s not always easy to risk the possibility of defeat. Many advisers choose not to even try. In other words, it’s like asking the coach to put you into the game but you choosing not to be all-in and not playing the best you could once you were in because you didn’t want to make a mistake and contribute to a loss.

The first step with Amy was to get her to commit to taking action and being dedicated to being all-in when it came to her own success. So, I had her make a list of reasons why she wanted to get to the next level and what would happen in one, three, five and even ten years from now if she continued not prospecting. After realizing the pleasure she would have by being a top producer and the pain that she could have by being a low level one, she committed to getting back to prospecting!

Step 2: Think on Your Feet
All athletes know that sometimes plays don’t go as planned. You may practice the play over-and-over again but on game day anything can happen. So too is practicing for an appointment and realizing the conversation isn’t going in the direction that you want it to. That’s why you must be able to think on your feet.

Amy realized that setting appointments with new prospects was getting easier but from time to time she was getting caught off guard with specific objections. I assured her that this is natural and all we needed to do was to increase the tools, techniques, strategies and solutions to handle any objection that came her way. It’s not about memorizing what to say but understanding the formula of how to say it. Once we did this, she could easily adapt to any conversation path.

Step 3: Assess Your Actions and Results
All great coaches know that the best way to take their players to a higher level is to help them assess their actions and results. Most teams watch game films so they can duplicate their successes and learn from their errors.

Within weeks, Amy was excited to tell me that her pipeline was full. She had eight appointments set for the week and had already turned a few prospects into clients since our last session.

Wanting to Win
Amy knew that just getting into the game wasn’t enough. Instead, she had to focus on her desire to win. If you take a page out her playbook you too can create this level of success.

If this blog resonates with you and you would like to have a free consultation with Dan Finley, email Melissa Denham director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

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