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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.

Kristine_McManus_2_lg
Kristine McManus, is the chief business development officer of Commonwealth Financial Network.


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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.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web
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.

 

Kristine_McManus_2_lg
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.


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4 Questions to Attract More Clients

There are just four questions that every financial adviser must answer if they want to attract more clients. If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to more effectively communicate your message to prospects so that they will want to work with you.

No. 1: Who’s Your Ideal Client?

When advisers think about their business and how they help people, they tend to think the most about the services they provide. Things like the types of planning they offer, the investments and products they use for clients, the process they walk clients through, etc., but we rarely focus on defining who we serve.

The financial advisers that will survive and thrive over the long term will define their business not by the service they offer but by the people they serve.

They know exactly who their ideal client is.

No. 2: What Value Do You Provide?

You undoubtedly provide a lot of great advice to your clients. But what do your clients value the most? What’s most important to them?

Do they care about investment selection, the products, the process, your credentials, your years of experience or your past performance? I’m sure they do.

But there’s actually only one thing that your clients value above all else: their transformation.

They are seeking the positive change they experience by working with you. They want the end result. How do I know this? It’s because people buy the destination, not the plane ride.

What is the destination your clients are trying to get to? What’s the ideal end result you can help them achieve? This is the real value you give to clients and prospects.

No. 3: How Do You Clearly Communicate Your Value?

If you’re the greatest financial adviser in the world but you don’t know how to clearly communicate your value to ideal prospects, then you won’t be in business very long. If you cannot clearly communicate your value to people, nothing else you’re doing in your business really matters.

Many good advisers have failed because they didn’t know how to clearly communicate their value.

The best advisers are able to engage in a conversation with a complete stranger and within two minutes, that stranger fully understands how that adviser helps people. Even better, that stranger will have enough curiosity and excitement that they want to hear more from the adviser.

If you’re able to naturally start the conversation with people, you’ll have no trouble getting people in the door. And If you can communicate your value, you’ll have no problem getting people to become your clients.

No. 4: How Will You Consistently Attract and Acquire New Clients?

This is the most important question that advisers need to answer. It’s also the one most advisers have a hard time answering.

How do you find new clients? Most advisers rely on referrals to get new business. Some others still do seminars, lunches, cold calling and networking events. Those techniques are good but there are more and more advisers turning to newer ways of attracting prospects to them. Techniques such Linkedin referrals, Facebook ads, blogging and webinars are quickly growing in favor with advisers. This is because they are less expensive and more profitable than the “old school” ways of getting new clients. But there’s also a steep learning curve to these. You shouldn’t let that stop you from testing them out. When you find the technique that works for you, stick with it and focus all your energy there.

Take five minutes and try to answer these four questions. And be honest with yourself. If you’re having trouble with one of the questions, start exploring new ways to try and answer it. If you need ideas, download the accompanying guide to help you out.

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller, CFP®
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL


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Beta Testing Change in Your Ensemble Practice

I’ve spent decades consulting on practice management issues and had countless conversations with advisers wanting to make some sort of change in their practices. One adviser might want to hire a new employee to increase efficiency. Another might want to move into a new, more upscale office space. Yet another might want to bring other types of advisers into the practice, such as rainmakers or service advisers.

As the trend of shifting from a solo to a group or ensemble practice continues to gain steam in our industry, it’s important to realize some of the challenges going into partnership with other advisers can present.

Barriers to change

A partnership is a bit like a marriage. Your adviser partners come to the table with their own established values, perceptions and opinions. And just because one partner thinks a particular business change is a profoundly good idea, it doesn’t mean another partner (or partners) will share that belief. For example, say you think your firm should incorporate a formal business management process to help you target client acquisition and revenue goals. Your two partners disagree, arguing the following:

  • Why do we need to have a business plan? We know what we’re doing.
  • What’s the point of defining a niche? We’d have to turn down business.
  • There’s no need to create and stick to an ideal client profile.
  • Why is it important to track overhead? We can pay our bills just fine.
  • Documenting processes seems like a waste of time.
  • Who needs production goals? We’re earning enough.
  • Why do we need to create continuity agreements? None of us is going anywhere.

What do you do when you feel strongly about how to run the business more effectively and your partners put up barriers like these? Do you ignore the issue and simply learn to live with the status quo? Do you have a serious life-or-death discussion with them about the future of the firm? Or is there another option?

Beta testing change

Instead of giving up, or beating your head against a wall trying to convince others to see things your way, offer to implement the change you’re seeking in your own corner of the firm as a beta test. Of course, this requires your full commitment to the change. You’ll also need to develop a formal method for measuring the impact of the change you make. After an appropriate period of time, you can then share the results of your beta test with your partners and see if they’re now ready to agree with you.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to grow revenue. To do so, all new clients you take on have to meet your ideal client profile. You’ll want to calculate the return on this investment for your partners. You might also want to track how you help prospects who aren’t a good fit, particularly if your partners were adamant about not turning away any clients. The bigger the change you want to make, the longer it will take to document results, so try starting with a small change first, to make your point.

What is the value in this sort of beta test? You get to implement a change you believe in. You eliminate some of the frustration you were feeling. And everyone in the firm moves toward data-driven decision making.

Will this approach work in every situation? Probably not. But it can be a particularly effective technique for positioning specific changes to your partners. After all, results speak for themselves.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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Why Clients Choose You

Why would a prospect end up choosing you over another adviser?

There’s really only one thing that a prospect is looking for when they begin the conversation with you. If they believe you can provide it, it’s much more likely that they’ll become your client.

What Prospects AREN’T Buying

Despite what most advisers think, people aren’t working with them because of their:

  • Superior investment selection
  • Comprehensive financial plan
  • Account aggregation software
  • Years of experience
  • Credentials after their name, etc.

We’re all proud of those things and they play a role in the decision to work with you, but they’re not the reason people choose you over everyone else. Prospects aren’t buying the products or features you provide. They’re actually not buying the benefits either.

They’re Buying Transformation

The one thing that they are buying is the transformation that they believe they will get by working with you.

What do I mean by that? It doesn’t matter what people are buying. Whether it’s a candy bar or new car, we’re all looking for the same thing: we’re living in a current state and we want to move into a desired “after state.” We believe making the purchase i going to move us into that place we want to be.

Imagine what your prospect’s thinking. Why are they talking to you? Why are they looking for a financial adviser? I can definitely tell you that they’re not calling you because everything is perfect with their finances.

They’re calling you because they are discontent with some aspect of their financial life. They’re not completely happy with everything they’re doing. They have a problem that they don’t know how to solve and they may be frustrated, worried or confused. The fact is they’re looking for an adviser because they are in a place that’s less than ideal.

And that’s your ideal prospect. Why? Because you know that you have the solutions they’re looking for.

Where Do They Want Go?

If their existing state is discontentment, then they need to move into a place of contentment.

This is the entire value of your service business summed up in one sentence: you are helping people move from their before state to an ideal after state.

If you can clearly communicate this in a way that they understand, you’ll never have to sell anything ever again.

What’s The Next Step?

Take out a sheet of paper and write down answers to these questions.

  • Where are they now?
    1. What are their problems?
    2. Why are they looking for help?
    3. What’s their emotional state?
  • Where do they want to be?
    1. How will this change after working with you?
    2. What will they have?
    3. How will they feel?
    4. What will they leave behind?
    5. What kind of person do they want to become?

Once you’ve written these answers, you’ve taken the first step to discovering the transformation your ideal client is looking for. Start using these things you’ve discovered as you talk with prospects moving forward. Pay close attention as you talk about their desired “after state.”

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller, CFP®
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL


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Building Growth Through Succession Planning

Succession planning isn’t just an “end-game strategy”; it is the key to growth and sustainability.

The specific goals of the succession planning process depend on the founder and his or her circumstance—including age, health and family demands—and they vary case by case. The point, though, is to take a methodical and practical approach to building a business that will endure beyond the builder. Four key areas to concentrate on are:

  1. Building strong, sustainable growth;
  2. Creating a focus on the bottom-line;
  3. Implementing a practical and reliable continuity plan; and
  4. Designing an income perpetuation strategy for the founding owner

The first is perhaps the most important. Building strong, sustainable growth for the business is supported by a clear succession plan in two ways. First, by incorporating next generation advisers who will be investing financially and physically as they buy in. One of the most effective ways to grow a business is to help the next generation build on the foundation the founder has already created and gradually transition ownership—and leadership. The next generation will learn not only how to “think like an owner,” but to be an owner. They will connect the daily goal of revenue production with the long-term goal of producing sustainable revenue in an efficient and scalable manner. They will make decisions that benefit the whole, not just themselves.

Second, growth through succession is about even more than just improving numbers. Strong, sustainable growth demands that the business owner increase their own capabilities as a leader—not just as a producer. As an executive of a multi-generational business, building the strength and depth of the entire team fuels continuous growth.

Cultivating ongoing growth in this way allows a founder to realize exponential value in the business they’ve built, while allowing them to plan for life after advising without worrying about the future of the business or the clients.

Unless the world of professional financial advisers discovers immortality or the fountain of youth, 100 percent of today’s advisers will see their careers come to an end, one way or the other. The only question is how you’ll help your clients transition from your advice and care to someone else’s. Will it be through a professional and carefully crafted succession plan; a last-minute sale to a friend or colleague; or will the clients be left to fend for themselves?

Building a business is about building for the future—your future and your clients’ futures. With a solid succession plan you not only promote growth—you build a legacy, and most importantly, you provide for your clients’ needs beyond the length of your individual career.

david_grau_sr

 

David Grau Sr., J.D.
President and Founder
FP Transitions
Lake Oswego, Ore.


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New Idea? Try a Reality Check

Planners and advisers often ask about ideas they heard from another adviser, a conference speaker or something they read about in an industry publication.

These ideas generally relate to some type of marketing concept or client event. “Do you think this would work for me?” they ask. A good way to conduct a reality check is to ask yourself these four questions:

1.) What are you trying to accomplish? Every activity, communication or process that you put into place should have a clear purpose related to the vision you have for the practice you are building. Ask yourself whether this idea will move you closer to your vision for your ideal practice. If it does, it may be worth considering. If not, look for something else that will.

2.) What would this communicate to your clients or prospective clients? One of my core principles is to examine every decision from the perspective or viewpoint of your clients. Would this idea or concept enhance the value you bring to them in terms of your planning or advice? Would it step up your level of service to them? Would it enhance their perception of you as a professional?

3.) Is this the best way to accomplish what you are trying to do? Think about what you are trying to achieve and then consider all the ways that goal could be accomplished. Many times, we will hear about an idea, but don’t stop to consider alternative approaches that could be more effective and at a lower cost.

4.) How will you define success? It is amazing how frequently planners and advisers will implement new ideas, even marketing strategies, with no idea how to measure the results relative to the time and resources spent. Obviously, some results are easier to measure than others, but you should never undertake a new strategy or activity without clearly defining for yourself exactly what success would look like.

By taking the time to ask yourself these questions about any new concept you are considering, you are much more likely to pursue the strategies that make the most sense for you and your practice, and most importantly, for your clients.

susan-kornegaySusan Kornegay, CFP®
Consultant/Coach
Pathfinder Strategic Solutions 
Knoxville, Tenn.

 

Editor’s Note: Read more of Kornegay’s blog posts at the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog.