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3 Critical Practice Management Areas That Demand Attention

The industry has changed and it is more important than ever to have a plan, not merely to survive, but indeed to thrive in today’s environment. Creating a simple road map can be the difference between growth and stagnation.

At a minimum, we believe that you should consider these three critical questions, commit your ideas to paper and create an implementation plan with time frames and accountability.

1.) How will you drive retention?
Client retention is the foundation for the long-term viability of your firm. You must consistently deliver the appropriate client experience for each of your client segments.

  • Communication: Do you have a systematized client communication plan? Are you communicating value with the right frequency and maximizing your delivery mediums? Are you offering educational opportunities to help clients better understand their plan and the financial terrain?
  • Appreciation: Do your clients know that you appreciate them? Do you need to go beyond birthdays and holidays and deliver more creative or personalized appreciation?
  • Expectations: Do you really know if you are meeting, falling short, or exceeding client expectations? Do you execute surveys or offer service commitment or expectation meetings to review the value of your deliverables? Do clients understand the totality of your offerings?

2.) How will you drive efficiency?
In an increasingly complex industry with expanding requirements, efficiency and scalability are critical to long-term success.

  • People: Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined and aligned? Are you leveraging your talent?
  • Systems: Are all repeated activities systematized? Do you have standard operating procedures documented in a shared folder for all to access? Is your business scalable?
  • Time and technology: Do you really know where and with whom you are spending your most precious resource—time? Technology can be a time-drain or a time-saver. Is every team member maximizing technological resources?

3.) How will you drive growth?
We could all fill our days by simply dealing with the reactive; however, high-performance financial planners stay committed to growth.

  • Organic growth: Do clients consider YOU their primary advice provider? Have you fully served them? Are you developing multiple generational relationships? Where can you leverage your existing relationships?
  • Introductions: Are you referable? Do your clients proactively provide qualified introductions? How robust are your centers of influence? Are you delivering value to partners who have the propensity to connect you with ideal prospects?
  • Marketing: How strong is your brand identity? Who is your niche audience and how can you attract more ideal prospects through off-line and online marketing avenues? Based on your demographics, what type of marketing (advertising, seminars, mail campaigns or event marketing) makes sense for your practice?
  • Expand the team: For firms that are fully systematized but at capacity, you may consider bringing on new advisers/planners as your most vital growth strategy. Be sure to consider your “ideal” candidate and conduct full due diligence so as not to upset the culture of the firm.

What decisions will you make and what actions will you take to drive retention, efficiency and growth in 2017?

Sarah E. Dale, President of Know No Bounds, LLC


Sarah E. Dale
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.



Krista S. Sheets
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.

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How to Sell the Benefits of Financial Planning

Do you ever struggle to communicate the value of financial planning to prospective clients, such that they are willing to sign your planning agreement and write a check for the deposit, enabling you to move forward?

That was the question I was asked recently by a financial planning practice. They sent me sample copies of their proposal as well as examples of their executive summaries, action plans, fee schedule and even some success story descriptions.

I am confident that this is a practice that provides an excellent planning process and product—certainly well worth the fees they charge.

So what did I recommend? Here are the steps I suggested:

Before your Introductory Conversation:

  • Thank them for their interest in learning more about you and your practice.
  • Send a link to your website, pointing out any description or case studies you have there about your planning process and results.

During your Introductory Conversation:

  • Learn enough about them to determine whether they’re a good fit for your business model and how you can help them.
  • Explain your background and approach to help them understand whether you’re a good fit for what they need.
  • If you provide different “tracks” based on your clients’ situation (such as plan only, plan plus solutions or even solutions only), describe them. Tell them that the basis for determining which track is most appropriate generally becomes clear in discovery. Avoid discussing fees at this point; you want them to understand that you will recommend the track most suited to their needs.
  • At the end of the introductory conversation, if you believe they are a good fit for moving forward, say something like: “Based on what you told me about your situation, and how we generally serve our clients, I think we’d be a good fit to move forward to our discovery process.”

During your Discovery Meeting:

  • Your goal during discovery is to develop a list of the problems they need to have solved—the ones they’ve identified already and the ones they may not have realized they have.
  • At the end of discovery, you can talk through the list of issues to be addressed, particularly focusing on the ones you uncovered.
  • Then you can say something like: “Based on what we talked about today, and to help you address each of these concerns, I believe X is the most appropriate track for you.”
  • Then stop and listen. Test for agreement to move forward.
  • If they’re ready, provide your planning agreement and set an appointment and expectations for next steps.
  • If they’re not ready to sign your agreement today, go ahead and schedule a follow-up meeting and give them what they need to prepare for planning. Assume they will be moving forward, but need a bit more time.

In the case of the financial planners I spoke with, they were accustomed to sending a planning proposal that was mostly about how they would review, analyze and evaluate, but little about the specific benefits their clients would experience.

Instead, use your analytical skills during discovery to uncover issues that your prospective clients didn’t know they had and then help them see the benefits you can provide in solving each one of them.

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


Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared on the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog. 

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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
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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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
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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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
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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Framing the Conversation: What to Say in the First 60 Seconds

During individual coaching sessions, I typically assume that if an adviser has been working with me for any length of time that they are utilizing some of the fundamental tools that we have been discussing. Unfortunately, sometimes that assumption is incorrect.

Take for instance, my client John T., a financial adviser with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. During our recent coaching session, I asked John what he thought was the biggest clog in his pipeline. He replied, “I guess it’s just getting new prospects and former clients to be interested in meeting with me.”

This is the first of many possible clogs because if you cannot connect during an initial conversation, then a prospect (or former client in John’s case) never actually gets funneled into the pipeline. Knowing that John had learned from me how to frame the conversation, which is a process for what to say in the first 60 seconds of your initial call, I was confused about why he was having this challenge. “John, let’s role play what you say when you call someone,” I suggested, and so we began.

Within the first minute of role play I realized that John had no structure or framework for his calls. He was saying whatever came to mind at the time! So I coached John to do the following:

Frame the Conversation

  • Introduction: State your name, the company you are with and its location. This is important to establish with the prospect so that they know right upfront who you are and with whom you work for.
  1. Reason: Next, you incorporate “The reason I am calling” statement, which is designed to help busy prospects know the reason you are contacting them and for them to then determine whether or not they may feel your products and services can bring value to them.
  1. Benefits: Then comes, “The benefit” statements, which are designed to establish credibility and to help a prospect relate to what value you have brought to others that have had similar challenges.
  1. Close: The close is designed to elicit a desired response, such as setting up an appointment. 

Creating a Compelling Conversation
It didn’t take John long to fully understand and apply the process during a future role play coaching session. Then in our next conversation he explained that he was finding success.

“So, why do you think this tool has been helping you?” I asked.

“It’s because I now have structure to my conversations and I’m giving prospects or former clients a reason to want to speak with me by explaining the benefits of what I do,” he said. “I used to just try and make small talk and hope that they would like me and want to meet with me. With this new framework, I create a compelling enough conversation so they understand how I can actually help them! I only wish I would have started with this “tool” thirty years ago!”

If you read this article and would like helpful techniques about how to customize your own ways to frame the conversation, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

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

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Where are You on the Adviser’s Rejection Spectrum?

During one of my laser coaching sessions titled, “The 25 Most Effective Ways to Conquer Rejection,” I came to an amazing realization. Although we had marketed this two-part series to thousands of advisers and agents, only two actually registered.

Was it because today’s advisers and agents don’t have a fear of rejection? No, I don’t believe so. In fact, the fear of rejection is just as much a challenge today as it was over 20 years ago when I started in the financial services industry as an adviser. Perhaps I may never know why we had such a low turnout, but what is more important is the “a-ha” moment I had during the first session.

The two advisers who signed up could not have had more polar opposite experiences in their careers: one was a veteran adviser in his 60s with 33 years of experience; while the other was a woman with less than four years in the industry. What I came to understand was that although they had vastly different ages, product knowledge, communication skill sets and years in the business, they had one very important thing in common: a fear of rejection.

Following my initial session with them, I coined what I now call “The Adviser’s Rejection Spectrum” which says, “No matter where you are in your career path you may be subject to a fear of rejection, however you may have it for very different reasons and consequently you may need very different solutions to overcome it.” The following illustrates what I mean by that statement.

Spectrum No. 1: The Rookie Adviser
I wasn’t surprised when my rookie adviser explained that she was taking rejection personally. She had spent many hours cold calling and had come up against rejection numerous times. That is what her perception was until I explained what she had really experienced.

The solution was for her to realize that rejection is not the same as handling objections which are a natural part of the sales process. Since prospects didn’t know her personally they weren’t personally rejecting her. Instead, they were rejecting the value that they thought she could bring them and they did this by using excuses in the form of objections such as, “I am all set, I’m busy and let me think about it.”

Once she understood this difference, I shared with her three strategies to better manage objections and that’s when she had a paradigm shift, “I can’t wait to try these strategies out,” she said.

In other words, she now had far less fear of rejection.

She now understands the difference between working harder by doing more of what she was doing and working smarter by having a system for when objections arise.

Strategy No. 2: The Veteran Adviser
I was surprised to hear my veteran adviser tell me that although he had spent 33 years working in financial services he had not prospected in the last five years. I was not surprised by the reason why, he liked talking to clients rather than speaking with prospects. He went on to explain that when he would prospect his natural market they rarely wanted to do business with him. He said he found it discouraging to have longtime friends and acquaintances reject him.

The solution was for him to also understand that these people were not rejecting him personally but instead rejecting the value they perceived taking his advice would bring them. He was too busy telling them what they should do instead of asking the right questions to help them come to the conclusion on why they should do it.

In other words, he was trying to sell them his recommendations instead of helping them understand why they should accept his recommendations.

“Wow,” he said. “All I have to do is to learn how to ask better questions so they understand how I can help. Why didn’t I think of that?”
Where are You on the Rejection Spectrum?
As you can see, both advisers were taking rejection personally but each had a different solution for overcoming their fear of it. Can you relate?

At some point in every adviser’s career they develop some degree of a fear of rejection. Don’t wait until it paralyzes you to do something about it, accept that you are on the rejection spectrum and do what it takes to find the solutions to get yourself off of it.

If you read this blog and need help getting past your fear of rejection, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary 30-minute coaching session with Dan Finley.

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