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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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Are You Maximizing Your ROT (Return on Time)?

Do you ever feel like you are living your life by a checklist? Do you feel like you are constantly running from one activity to the next and that there is so much more to do? How often do you find yourself asking, “When did life become so chaotic?”

We feel that time is the most precious commodity of today. With an increase in industry regulations and administrative requirements, financial professionals are finding that they are spending too much time doing the wrong activities. How wise are your choices on where you expend your time? Are you allowing yourself to be held hostage to the reactive? Below we provide some basic best practice reminders to help increase your return on time.

  1. Build a team to complement your abilities so that you can focus on what you do best and assign all other responsibilities according to the natural strengths of others.
  2. Learn how to fully utilize your technology resources to create capacity.
  3. Do, delegate, delete. For each daily task, consider whether it is something that you actually need to do, something that you should delegate or something that you can delete as it has no bearing on your goals.
  4. Utilize a priority system so that no task is ever assigned without a deadline attached to it. This helps all associates understand levels of urgency and better balance daily activities.
  5. Proactively block to create a balanced calendar. It is important to allocate time to all essential business functions such as prospecting, client management, planning, team management, continuing education and so on. Don’t let an area of your business suffer by ignoring it.
  6. Making a commitment to creating, documenting and utilizing processes so that every repeated activity is executed in the same way every time will substantially impact efficiency.
  7. Identify time wasters. Conduct a time study on where your time is spent so that you can identify what (and in some cases, who) tends to drain your time. Determine the best course of action to take back control of your time and set parameters and expectations to better manage these situations.
  8. Consistently execute effective team communication. When communication falters, errors and frustrations increase and a vast amount of time is wasted.
  9. Maintain an organized client base. Segmenting your clientele based on each relationship’s value to your business helps to create scalability to efficiently drive client deliverables.
  10. Train your clients. Help them understand what to expect from the practice, when to expect it and the roles of each team member. Set realistic expectations for your team to respond to your clients’ needs.

How each associate chooses to utilize time will dramatically impact your results. Review each of the practices above with your team and gain specific commitments. If you are looking to grow your business, you must make wise decisions every day. There should be no excuses and no procrastination, but rather an ongoing commitment to consistently and proactively manage your time. What is your ROT?

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

Sarah E. Dale
Partner
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.

 

krista_smKrista S. Sheets
President
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.


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The Fulfillment Formula: Increase Return on Effort and Reap Full Benefits of Independence

If you ask independent financial advisers what the most rewarding part of being on their own is, most would answer:

(1) freedom of being an entrepreneur without a boss or a set schedule, where you can do what matters most to you when you choose;

(2) empowerment from creating your own destiny, leading your life, achieving success on your terms; and

(3) deep satisfaction that comes from developing meaningful connection with clients while directly and positively impacting lives.

These three benefits blend together to render a certain level of fulfillment. Whether that fulfillment is slight or maximized depends on how realized each one is in your professional (and daily) life. Essentially your fulfillment becomes a function of your return on your effort.

I don’t like to trivialize the concept of fulfillment as it is one of my driving core values; however, I know that if I keep the notion of fulfillment amorphous you will not make the progress you desire to mold your practice into what you know it can be. Too many advisers linger in a state of mediocre fulfillment, wondering why they aren’t getting more satisfaction from their work or unsure what to do next to leap from their current plateau.

To help you find clarity I have broken down the concept into what I call The Fulfillment Formula.

fulfillment-formula-jpg

Copyright 2016 Broderick Street Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Numerator: Revenue
To increase your return, you can increase your revenue. It may seem obvious why we care about revenue, but for advisers who do not operate with intention to increase revenue, I want to remind you of this: you run a business. You need to make money to continue to have a profitable sustainable business over the long term. Otherwise, you have a hobby, a side gig or a charitable endeavor, and this formula does not apply.

At the very least your revenue needs to cover business expenses and the necessary personal expenses that your income funds. Revenue over that baseline threshold serves luxury personal expenses, savings and retirement, donations, gifts, child or parent support and wherever you choose to direct your cash.

Keeping effort constant, as you increase your revenue, you can achieve a higher return on effort and, thus, greater fulfillment.

The Denominator: Effort
We usually think about effort as the time, energy or money going into your business.

As an entrepreneur, you know it is much more than those resources—it’s also the heart, soul, sweat, blood and tears, too.

With only 24 hours in a day, multiple hats to wear as an entrepreneur, and the pressures of life outside the office, your personal effort can only take you so far before you start to exhaust your resources. You need to shift your support system to your team and technology to gain leverage and lower the effort you exert.

Even if revenue stays the same, as you decrease your effort you increase your return on effort and fulfillment level.

Amplify Your Fulfillment
As you can see, the relationship between revenue and effort renders either positive or negative fulfillment:

  • If your revenue is greater than your effort, you have positive return on effort and therefore a positive level of fulfillment. You may be satisfied with your current position, or you may desire to leap from this plateau to new levels of achievement in your business.
  • If your revenue is less the sum of your effort that you invest, then you will be in a negative state of fulfillment, perhaps questioning why you are continuing on this path or wondering how long it will last.

In either position, your can change your status quo when you increase the dollars coming into your business and/or decrease the effort that you exert in the business.

fulfillment-formula-2-jpg

Copyright 2016 Broderick Street Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

As you grow the numerator or reduce the denominator, you will improve the return on your effort and experience an upward movement of your fulfillment.

Over time, as you build out client attraction and relationship marketing systems and find support for your operations to maximize return from The Fulfillment Formula, you will be able to amplify your fulfillment and reap the full benefits of independence.

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Marketing Trainer/Coach
KristinHarad.com
San Francisco, Calif. 


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Investors Want the Best of Both Worlds

Investopedia - FPA Research Report  - Version 2.0Robo-advisers are never going to replace you.

Turns out the conversations shouldn’t be about either/or, but rather how to best combine human and robo advice. New research from the Financial Planning Association and Investopedia finds that investors don’t want one over the other; they want both.

“The debate about whether robos or human advisers will win is moot. The future of financial advice is bionic—a powerful combination of both,” David Siegel, CEO of Investopedia was quoted as saying in an article on Investopedia, “Investors Want the Best Tech, a Human Touch with Financial Advice.” 

“As investors get more comfortable with automated investing platforms, they’re starting to demand both the low-cost benefits such platforms provide and the irreplaceably customized and high-touch approach of financial advisers,” Siegel said to Investopedia.

The FPA and Investopedia report found that 70 percent of respondents were very satisfied with their financial adviser or financial planner, while 73 percent of survey respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their primary automated investing platform. But only 40 percent of respondents felt comfortable relying solely on an automated platform during times of volatility.

“Technology is rapidly changing the way people invest and manage their finances, but clearly investors value the high-touch financial advice afforded by professionals,” 2016 FPA President Pamela Sandy, CFP®, told Investopedia. “Those investors who utilize the benefits of technology and maintain a face-to- face relationship with a qualified financial planner, like a CFP® professional, will be best positioned to meet their financial goals and achieve financial security.”

For more on the study, click here.

anaheadshot

 

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

 


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Business Planning: Déjà Vu with a Twist

Another December—and another opportunity to write up goals for the coming year. It feels like déjà vu. Some of you view writing and revisiting your business plan as nothing more than practice management mumbo jumbo. To the rest of us, it is an essential business management habit. For both groups—those of you who go through this exercise every year and those who do it reluctantly—I have some ideas on how you can set up your business plan in a way that will pay off by the time you’re sitting in this same spot next year.

Keep It Simple
Too often, I see written business plans that are beautifully designed and bound but also big and cumbersome. I am usually left wondering, where’s the beef?

You can have meaty content without loads of pages. Keep things simple: all you really need is a document that outlines the vision, the long-term direction of the firm over the next five years and a set of SMART goals for the upcoming year. You want just seven or fewer of these goals (which need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bounded). By keeping the number small, you can narrow your focus on the few things most important to the firm.

Personally, I like to include one or two stretch goals even though they don’t quite fit the “R” (realistic component) of SMART. Doing so pushes you outside the comfort zone. It works as long as you don’t get hung up or feel like a failure if you don’t reach one—or any—of your stretch goals. More likely than not, you’ll at least move beyond what the realistic goal would have been. Just remember that beating yourself up when you don’t reach a goal is totally counterproductive.

Additional documents that support your plan warrant attention. For example, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis tends to embody why you think the goals for the current year are important. You can also fold in analysis of the previous year’s goals to provide a contextual lookback that will enhance your planning process.

Here’s the Twist for 2017
One new concept for 2017 concerns the “time-bounded” component, or the “T” of SMART. Many of us are inclined to set all our due dates to December. New research tells us to do one thing at a time instead. It even suggests that multitasking is bad for our brain.

So this year, instead of putting December 31, 2017, on each of your goals, prioritize and schedule them one after the other. While you may not be able to do it perfectly, staggered due dates can help you focus on each goal and enhance your brain function at the same time.

Find the Missing Ingredient
There are no guarantees. Just because you’ve written down that you’re going to do something, the action still has to happen. The plan only goes so far in keeping you accountable.

In fact, the one missing ingredient of what business planning and goal setting can specifically provide is accountability. The way goals are written matters here. Clearly designed SMART goals can be measured. They can also increase accountability. You’ll be absolutely clear on whether you have achieved your goal or not if you’ve written your goals in such a way.

To make sure you do, it helps to find a coach, consultant, colleague, boss or mentor who can keep you on track. You want someone who will help you stay focused on your goals and your progress toward achieving them. Any associated expense will be worth it when you solidify the right goals and realize you have a support system grounded in your long-term strategy.

The closer you can keep your firm tracking toward your vision, the more likely you’ll realize value from your business planning efforts. Perhaps this time next year, planning will have become a welcome habit.

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


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Cybersecurity: Preparing Your Team

2016Cybersecurity_Whitepaper2_V5.inddCybersecurity is high on advisers’ priority lists.

In a white paper released by the Financial Planning Association and TD Ameritrade Institutional found that 81 percent of advisers say cybersecurity is high or very high among their firm’s priority list.

But there is a gap when it comes to providing mandatory training for staff. The white paper, titled “Cybersecurity: Is Your Team Prepared?” reported that 11 percent of firm CEOs “completely agree” that their team is fully aware of what would be required to adhere to guidelines set out by the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). And only 44 percent of firms with more than one team member provide mandatory training for employees.

But finding the right training for you and your staff is the ticket to closing that gap and safeguarding and preparing your firm for cyber attacks.

The white paper reported that the average team member receives less than two hours of cybersecurity training per year. But it offered some steps to take action on training.

  1. Define clear goals when it comes to cybersecurity. Keep the OCIE requirements as well as the goals of your team in mind during training.
  1. Define team expectations in relation to those goals. Be clear and concise in communicating your expectations.
  1. Gather input from the team. What questions or concerns do your team members have when it comes to cybersecurity?
  1. Conduct anonymous internal assessment. Find out what your team knows and understands regarding OCIE requirements and cybersecurity.
  1. Identify gaps. Focus your training on closing these gaps.
  1. Create training process. Determine how often, whether its mandatory and how you will deliver training, among other things.
  1. Summarize training process. Summarize the process on a single page so you can tell your clients what you are doing.

For a full sample assessment recommended in step No. 4, download the full white paper here.

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

 


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Be Proactive about Cybersecurity

Your clients are concerned about cybersecurity.

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity firm, found that 65 percent of consumers worry about the cybersecurity practices of companies that have their personal and financial information. And yet the first of three white papers by FPA Research and Practice InstituteTM, “Cybersecurity: Client Perception and Communication,” sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional, found that only 11 percent of financial advisers surveyed think clients are “very worried” about this issue.

Regardless of perception how many clients may or may not be worried about cybersecurity issues, cybersecurity risks to advisers and their client are real. The FPA white paper offers the following steps to be more proactive:

  1. Conduct a team meeting. In this meeting, ask employees what their experience has been and whether they’re hearing concern from clients.
  1. Gather data. Find out specifically what clients are concerned about. A survey might help with this. Doing so will help you determine what gaps exist between what your clients are worried about and what you are doing to mitigate their worry.
  1. Decide your role. Determine whether you want to reach out to clients proactively and tell them what your game plan is in case a breach exists, or reach out reactively.
  1. Map out communications plan. Figure out what you’ll say over multiple channels because one form of communication won’t be enough. You’ll need to communicate through emails, blog posts, articles, conference calls, etc.
  1. Focus on consistency. Make sure every staff member is relaying the same message to clients. Ensure all team members understand the issue.

Download the first of three white papers, as well as the full, original study at www.OneFPA.org/cybersecurity.

 

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