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The W’s of Successful Outsourcing

There was a time when the word “outsourcing” was barely mentioned. Today, outsourcing is as common in the office as a laptop or smart phone. Outsourcing has allowed companies of all sizes to grow quickly while reducing costs—which only adds to the bottom line.

Professional outsourcers can handle virtually every type of task, from answering emails to marketing and website development. It doesn’t stop there and can include compliance, reporting, ghost writing and much more.

WHEN do you make the choice to outsource?
When your firm experiences the following:

  1. You need a quick turnaround time on certain projects
  2. Staff is overloaded
  3. There is no time, ability or resources to train the staff on a specific skill
  4. Staff has no interest in doing certain types of work

WHAT do I outsource?
The easiest items to outsource are non-client facing, back office work or repetitive, non-technical work. The favored outsourcers currently are: bookkeepers, portfolio reconcilers, compliance firms, website designers and virtual planners. We believe these are the favorites as they have clearly defined roles and are not client-facing. Managing a person with client-facing responsibilities can be nerve wrecking for a newbie manager. Also, client-facing staff members are valuable and should be part of your core team. Your clients value your staff and the personal relationship your firm offers with them.

HOW can I outsource while remaining compliant?
We recommend following these five steps to remain compliant and operate effectively:

  1. Seek vetted, experienced experts in the industry
  2. Establish CRM processes and repeatable tasks with instructions for the outsourcer to complete and you to monitor
  3. Use secure communication platforms such as document management systems, CRMs and encrypted email
  4. Sign a formal contract with the outsourcer that protects your data, your documents, your proprietary business procedures and your clients
  5. Schedule a biweekly call with each outsourcer to review outstanding tasks, answer any questions and provide overall guidance on how you would like them to operate

Finding and onboarding the right outsourcing company takes time. Be patient, ask peers for recommendations, and remember that the first few months are always have a learning curve for you and the outsourcer. Also, you will want to carve out time to monitor their work closely for the first 60 days and confirm they possess the skills and ability to deliver. After 60 days, you should be able to trust their work and method of delivery and more easily manage them.

The W’s of outsourcing don’t have to be overwhelming. Your staff, you, and clients will feel the positive effect of hiring an expert outsourcer. So try one out, follow the five steps, monitor the work and enjoy the newly reclaimed energy and time.

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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Don’t Have a Bad Online Presence

If you don’t have a website or LinkedIn profile—or you have them but they’re not very strong—then you’re doing the equivalent of inviting prospects and clients to a meeting in a messy office space.

Consumers are hesitant to make even minor purchases (shoes, household appliances, etc.) from companies with a bad online presence because they view those companies skeptically and can’t build initial trust. How do you think this same scenario plays out with someone looking to entrust someone with their life savings?

There are many various studies you can find regarding an investor’s purchase journey and the importance of having a strong website and LinkedIn profile. A strong online presence allows potential clients the opportunity to: (A) get to know you a bit before contacting you; (B) build a level of trust regarding your expertise; and (C) provide them a mechanism for contacting you. But you don’t need to read those studies—common sense should tell you that if you’re going to trust someone with something as important as financial planning, you want to know the financial planner is legitimate. Not existing online or having a weak online presence sends the prospect a signal that you might not be legitimate. Would you trust a professional service provider if you couldn’t find any information about them online?

Taking simple steps like ensuring your web content is up-to-date and reflects your value proposition can help people decide to take the next step in their journey toward finding a financial planner. 

Jeremy Jackson

 

Jeremy Jackson
Owner/founder
SKY Marketing Consultants
Kirkwood, MO

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Financial Planning Association members can get 50 percent of SKY Marketing Consultants‘ digital audit services (a discount of up to $300). For more information visit MyFPA

Look for the Journal of Financial Planning’s July issue for more marketing tips for financial planners. 


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Letting Go of Relationships

Compared with professionals in other industries, financial advisers typically enjoy uniquely satisfying relationships with their clients. One reason is that “clients for life” is more than a catchphrase. Given the myriad of critical financial issues, life circumstances, and market volatility that can occur in any 10- or 20-year period, it’s no surprise that deep relationships develop.

But what happens when it’s time to let go of these relationships so a new adviser can take over?

Time for transition
No matter how competent the new adviser, nor how well honed his or her relationship skills, the new adviser is often stepping into a situation where both the original adviser and the client are grieving the loss of the relationship. Two things can happen: in the healthy approach, the client and the original adviser mutually agree to let go of the past and foster the development of the new relationship. In the unhealthy approach, the client and/or the adviser holds on to the existing relationship for dear life, which could undermine or even sabotage the relationship with the new adviser.

For example, it’s not unusual for the original adviser to think that his or her way of doing things is best. Although a new adviser may do some things similarly, the likelihood that his or her way of doing business will be exactly the same is small. That’s true even when the new adviser is the child of the transitioning adviser. If the original adviser feels the need to swoop in and mediate, the relationship between the client and the new adviser certainly won’t get off on the right foot.

So what can advisers transitioning out of the business after decades-long relationships with clients do?

  • Acknowledge that leaving one’s career may create a sense of loss. For some, you may even go through a grieving period similar to when you lose a loved one. In such cases, it may be tempting to keep tabs on client relationships. If keeping tabs is purely personal or “golf-based”—fine. But the original adviser should avoid interfering with the professional relationship between the client and the new financial adviser.
  • Those transitioning out of the business should seek the counsel of those who have experienced the same process. Sometimes the transition out of a long-term career can lead to depression, especially in the last third of life. Another adviser who has already gone through the transition process may provide a good sounding board.
  • Plan for a transition early. Both the original and the new adviser should budget ample time for joint meetings with clients to transfer knowledge and to foster the transfer of the professional advisory relationship.

The bottom line is both advisers must do what’s best for the client—even when it means letting go.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

 

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


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The Experience Story: In Reverse

It’s no secret that telling a great story can help prospects better understand your recommendations. Story-based selling is the art of using metaphors, analogies or stories to do just that. However, what is little known is that you can have a similar effect when you set the stage by having a prospect share an experience about themselves or about someone they know who has used a particular product or service. Many times you get them to buy into the products or services you are about to recommend based on a story they have just shared with you, so that there is little need for you to go down the path of a typical closing. This process is a reversal of sorts as the standard practice is for advisers or agents to have to share their existing client’s experiences in order to “sell” to a prospective client. So I refer to this as “the experience story: in reverse.”

During a recent group coaching session on story-based selling, I had asked all the attendees if they told stories during their presentations to help close the sale. I had coached on this material dozens of times before, asking this question each time, but what was new that day was what one adviser said, “I don’t tell them stories but instead I have them tell me stories.”

She went on to explain that the reason she did this was so that the prospect could eventually tell her the benefits that the individual in their story received from having a product or service. Once that occurred, the prospect often came to the conclusion that they could also receive the exact same value. In other words, they sold themselves on why they should buy.

Let’s take a brief look at how this process works:

  • Uncover the Prospect’s Experience: It’s important to begin by asking a great question to identify if the prospect has any personal experience or has known anyone who has had an experience with what you are about to recommend. The key is not to formulate your question around the product or service but rather about a situation or scenario that would prompt the need for that product or service. An example of what NOT to ask would be, “Have you ever known anyone who had long-term care insurance?” However, DO inquire, “Have you ever known anyone who went into a nursing home or assisted living?” Remember to make this question common enough to ensure that they will have some type of a story to tell you.
  • Invite the Prospect to Share their Experience: Once the prospect answers your question, invite them to tell you more. Some examples of good “cue” questions would be, “Why did they go to the nursing home or assisted living in the first place? How long were they there? What do you think it cost them to stay there? How do you think they paid for it?” Make sure you sprinkle in these types of questions to more readily “cue” the prospect to share more of the story and create a strong dialogue.
  • Uncover the Benefits and Tell a Story: After you let their story unfold, it’s time to help them uncover the benefits of the product or service that you will be recommending. Use questions such as, “Do you know what it currently costs for one month in a nursing home or assisted living situation? What do you think it might cost in ten to fifteen years if you or a loved one would need to stay in one? How would you pay for it?” At this point, explain your own experience of helping a client who was in a similar situation and the recommendation you made to them. Here is an example of how to make a seamless transition, “I am here to help assist my clients so that don’t have to worry about the cost and here is why…” Then, explain the product or service and how it has helped your current clients.
  • Ask for the Order: All that is left to do at this point is to help them come to the conclusion that they can benefit from this product or service just like your existing clients. Simply, ask a question such as, “Based on what we just talked about, what do you think is the best course of action for you?”

Why the Prospect Will Buy
If you have followed these aforementioned steps, the prospect will typically come to the conclusion that they want to buy because they want the same benefits as your clients. You have strategically led them to uncover their own need(s). In this case that was to be financially prepared for either themselves or a family member to go into a nursing home or assisted living facility, as well as the solution, with this example, long-term care insurance.

If you read this article and would like helpful techniques about how to create your own experience story: in reverse, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

 

Daniel Finley presents an FPA webinar titled “Beyond the Production Plateau: The Solution to Your Business Evolution” from 2 to 3 p.m., EDT, June 8. Register for the webinar here


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Paid, Owned and Earned Media—a Must for Your Marketing Strategy 

 

During a recent seminar I conducted for a group of financial advisers titled, “Leveraging Marketing Content to Build Credibility, Gain Visibility and Grow Your Business,” my audience posed several questions about content types such as paid, owned and earned media.

In our digital age, marketing content is king. Consumers no longer rely exclusively on print and broadcast media to get their information about products and services. Access to a plethora of online content from expert sources enables them to make educated decisions for their purchases. This has significantly altered the traditional, straightforward path to sales and created a compelling need for service and product providers to generate valuable content. The latter plays a crucial role in establishing an ongoing social media dialogue with consumers to establish credibility from the inception of the sales process, generate brand recognition and shorten the sales cycle.

In the seminar, while a handful of advisers had a vague idea of paid, owned and earned media, many desired to hear definitions of each and how each relates to content generation and, most important, how to make it part of an overall marketing strategy.

Here are broad definitions: generally speaking, paid media is useful to generate brand recognition and collect client demographics. Owned media helps build brand experience and earned media helps foster conversation about a brand. For those of you not familiar with this media triad, here is a brief overview of them:

Paid media: Any paid activity aimed at disseminating your messages and attracting visibility to your brand. Better known as advertising, it involves print and broadcast media, as well as any type of paid social media, such as promoted Facebook posts, sponsored LinkedIn ads and pay-per-click.

Paid media contributes very little to building credibility. However, it is very useful for creating brand awareness and gathering valuable audience demographics. It is a viable means of mass communication, especially when used in combination with owned or earned media and it must feature call-to-actions based on customer benefits.

Let me explain: to generate new business leads, an adviser can use paid media to promote her appearance on a radio or TV interview. She can add to her paid media a call-to-action to direct prospects to her website to download a digital “freemium,” such as a white paper or a podcast—her owned media—and capture prospects’ contact information and other key information.

Owned media: The channels created, owned and controlled by your business. These include your website, social media accounts, mobile site, blog, email list and any content you give away with the intent to generate leads.

Owned media enables advisers to be in complete control of what free content to distribute, when and how. Owned media’s popularity is rising fast, as consumers increasingly rely on online information to make their buying and investment decisions.

A recent inPowered/Nielsen study confirmed that when considering the purchase of a product or service, consumers currently seek out and rely on content generated by trusted expert sources five times more than they did five years ago. Often, the boundaries between earned and owned media are not as clear as they can appear. For example, an adviser’s blog post (owned media) when republished by a media outlet or an influential industry blog(s) will be considered earned media.

Earned media: What your followers, fans and clients say about you and your expertise. It attracts the attention of your key audiences, and if they like your brand and message(s), they become your brand evangelists and influencers by voluntarily sharing your content, insights, tips and brand with prospects and additional potential brand advocates in the social media world and by word-of-mouth.

Retweets, shares, likes and mentions, which are not paid for, are earned media. It is the hardest type of media to secure, yet it’s the most trustworthy and instrumental to the success and growth of your business. The direct effect of earned media—retweets and/or mentions of your name, an interview or quote in a leading print or broadcast media outlet—is immediate and strong credibility. Press, radio and TV especially provide an adviser with the most powerful third-party endorsement by positioning her or him as an authority and a trusted expert source.

As consumers increasingly depend on online content to gather valuable information, advisers must implement tactics that drive traffic to their websites and increase visibility for their brands, expertise and services. This can be achieved by developing holistic online marketing strategies that astutely combine paid, owned and earned media models to tell a consistent story that engages and motivates their audiences.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.


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5 Strategies to Connect During the First Appointment

Have you ever gone into an initial first appointment with high hopes of connecting with the prospect only to later realize that you did not make a connection at all? Maybe you have had several appointments like this over the course of your career. If so, you may have been missing one, a few or all of the five strategies for the first appointment process.

Let’s take a look at what those are:

  1. Get the prospect’s story: One of the most important things you can do to establish a connection is to genuinely be interested in learning about the prospect. People love to talk about themselves and the best way to encourage this is to strategically map out questions that will help them tell you their life story. If you can do this, they will end up explaining the reason for why they are looking for a new financial adviser and what is important to them about finding just the right one.
  1. Show them how much you care: It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I believe that is true. Oftentimes, advisers try to win over a prospect by dazzling them with their stock market and/or product knowledge. Unfortunately, this tends to create more of a disconnect with a potential client. Don’t start the relationship off by telling them what you know but instead tell them how much you care about their situation. Chances are you have had other prospects and clients experience similar things. If so, then you should share their story with them. Do this and you will set a prospect at ease. They will feel comfortable that you are familiar with their situation.
  1. Understand the prospect’s pain points: As you listen to the prospect’s story and let them how much you care, you will probably realize that they have real concerns about their finances–these are what I call the prospect’s pain points. Typically, these are the reasons why they came to see you in the first place. If you truly understand their concerns as well and what is most important to them, and they know you understand both, it is much easier to build a connection with them.
  1. (Strategically) sum up the appointment: At some point, you need to strategically shift the conversation into summarizing what you have learned about them from your conversation. Try a phrase such as, “We’ve talked about a lot of things today and what I’d like to do is summarize what I have heard.” Then, proceed to state their situation, issues/problems and the long-term implications of not fixing those issues/problems. If you do this well, they will be much more inclined to hear what else you have to say because they know you have listened, and more importantly, have heard them.
  1. Sell your solutions to set a second appointment: Once a prospect gives you the signs or tells you they are ready, it’s time to sell your solutions to set a second appointment. Ironically, the strategy that I am about to explain isn’t so much about selling as it is about helping them want to buy. Simply, use questions such as, “How would it help you most if I put together a full financial plan so that you can understand how much money you will need when you retire, how much income you may have to live off of once you are retired and whether or not you are currently on course to accomplish those goals?” Nine times out of ten they will instantly start telling you they would value that by saying, “That sounds like something I have needed for a long time!” All you need to do is agree with them and then simply ask for the second appointment. “Exactly, then that is what we will do! Are you available this time next week to review the plan?”

Take a moment to think about what you have just learned. Are you using these strategies in your first appointment process? If not, you now know how.

If you are ready to strategically run your prospecting process, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with Dan Finley at Advisor Solutions by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

 

Daniel Finley presents an FPA webinar titled “Beyond the Production Plateau: The Solution to Your Business Evolution” from 2 to 3 p.m., EDT, June 8. Register for the webinar here


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To Improve Client Relationships, Turn the Light Inward

Because of the crucial role financial advisers play in the lives of their clients, they must be able to effectively manage both their clients’ emotional and financial demands. This is easier said than done, especially during times of financial turmoil, when it becomes particularly challenging to remain calm, focused and available to help clients face their fears. Inability to do so is often perceived as lack of leadership on the adviser’s part.

It may sound surprising, but leadership qualities can be developed and reinforced through mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and devoting undivided attention to what is taking place in the present moment, ignoring the outer noise and noticing instead our thoughts and emotions arising. This practice fosters increased calmness, clarity and deeper concentration.

Mindfulness allows us to transform personal experiences, narratives and emotion from distractions into valuable tools. During a client meeting, mindfulness will give you the clarity and openness you need to understand the emotional and physical sensations both you and your client experience while working on a financial decision. Ultimately, mindfulness arms you with a compass to identify the best course of action that truly reflects your client’s goals and aspirations.

Below you will find some mindfulness concepts that can be beneficial to the client-adviser relationship:

1. Turning the Light Inward
Dogen Zenji, a thirteenth century Zen philosopher, referred to mindfulness as the process of “turning the light inward”—returning our attention to the source of consciousness. Turning the light inward enables us to pay less attention to the myriad distractions, preoccupations and delusions we experience, and observe instead our mechanical reactions, mostly driven by our anxiety. An unanticipated difficult question from a client can pose a threat to our expertise and undermine our security. Consequently, we rush to deploy an automatic reaction to annihilate our anxiety. It is only by taking a step back and shining the light inward that we can see how emotions and fears are driving our responses.

2. Mindful Presence and Listening
The highly competitive and fast-paced environment in which you operate, success and oftentimes survival appears to be a direct function of your ability to multitask. Regrettably, this is pretty far from the truth. A study by Stanford University concluded that multitasking lowers efficiency and performance, as our brain can only focus on one task at a time. In addition, an article in McKinsey Quarterly titled, “Recovering from Information Overload,” debunks the myth of multitasking in favor of mindfulness. Mindful presence and listening opens the doors to a new way of being fully present and hearing in a way that fosters a natural propensity to remain objective and gather good intelligence about what clients worry and care about. Ultimately, it enables advisers to better facilitate their clients’ pursuits of financial freedom and even dispel some of their fears. During a client meeting pose a question, such as “What are the most important challenges our firm has helped you successfully address?” and then, commit yourself to mindfully listen to every word your client will say. Her answer may yield valuable information you may have missed in past conversations.

3. Achieve Higher Effectiveness
The Internet is rife with information about the benefits of mindfulness. A Harvard Business Review article titled “Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity states that mindfulness practice helps “to reduce stress, unlock creativity and boost performance.” The majority of the public is not aware that while carrying out a task “on average, our minds are wandering involuntarily from what we are doing 46.9 percent of the time,” (from A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind by Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingworth). Some of the leading corporations in the world are making significant investments in mindfulness for their employees to enable them achieve higher effectiveness, improved focus, heightened self-insight and increased cognitive flexibility.

4. Beginner’s Mind
The busyness of our Western culture forces us to consistently approach people and situations with an expert’s mind rather than a beginner’s mind. Though an expert mind unquestionably serves it purpose it far too often triggers in us the very familiar “been there, done that” response. Shunryu Suzuki in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, stated “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” So, with a beginner’s mind we actively listen to a client or prospect to gain more knowledge and learn about their fears, needs and goals—wholeheartedly and refraining from quickly passing judgments or rushing to offer solutions until we have absorbed all there is to absorb.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

 

Here is some other FPA content you may be interested in: 

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