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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
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


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Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion: The Pillars of Better Client Relationships

Put succinctly, emotions and finances go hand in hand.

Many emotions are associated with financial decisions—so many that clients and prospects may have a hard time talking about it with anyone in their circles, and often even with an expert like a financial adviser.

So what can advisers do to enable their clients to circumvent emotional barriers and make them feel more at ease in talking about their dreams, need and fears?

There is an abundance of literature offering instructions, tips and guidelines on this topic. Frequently it is stated that exercising sympathy, empathy and compassion toward clients can help advisers attain a more in-depth understanding of their clients’ needs and emotions and develop more solid relationships. However, the often-inappropriate use of these three terms seems to lead to confusion. Below, I provide more accurate definitions of the terms and how they relate to client relationships.

Sympathy
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. We feel sympathy toward a client experiencing an unusual chain of negative family events. However, sympathy is characterized by a degree of emotional distance because we are not experiencing the pain ourselves. Ultimately, sympathy is the ability to express culturally acceptable condolences to someone else’s plight. Sympathy, however, fosters disconnection. This is because it sparks in us the desire to identify a silver lining in the situation—lamentably and in some cases a banal cliché—which does not really help relieve an individual’s suffering.

Empathy
Empathy goes beyond sympathy. While the latter focuses on finding a response that does not necessarily help make things better, empathy aims at establishing an emotional connection with someone. Empathy makes us vulnerable, because to create a real emotional connection with the one who is suffering we must first connect with that part of ourselves that knows that feeling.

Subsequently, empathy forces us to experience some of the pains that the other person is experiencing. Research conducted by neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolati, proves that about 20 percent of our neurons possess mirroring functions. Accordingly, when we witness another human being’s emotion through their body language, voice intonation or spoken word, those neurons dispatch signals that enable us to feel and know what that emotion is. For this reason, we do not have to work hard at developing empathy, as we have an inherent disposition to it. Real empathy requires being mindfully present with our clients and prospects, listening wholeheartedly to what they say, recognizing their emotions and reflecting them back.

Compassion
Compassion is empathy in action. The word compassion is composed of com (together with) and passion (to suffer). Despite the word’s etymology, exercising compassion does not mean that we have to suffer to help someone. A financial adviser just like a doctor can relieve suffering without having to experience a client/patient’s exact pain.

Compassionate listening may be hard to master, particularly when it requires listening to the suffering of others. The fact that we all experience pain and grief makes it very difficult for us to listen to others. To be able to truly listen to someone’s suffering, we need to first listen and transform the suffering that dwells within ourselves. The foundation of compassionate listening is self-awareness. This may sound paradoxical, but lacking clarity in our relationship with ourselves severely impairs our ability to improve relationships with others.

Compassion is the ability to listen in a receptive, generous, supportive and non-judgmental way. Ultimately, it is the practice of abandoning our self-oriented, reactive and opinionated thinking and expanding our awareness to make room for the suffering of another human being. A client or prospect brings more than words to a meeting. There is a plethora of unexpressed feelings, anxieties, fears and thoughts that only compassion enables you to recognize, understand and speak about.

I exhort you to master the art of compassion. In addition to being pleasant and caring, compassion makes you trustworthy. Eventually, it will contribute to elevate your professional image, build enduring relationships and make a difference in your life and those of your clients.

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


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Survey: Advisers’ Use of ETFs Continues to Rise

2016 Trends in Investing Survey ReportExchange-Traded Funds remain the most popular investment among financial advisers, according to results from a recent survey conducted by the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Research and Practice Institute™, a program of the Financial Planning Association®.

FPA recently released results of its 2016 Trends in Investing Survey, which showed that 83 percent of financial advisers surveyed are currently using or recommending the use of ETFs with their clients. When the survey was first conducted in 2006, only 40 percent of advisers surveyed said they’d used or recommended ETFs. That number has steadily grown over the years, up to 79 percent in 2014 and 81 percent in 2015.

That number may grow next year as 46 percent of respondents indicated they plan to increase their use or recommendation of ETFs with clients in the next 12 months.

ETFs are popular, according to respondents, because they have lower costs, are more tax efficient, have a higher trading flexibility and have increased transparency of holdings.

“The vast majority of ETFs are based on indexes, including those that focus on ‘smart beta,’ and I think the growth in popularity is to a significant degree reflective of the ongoing shift among financial planners toward more ‘passive’ approaches to investing client assets,” Dr. Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, Practitioner Editor of the Journal of Financial Planning, said in a news release. “Even planners who still use ‘active’ investment strategies will often start with a core portfolio built around index funds, increasingly in the form of ETFs.“

The 2016 Trends in Investing Survey also found that advisers continue to move away from variable annuities—39 percent of respondents are currently using/recommending variable annuities, versus 49 percent in 2012, which was down from 58 percent in both 2006 and 2008.

The survey was conducted online in April 2016 and was completed by 283 financial advisers. Among respondents, 98 percent are Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) professionals and 49 percent work as independent IARs/RIAs.

Read the full survey findings here. FPA members can read a more detailed overview of the findings in the June issue of the Journal of Financial Planning.


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Create Time Budgets to Produce Results

An adviser’s time is precious. For each available work hour, there are countless ways to consume it, and with each hour productively applied, the adviser and his or her business prospers. However, advisers are not machines that can simply be programmed for completing tasks. There is a person at hand, a person with talents, skills, histories, ambitions and preferences.

Professional services firms connect an adviser’s work effort (see the blog “Your Product is You”) to the business. Essentially, the adviser and the business become one.

Important Business Work
An adviser’s direct client service—the firm’s product—can be captured within the broad categories of wealth and investment planning such that a client’s plan leads to investment execution. Advisers trained for these specialties find these activities intellectually appealing and personally fulfilling; it is a pleasure to do this work.

The business connection to these services arrives when a client pays the fee and the firm’s revenue increases. So far, so good.

A vibrant operating business requires much more than service delivery. Sales calls must be made to fill a sales pipeline; client reports must be produced; bills must be paid; employees hired, managed and nurtured; technology vendors evaluated and selected; investment research conducted; compliance requirements completed.

This list comprises many important activities that many advisers do not like to do. They are chores and are often held in limbo due to procrastination or even neglect.

Budgeting Time for Business Advancement

Like a financial budget that allocates limited monetary resources to the most important priorities, a time budget ensures that a business’s essential tasks are completed on time and within the optimal operating range. Tasks are linked together in order for efficient use of every employee’s time. Greater efficiency means less time on a task, and this is a worthy trade-off for important tasks, but those that are not personally fulfilling.

How a Time Budget Works
Foremost, a time budget is a planning document that considers specific allocations of time (i.e. a time block) according to business priorities, job responsibilities and task sequence. While similar to a project plan, a time budget integrates a person’s assigned tasks into a single view based on a rolling week-to-week evolution.

A time budget is not for regimentation but to be a guide as executed using these steps:

  1. While formal tools are available, an Excel or Word table suffices. Or, your CRM can be used to schedule activities through the workflow function.
  2. Divide the rows into one-hour time blocks and the columns into the days of the week.
  3. List the week’s tasks to be completed keeping in mind these parameters: tasks related to the firm’s strategic and operational priorities need to be given precedence.
  4. Batch related activities together.
  5. Without considering whether a task is loved or hated, ask yourself this question: what is the best time for this task to be completed optimally? For example, schedule sales and client service activities for the peak periods in the day. Place planning tasks at the beginning of the week (for assignment) and the end (for reflection).
  6. Place each task into its best time block day by day.
  7. For unappealing tasks, spread out the work over several consecutive days in order to have bursts of focus and avoid drudgery.
  8. Important tasks are scheduled when execution will be crispest such as in the morning or the beginning of the week.

Connecting Time Budgets
At the end of each week, evaluate the results from the time budget with these thoughts in mind:

  • If a task wasn’t completed, determine if it was from procrastination, interruptions or insufficient allocated time.
  • For repeating tasks week to week, consider if the results could have been better if allocated to a different time block.
  • For the next time budget, experiment with different sequences and time periods.
  • At the end of each month, compare the previous weeks’ time budgets and summarize the results achieved and the nuggets of learning.
  • Take the monthly summaries and use them with the chain of command for the next period’s business planning as well as employee reviews.

Time Budget Warnings
A time budget is a guide to reinforce results (good behaviors) and to inform about weak spots (procrastination).

Few things are more satisfying than looking into the rearview mirror of a year’s set of time budgets and seeing significant business results, on-time delivery, improved efficiency, personal growth and the absence of regret.

Kirk Loury

Kirk Loury
President
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey


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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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