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Put Me In, Coach: How to Improve Like An Athlete

Being a financial adviser is a lot like being an athlete. If you have ever played on a team you can probably relate to the feeling of anticipation while waiting to play and all you wanted to say was, “Put me in, coach!” Once you got in the game it was up to you to make the most of the moment and shine.

One example of using this analogy is Amy, a ten-year veteran adviser who wanted to succeed and she needed my help to do it. As her business coach, I helped her determine what her goals were and what actions it would take to work smarter rather than harder. Next, we practiced by role-playing so she could get back to actually prospecting. However, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was not applying what she had learned because her fears where getting in her way and thus she would rather sit on the sidelines than risk losing the game.

Let’s look at the steps I utilized with Amy to create her amazing comeback:

Step 1: Be All-In
What Amy was experiencing is very common for veteran and rookie advisers alike. It’s easy to want to win but it’s not always easy to risk the possibility of defeat. Many advisers choose not to even try. In other words, it’s like asking the coach to put you into the game but you choosing not to be all-in and not playing the best you could once you were in because you didn’t want to make a mistake and contribute to a loss.

The first step with Amy was to get her to commit to taking action and being dedicated to being all-in when it came to her own success. So, I had her make a list of reasons why she wanted to get to the next level and what would happen in one, three, five and even ten years from now if she continued not prospecting. After realizing the pleasure she would have by being a top producer and the pain that she could have by being a low level one, she committed to getting back to prospecting!

Step 2: Think on Your Feet
All athletes know that sometimes plays don’t go as planned. You may practice the play over-and-over again but on game day anything can happen. So too is practicing for an appointment and realizing the conversation isn’t going in the direction that you want it to. That’s why you must be able to think on your feet.

Amy realized that setting appointments with new prospects was getting easier but from time to time she was getting caught off guard with specific objections. I assured her that this is natural and all we needed to do was to increase the tools, techniques, strategies and solutions to handle any objection that came her way. It’s not about memorizing what to say but understanding the formula of how to say it. Once we did this, she could easily adapt to any conversation path.

Step 3: Assess Your Actions and Results
All great coaches know that the best way to take their players to a higher level is to help them assess their actions and results. Most teams watch game films so they can duplicate their successes and learn from their errors.

Within weeks, Amy was excited to tell me that her pipeline was full. She had eight appointments set for the week and had already turned a few prospects into clients since our last session.

Wanting to Win
Amy knew that just getting into the game wasn’t enough. Instead, she had to focus on her desire to win. If you take a page out her playbook you too can create this level of success.

If this blog resonates with you and you would like to have a free consultation with Dan Finley, email Melissa Denham director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

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


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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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FPA Retreat 2016 Attendees Rave, Can’t Wait for Next Year

_MG_5050 -h WEBDespite it being one of the last sessions of FPA Retreat 2016, the session presented by Daniel Crosby, Ph.D., President at Nocturne Capital and author of The Laws of Wealth: Psychology and the secret to investing successwas packed.

His dynamic presentation on how to help clients follow your best advice had attendees listening and laughing.

“Any presenter will tell you that (s)he feeds off of the energy of the crowd,” Crosby said. “No group is as informed and engaged as the folks at FPA Retreat.”

That’s the thing about FPA Retreat—its intimate setting is an ideal environment to share ideas, experience interactive learning and re-energize planners. This year’s conference—which was focused on storytelling for business—was well-received by planners who attended.

“We shared our stories with each other and reached a deeper level of understanding and friendship with our colleagues,” said Clare Stenstrom, CFP®, CFT™, with Luesink Stenstrom Financial. “It helped us get to know the new attendees and bring them into the Retreat family.”

Another session that was a hit was the session on story-based marketing by Shelley A. Lee, founder and creative director of Ashworth-Lee Communications. Yusef Abugideiri, CFP®, financial planner at Yeske Buie, said Lee captured the importance of storytelling for business.

“The exercises she had the audience do … challenged us to think about what the most important parts of the story are and how to engage with clients such that we learn the most important parts of their story,” Abugideiri said.

IMG_0347Stenstrom said the session by Jeff Belkora, Ph.D., author of DEAL! Discovery, Engagement, and Leverage for Professionals, and its interactive session were helpful.

“Belkora was fantastic and he stayed for the remainder of Retreat enriching our discussions,” Stenstrom said.

“Those who attend Retreat will find themselves richly rewarded by an inclusive community that is eager to share its collective knowledge,” Crosby, who was also an attendee, said. “The focus on self-development at FPA Retreat is unparalleled. All conferences seek to educate the participants, but Retreat goes one step further and aims to change participant behavior from the inside out.”

Stenstrom added, “Can’t wait for next year.”

Did you miss FPA Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use the code PARET17 for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.

AnaHeadshot

 

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


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8 Questions to Evaluate Financial Planning Research

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Dave Yeske at Closing Circle of FPA Retreat 2016

In order to emerge as a true profession, the financial planning industry needs to base its practices on research-based writing.

That’s what Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, co-owner of the planning firm Yeske Buie, told FPA Retreat attendees at his session on how to read and apply research-based writing.

“We need to deepen our connection with academics,” Yeske said. “They know how to conduct research but they don’t always know what the critical questions are that you need answers to.”

The Journal of Financial Planning, of which Yeske is practitioner editor, is one of many outlets that supply practitioners with research-based writing, but those articles aren’t so helpful if you aren’t sure exactly how to read them.

Yeske provided eight questions to ask yourself in order to better evaluate research-based writing.

  1. What is the problem or question? What are the researchers trying to address?
  2. How did they conceptualize that problem, how did they structure it? Look for what the researchers are measuring. For example, client trust and relationship commitment have become well-represented measures in financial planning literature.
  3. What are the key findings from prior research? Good research will build on research that came before to lay the foundation for the current research to build upon.
  4. What was their methodology? Does it seem like the researchers make sense?
  5. What were the results of the testing? A formal academic paper will never prove anything, Yeske said, rather it will fail to disprove something.
  6. Were the results compelling? Did the authors connect all the dots for you? Did their data answer the question?
  7. What are the practical applications? Do the researchers tell you how you could use this information? If not, are you still able to find a practical use for the data that is being presented?
  8. Will this change the way I practice? Will I be able to incorporate this into my practice?

“As a profession we need to all become better at recognizing research-based writing and be able to apply it,” Yeske said.

See Yeske’s presentation here.

Yeske also has a remote course on this subject through Golden Gate University, where he serves as the director of financial planning. Find out more here.

Also, you could participate in the Financial Planning Association’s Theory in Practice Knowledge Circle.

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use the code PARET17 for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.

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

 

 


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3 Steps to Defining your Value

RPI Research Feb 16By the end of this month, the Financial Planning Association will release the first of three whitepapers derived from its “2016 Trends in Practice Management: Understanding and Driving Client Value” research report.

The first whitepaper, titled “Defining and Communicating Your Value” examines how defining your value and your ideal client is the first step to having a successful practice.

The whitepapers are a way for planners to easily apply the information uncovered in the research to their practices, said Ben Lewis, FPA’s communications director.

“That’s where the whitepapers come in,” Lewis said. “The hope is that each whitepaper, developed in collaboration with Julie Littlechild of AbsoluteEngagement.com, will be a helpful resource in making the research actionable.”

Define Your Ideal Client
When defining your value, Littlechild explains, it is important to figure out what makes you different from other advisers. This most likely starts being clear about who your ideal client is.

“True differentiation typically starts with clarity around your ideal client,” Littlechild writes. “The needs of those clients will influence how you define and drive clients.”

According to the research report, 38 percent of advisers said they had a formal definition of their ideal client and 55 percent said they have a “general idea” of who their ideal client is. A third of advisers surveyed said more than 75 percent or more of their clients meet their definition of “ideal.”

So sit down and decide what that definition is. If you’re having a hard time, focus on the scope of work you’d like to do, the niche you’d like to serve and the age of the clients you’d like to serve.

Littlechild also writes to keep in mind that “you cannot be all things to all people. Your value is, therefore, defined by the needs and objectives of your most important clients.”

Gather Client Input
As soon as you identify your ideal client, reach out to your current clients who meet this criteria and gather information on their perception of the value you provide.

“Qualitative feedback may be most useful for this kind of feedback,” Littlechild writes. “Consider client interviews as a primary way to gather input.”

Define the Value You Provide to Clients
Once you’ve gathered all that client feedback, comb over it and figure out what services you provide that add the most value and set you apart from other advisers.

“A simple list will suffice at this point,” Littlechild writes.

To learn more about how to further implement this information, download the research report here. The upcoming whitepapers will be available to FPA members only. To become a member, click here.

Have Something to Contribute?
While FPA has partnered with Littlechild most recently, it is always looking for new partners.

“FPA is always interested in partnering with consultants, coaches and subject matter experts to help our more than 24,000 members around the world address pressing matters that impact the business and practice of financial planning,” said FPA’s Lewis.

Those who want to contribute or who want to expand the body of professional knowledge are encouraged to reach out to see what options exist, Lewis said. To find out more, contribute to the conversation about this research on FPA Connect.

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


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6 Seriousness of Success Indicators

During a complimentary group coaching session with 60 financial advisers, I made a special announcement that for a limited time we would offer a very low monthly payment plan option on our upcoming group coaching series to anyone with five years or less in the business. I did this to try and help those in need who may not have the necessary funds for coaching.

The caveat: we were only taking the first 10 people who emailed me with their interest. Within minutes, we had more than 10 people contact me. However, only one ended up actually signing up for our group coaching program. My first thought was that the others simply didn’t see our follow-up email with the registration link. After calling the entire list twice and speaking with many of the advisers, I came to the realization that the real reason they were not following through on their initial interest was that they simply were not serious about their own success (and it had nothing to do with money after all).

The following are just of few examples of what I have found with my successful client advisers:

1.) They Are Serious about Commitment: Successful advisers know that making a commitment to own their success is not a gray area—either you are committed to succeed or you are not. This doesn’t eliminate setbacks but redefines them as opportunities to learn and move forward.

2.) They Are Serious about Character: Successful advisers know that doing the right thing for the client is much more important than earning a commission. They say what they mean and they stick to their word.

4.) They Are Serious about Consequences: Successful advisers know that they are responsible for their own success, not their firm, their clients, the market or the economy. They realize that it is pointless to blame others.

5.) They Are Serious about Collaboration: Successful advisers find others to help build and maintain a thriving practice. They utilize their firm’s resources and expertise. They oftentimes build teams with other like-minded advisers or hire junior advisers to delegate activities to that they themselves don’t like to do.

6.) They Are Serious about Control: Successful advisers know what is and is not in their control. They CAN control their attitude, activities and actions. They don’t worry about things that they cannot control, such as their clients’ attitudes, the market and the overall economy.

Obviously, I’m not saying you can’t have fun in your business but I am saying that if you want to get to the next level with your practice it’s time to get serious about your own success. Nobody else can, or will, do it for you.

If you read this article and would like help identify how to take your business more seriously, 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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Managing the Business Development Process: A Key to the True Ensemble

According to a recent report by Cerulli Associates, financial advisers today are more likely to join an established RIA than to create their own advisory firm. Another study by InvestmentNews came to the same conclusion. Are these results surprising? Perhaps for some, but the talk regarding the emergence of ensemble firms has been around for more than a decade. Whether due to aging founder advisers who want their firms to continue after they’re gone, or to advisers who want to grow the top line, there is indeed a hiring frenzy by existing firms.

What happens after the frenzy has been satisfied and additional advisers are in place is another story. Unfortunately, “buyer’s remorse” can sometimes set in: Firm leaders who have failed to anticipate and prepare for the changes resulting from having additional advisers in the firm cannot achieve the intended results. So, what can be done to prevent this scenario?

As the leader of your organization, you should, of course, carefully craft the vision and business plan—and then drive that plan into reality. But one key to forming a true ensemble is the need to manage the business development process—sometimes referred to as the sales process.

Manage the Process
As advisers join your firm, they will need leadership and management to help them grow. You may find that it doesn’t cut it to go back to “business as usual” and focus your time as a financial adviser on only serving your clients. Be it loosely or with formality—and whether or not you call it “sales”—the business development process within a firm needs to be managed. To do this, consider the following:

  • Have individual advisers set revenue goals. This will yield the forecast on which future expenditures of the firm can be based. At least some of these expenditures should be for marketing efforts designed to gain new clients.
  • Track all activities. It is all too easy to service existing clients endlessly and never get around to prospecting. Keeping track of advisers’ revenue-generating activity will help provide some needed structure and balance to client-servicing activities.
  • Coordinate marketing events. This will ensure that firm-sponsored events and expenditures are embraced by all advisers within a firm.
  • Recognize success. Advisers need to be recognized for their achievements, as well as coached in areas where improvement is needed.
  • Evaluate techniques. By evaluating the effectiveness of different revenue-generating approaches, future time and energy can go into those prospecting activities with the highest return on investment. This is often referred to as tracking and assessing the effectiveness of endeavors of the sales funnel.

A Word to the Wise
If you love being a financial adviser and working directly with your clients but hate managing others and/or focusing on others’ growth, you might want to “stick to your knitting” and remain in a solo practice. And if you think that growing your business is as simple as finding another adviser to join your firm, think again. All work is a process—including business development.

Remember, you might establish a multi-adviser firm by hiring more advisers. But a key to forming a true ensemble includes actively managing your business development process.

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