New Years Resolutions for Investors

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

  1. I will not try to control the markets.
  2. I will not think, “This time, things will be different.”
  3. I will leave the forecasting to the meteorologists.
  4. I will be less impulsive in my decisions.
  5. I will try to control my poor investment behaviors.
  6. I will focus on achieving my personal goals; not beating the benchmark.
  7. I will remain calm in the face of large market swings.
  8. I will choose a path and invest towards the future.
  9. I will be confident.
  10. I will let my “why?” always guide my “how.”

Secrets of Professional Presenters

Bev Flaxington@BevFlaxington, The Collaborative

Unless you are growing your business by giving presentations, you might not think about the importance of learning strong presentation skills. But it’s important for financial advisors to realize that each time you speak to a client or prospect, host a seminar or educational event, or speak to your team about firm goals and objectives, you are presenting. Being able to present your ideas in an effective manner is critical to success. You might be very intelligent and even creative, but if you cannot communicate in a manner that “wins over” your audience, you might be missing opportunities.

What makes the difference between a good presentation and a poorly delivered one? Often times it is the material; either we like what we hear or we don’t. Often times it is the presenter – if they are engaging and interesting, we pay more attention. Whether your next presentation is sitting one-on-one with a client, presenting to a board for a not-for-profit client, or standing in front of a roomful of people you’d like to gain as clients, the following six secrets from professional presenters may help:

  1. Establish what you want to accomplish at the outset. Is your presentation meant to persuade or to inform? Are you hoping to gain a client’s agreement on something or just wanting to tell your staff about a new change that’s happening? Always think about why you are doing the presentation and what the desired outcome is before you put together your material.
  2. What does the listener want from you? What are their goals in the exchange? Learn as much as you can about your listener or group. In a meeting with several people, ask them to raise their hands to questions about the material: How much do they know already? What prior experiences have they had? What do they hope to learn? In a one-to-one, get the other person talking. What do they hope to accomplish? The more you can engage and learn about your audience, the more engaged they will be with you.
  3. Put your information into a segmented format so that your audience can follow along with you. If, for example, you are presenting on the first-quarter market activity, you might segment: (a) Last year’s first quarter, (b) This year’s performance, (c) Changes from one year to the next and the meaning, Impact on you as the investor, and (e) Next steps you as the investor want to take in your portfolio. You want to take your material and put it into chunked segments so the audience knows where you are, and what you are talking about, at all times.
  4. Don’t assume the audience knows what you mean and why the material is relevant to them. It’s critical to provide context. Help the listener understand why they should care – the “so what?” and relevancy for their lives. If you are simply offering information, that’s fine, but let the audience know. When hoping to persuade a listener or set of listeners, it is absolutely critical to make the connection and allow them a clear window into the “why?” of the information to their needs and their lives.
  5. 5.13.13_Flaxington_Secrets of Professional PresentersCheck for understanding. Watch body language as you speak. Are people staying engaged? Are they nodding or shaking their heads? Are they focused on you? You want to make eye contact, smile and be engaged, and you want to watch the listener, too. Find ways to put questions in, or ask the audience to raise their hands. Work on engagement throughout your presentation and ask for questions to allow for deeper understanding.
  6. Have a clear next step. What do you want the audience or listener to do as a result of your presentation? Be clear what you want the listener to do. If you stated a desired outcome at the beginning of the dialogue, refer back to it now. And if you can get the listener to commit to a next step, have them do so in writing or to you verbally. A public commitment is always best.

Find ways to work on your presentation skills, and incorporate some of these ideas the next time you have an opportunity to present.

Networking Events

Bev FlaxingtonBev Flaxington, The Collaborative

Advisors looking for ways to add value to their clients will often hold educational events. Most advisors see this as a chance for increasing satisfaction and retention, but also as a way to generate referrals. Educational events are a great way for the advisor to bring additional value to their clients.

Another option that isn’t as popular but can be extremely valuable to clients is to offer a peer networking event. In cases where your client base may include business owners, entrepreneurs, widowed or divorced women, or others with similar interests, an event set up purely for networking can give clients access to experts, information and connections. Let’s look at some best practices around doing this:

networking

(1)    Identify the themes in your client base. Do you have people who might like to meet one another, or could learn from one another? Are there clients looking for introductions in order to grow their business, or who need information in their work or philanthropic lives that another client might be able to help with? Look through your client base to see where one client could add value to another client. See what your clients struggle with in their own lives – work, hobby, charitable, etc. and whether there are opportunities to get like-minded, complementary people in the same room.

(2)    Set expectations that this is a peer networking event. Give some structure to the evening. You could have an introduction to the event, talk about the networking objectives, and perhaps introduce clients at the outset. One possibility would be to go around and have each client introduce him- or herself and talk about their area of interest for the event. What would they like to gain? Another option would be to have areas of focus set up in different spots within the room so people can choose where to go to talk to others. Or you could set it up using the “Speed Dating” format where people rotate and talk to one another for a few minutes to exchange cards and interests. You could even have a speaker who is expert in networking to share some tips and ideas about how best to network for greatest advantage, and then ask people to practice the new skills they have learned with one another.

(3)    Set a “theme” for the evening. This could be anything from “The Back Office of the Small Business Owner” to “Philanthropic Interests in Africa”. Find out what your clients are interested in, what issues they are struggling with, what information they have to share and then create the event around these things. You could find an outside expert or a client, or other trusted advisor such as an accountant or attorney to speak on a topic and then ask clients to talk about different opportunities or aspects related to their lives and situations. For example, if you have a number of entrepreneurs in your client base, you could have an evening on “Going from Start-Up to Structure” and have clients who work with these firms talk about what they offer for help.

(4)    Keep the dialogue away from investing. These events are an opportunity for your clients to learn more about what your other clients may be doing, or may have to offer. It’s a way to bring like-minded people together to learn from one another and to possibly leverage one another. The focus isn’t on the investment process or the markets, it’s on meeting the needs of your clients for information and connection.

See if your client base lends itself to peer networking opportunities. In this age of social media connections, the truth is that many people still struggle to find the “right”contacts they need to help them grow their businesses, change their lives and learn about opportunities. Your clients may prove useful to one another as you facilitate these introductions.

Dealing with Fear in Clients

Bev FlaxingtonBev Flaxington, The Collaborative

These are difficult economic times. Add the current economic climate to a market that hasn’t cooperated for some years, and you have investors with angst. Anyone with money saved, or looking at retirement, is feeling a bit worried and ill at ease. When investors are worried, it impacts the advisor. Sometimes a client will not make a decision out of fear. Sometimes referrals are impacted because clients hesitate to recommend friends and family until they see what happens with the markets. People often simply sit on the sidelines when they are fearful, because doing nothing always seems better than taking a risk.

Do advisors just have to wait out this period of angst? What if it doesn’t go away for some time? Are advisors doomed to live with fearful clients? Let’s look at some strategies for managing clients through fearful times, and perhaps even benefiting from the difficult conditions.

bev blog 12.13.12

(1)    Manage your own fears first. If you, as an advisor, are worried, this will impact your clients too. Remember, most of us recognize the “smell of fear.” We know when someone is scared or worried. If you aren’t managing your own reactions, it will be noticeable to your clients. Practice meditation or deep breathing. Go to the gym. Read books that make you laugh. Whatever you have to do to feel more upbeat and less worried, do it. And watch the way you speak. Your words should be balanced and realistic, but overall optimistic and connoting a sense of “in control” to your clients.

(2)    Stay proactive. Many of the fears come from the unknown. What will happen if our politicians can’t reach an agreement? What if they decide to do one thing over another? The news is filled with worst case scenarios. Stay on top of what’s being discussed, and provide education to your clients about what you will do in different scenarios. Show them you are paying attention and thinking about your responses based on different outcomes.

(3)    Provide education. This might be a great time to hold a client event or seminar on the things we do know about. Can you speak about long-term care? Can you talk about living well during the aging process? Can you examine 529’s and the college savings options? Find things that are more known and that may be impacting your clients now or in the future, and educate about them. Keep the focus on you and your expertise, while taking it off – even for a short time – the things that are distracting your clients.

(4)    Talk about the fear that clients and prospects have. Acknowledge that you are hearing about it from many people. Talk about how much having an advisor can put fears to rest. Instead of reading the paper every day and wondering what strategies they should take, your clients can depend on you to do this. It’s really the best time to have someone else looking out for them. Remind them of this whenever possible, and acknowledge the circumstances. You want to stay confident in your approach, but it can be helpful to let them know you understand their fears and concerns and that you are there to look out for them.

In many ways, times of uncertainty offer an opportunity for those who are confident and experienced in approach to be the beacon, or comfort, for worried investors. See what you can do to be that confident supporter during these interesting times.

Find Out What Clients Want to Avoid

Sue BerginSue Bergin

Sometimes the risk tolerance question is difficult for clients because it involves using terminology that is not part of their daily vocabulary.  Next time you ask a client about their tolerance for investment risk, try a different track.   Find out the conditions they want to avoid.

Ask the client what routing preference they use when mapping out a trip.  Do they always choose the fastest route, the shortest distance, most fuel-efficient route, or do they try to avoid highways?

Route selection is based on a number of things. The client might have a strong personal preference that outweighs other factors like current traffic conditions, or whether they are in a rush.  Clients are also willing to accept a certain level of risk if they think that their selection will meet some of their criteria, for example, to save on gas.

Most often, however, the choice is driven by the desire to avoid certain conditions or risks inherent with those paths e.g., traffic, Sunday drivers, scenery, etc.

Routing preferences are one of the key differentiators among global positioning systems on the market today.  Consumers want to customize their maps according to their preferences and the conditions they seek to avoid.

By the same token, investors want to have control over the route that they will take in their financial journey.  They want to make a choice that allows them to avoid certain conditions.

“The fastest routes,” or “shortest distance” route might be too bumpy for their liking.  Similarly, clients might want to avoid the rough terrain that goes along with stock investments.  Instead, they might enjoy a “smoother ride” option, one that is marked by steady progress instead of wild fluctuations in speed.  These are the types of investors who could be most interested in absolute return fund strategies.  Clients interested in a “fuel efficient” option might do so because they want to avoid doing more damage to the environment than necessary. If so, these clients might also be interested in socially responsible investment alternatives.

Avoidance is a powerful motivator in determining what route a client will chose, whether it is on the road to Grandma’s, or the path to financial security.