Show and Tell: Five Points to Make with Prospects

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

The best storytellers are the ones that have mastered the art of “show, don’t tell.” Their ghost stories, for example, have descriptions of settings and physical manifestations of emotions. Sentences like “it was a scary place,” serve only to punctuate what the reader or listener already concluded.

The same can be said of advisors. Telling someone that you can help them achieve their financial goals does not make nearly as big of an impact as when you show them how.

The following are five areas where it is important to show clients why you are the best choice.

Five Points to Make with Prospects:

  1. How you will organize their financial lives. While most clients don’t come out and admit it, their financial lives are chaotic. They may not know how many assets they truly have and how they can put them all to work to increase purchasing power. The first step for advisors is to show clients the before and after. Explain to them what they currently have now versus what their potential growth may look like. Demonstrate how you will make them feel more in control of their financial lives. It could be something as simple as taking out your iPad and showing them the client portal of wealth management tools.
  2. 6.11.13_Bergin_Show&TellHow you will help them make good investment decisions. The term “good investment decisions” is too opaque to resonate with clients. Instead, walk clients through the process used to create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Talk to the client about how an IPS helps to guide future decisions. In the recent Brinker Barometer, we learned that 72% of advisors use a written IPS to help clients make non-emotional investment decisions when the market is in flux. The IPS is tangible proof of a disciplined process that will benefit the client.
  3. What you do to ensure that clients get the best advice and service possible. Marketing-darling phrases like independent, objective and unbiased, fall flat. Instead, describe the process that you go through to ensure that your recommendations are appropriate for the need you are trying to solve.
  4. You have been there, done that. Your experience does not speak for itself. You have to give it a voice. If you just say, “I have been an advisor 22 years,” you miss the opportunity to highlight what you have seen throughout your career. It is more impressive to learn that you have helped others thrive in all market climates than to know that you’ve been at this for a while.
  5. You appreciate their business. It’s easy to say “I value your business,” but to convey that message through action takes a concerted effort. Personal touches such as the just-checking-in phone calls, handwritten notes, and occasional invitations to social events let clients know that their business and their well-being matter to you.

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.

New Ideas for Growth

Bev Flaxington@BevFlaxington, The Collaborative

Finding creative ways to continue to grow an advisory business isn’t always easy. We asked advisors all over the country what some of the more interesting ideas are for marketing and business building. This blog is devoted to those advisors who are thinking outside of the box and trying new ideas.

Leveraging Social Media
In Greenwood Village, CO, Kelly O’Connor and her team researched the power of video. They realized they already had great information and material to share, so they produced short video commentaries. They have posted these on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and the like. Clients, prospects, and centers of influence, forward these clips to others. Kelly says they’ve found that while people may not read a report or a white paper, they’ll watch a brief video if a friend forwards it and asks them to!

Loving What you Do – and Sharing it!
Sarah Wilson, CGA and CFP of T.E. Wealth in Calgary, Alberta, says that she enjoys financial planning so much that she feels compelled to talk to others “about their lives, goals, and financial aspirations.” She claims she is naturally “nosy,” but the truth is that advisors who are truly interested in others and take the time to talk, listen, and learn, even when a sale may not be imminent, are often open to opportunities that other advisors may miss.

3.4.13_Flaxington_Ideas_for_GrowthFinding Outside Resources
Safe Harbor Asset Management in Huntington, NY, has expanded their client base by doing everything from purchasing leads from specialized marketing companies to sponsoring seminars. They have had success using a service provided by Platinum Advisory Marketing Services, which creates a weekly market update for their clients that can be forwarded to a friend to join the mailing list and receive the same update.  John Boyd, an attorney, launched a site called MeetingWave.com that helps professional service practitioners arrange targeted networking meetings with the type of people desired as invitees. You can arrange coffee, lunch, or general networking via email.  Jennifer Dziubeck of Kel & Partners in Boston shared information about their firm – GiftsonTime.com, a free web-based tool that enables financial advisors to select and schedule clients’ gifts. This system allows you to put in a year’s worth of events, and with one click, find a vendor or gift that is appropriate for your client base.

Niche Marketing
Kristin Harad, founder of the VitaVie Financial Planning firm in California, targets new parents and families with young children in the Bay area. Because it can be challenging for parents of younger children to get out to a meeting, Kristin’s firm has created “weekend workshops at indoor play spaces.” She says, “The kids have a great time jumping around and having unsupervised play, while we get the parents’ undivided attention for a 90-minute presentation on the financial issues parents of young children face.” At a financial planning firm in Beverly Hills, Ara Oghoorian, CFA, has created marketing materials such as promotional prescription vials filled with jelly beans – the Rx sticker includes their logo and contact information. It’s a fun way to say, “We know our niche!” They also belong to ProVisors – a networking group consisting of CEO and high-level executives. Because they are speaking to the medical community, they spend time contacting medical associations and getting articles published in their newsletters on topics related to retirement, financial planning, and concerns that may resonate with medical professionals.

Try One On
What can your firm do that’s a little different to gain the attention of investors in a crowded market?

Turning Satisfied Clients Into Referring Clients

Bev Flaxington@BevFlaxington, The Collaborative

One of the eternal frustrations for many advisors is that they have happy, satisfied clients who don’t refer on a regular basis. Ask an advisor how many satisfied clients they have and they may say upwards of 90%, but then ask that same advisor what percentage refer and the number usually drops below 10%!

What kinds of things can an advisor do to increase referrals more consistently? Let’s look at the five most common problems, and then the options for re-energizing your client base toward referring:

  1. Just because they like you doesn’t mean they will refer you. Although you are doing a great job for them, they may have very busy lives. You are not “top of mind” all of the time. They don’t think about you outside of the time they interact with you. In order to stay top of mind, make sure you have ways to connect with them on a consistent and ongoing basis. It isn’t enough to just send the monthly newsletter. Find articles of interest to pass along. Write a blog. Have ongoing events—in person and via webinars. Hold client conference calls. Reach out often in different ways to remind clients, more subtly, of the value you add.
  2. They know what you do for them, sort of. But they can’t translate it for other people and it isn’t enough to say, “I like my financial advisor and you should, too!” Be sure you are clear about the type of people you serve, the ways you serve them, and the problems you solve. Take the time to share stories and vignettes with clients about others you have helped and how you have helped them. Ask them directly if they know people in situations like the ones you are describing. Paint the picture clearly enough so they know who they are looking for, on your behalf. Turning clients into evangelists means you have to arm them with the story to tell.
  3. Practice ManagementClients think you give such high-touch service you could not possibly be interested in taking on new clients – it would just be too much! They may not realize you want referrals. While the idea of “just ask” falls short, making it clear to clients that your best source of new business is them is very important. Keep reminding them that you are hoping to be connected to others just like them over time in order to build your business, by serving clients well.
  4. There isn’t enough active engagement for clients to have a chance to refer. Your annual meeting is probably for the purpose of reviewing the client’s portfolio and life situation. Truth? They want the conversation to be about them, not about you. Now enough about their friends and family! They want the focus on them. You need to find other ways to build in engagement. Take them to lunch just to check in once per year. Invite them to a client advisory board meeting that is focused on steps to take to grow your business. Hold networking and referral meetings where they can bring others and perhaps enhance their relationships, while also enhancing yours. Build in these opportunities to your regular day-to-day activities.
  5. There may be nothing in it for them. Why should a client refer to you? Just because they are happy doesn’t mean they have to do anything more about it – after all, they are paying you a fee for services. It’s important to set up the desire for referrals at the outset. “What would have to happen in our relationship that you might want to refer us business? What steps would we need to take together to make this comfortable for you?” Or have a way to reward clients for referring. Send them tickets, or flowers or candy to say “thank you!” Be sure you get in their shoes and realize that referrals are for you, not for them. They may want to help a friend, but ultimately they might like to be acknowledged somehow, too.

If you are frustrated by the lack of referrals your satisfied clients bring, review this list. See if there is an area you could focus on to reenergize client referrals for 2013. Take it one step at a time.

Selling for the Non-Sales Professional

Beverly Flaxington, The Collaborative

Many times advisors don’t like to think of themselves as salespeople. But just think: Client referrals. Strategic alliances. New prospects coming in. Even peers sometimes need to be sold on an idea or a strategy. So advisors are faced with a conundrum – the need to sell is there, but the experience of selling can be a negative one.

The selling process, to those who have not been trained in it, has its own mystique. The scripts, the proper words at the proper time, and the ability to listen past an objection someone is presenting to you in order to find what they really need, are all skills that not many people possess naturally.

Let’s look at five tenets of successful sales that anyone can use to help them – at a minimum – get more comfortable:

  1. Define your goals. You wouldn’t create a financial plan for someone without knowing something about their goals, desired outcomes and current state. Selling is no different. Too many firms simply state “I want to grow,” “Our objective is growth,” or “Our strategy is to increase sales.” Instead, write quantitative and objective sales goals. Know who your ideal client is and target similar prospects, determine reasonable growth in assets and clients, and decide how much time you’ll devote to selling.
  2. Work from a plan. It’s not enough to set your goals; you have to define who, what, when and how in order to implement them effectively. The plan should outline marketing tactics (events, emails, PR, etc.), and the number and types of contacts (direct calls, client referrals). It should also include training or coaching you (and your manager) believe will most benefit you.
  3. Create relationships and deepen them whenever and wherever possible. While advisors talk about the importance of relationships and the depth of relationships they have with strategic alliances and clients, the truth is that there is always room for improvement. Find every opportunity to deepen a relationship by learning more about the person and what they care about, by holding events and providing education they could find useful, and by providing information they can use and share.
  4. Solve their problem in an effective way. When it comes right down to it, selling is not even selling. It’s solving someone’s problem by offering them a product, service or solution that meets their need and takes away their pain, or offers them the pleasure they are seeking. It’s critical to know your market and the problems you solve (Step 1). Focus on listening and questioning, meeting objections, and mirroring their pace and style to communicate most effectively.
  5. Qualify. Make sure they’re “real.” Here’s where many professional salespeople falter. A suspect, prospect or client can look like someone who offers an opportunity for a potential sale. As the hope-to-be seller, you may spend a lot of time providing information, following up with phone calls, keeping the person in your pipeline and assuming there are assets attached that will someday be yours. Check – and re-check – that the prospect meets your “ideal client” standards and ask questions that get at their current “pain.” Don’t waste time on non-serious or indifferent people!

If you think your sales process needs a change, consider one of these areas and choose to focus on it and see if it makes a difference.

Buzzwords

Sue BerginSue Bergin

Buzzwords, jargon, and clichés have gotten a bum rap.  They can actually be useful communication shortcuts. So why do they aggravate people so much?  If we can say, “If you have a guaranteed lifetime annuity, you can sleep well at night knowing that you will always have a paycheck,” why go any further?

The problem is that the clients have heard “you’ll sleep better at night” from every product ranging from home security systems, to baby monitors, to long-term care insurance.

Every cliché, jargony phrase or buzzword probably started out as fresh and compelling.  Overuse, however, has rendered them impotent. Your client might instantly know what you mean, but the terms fall flat and feel like a shallow promise.  These phrases don’t conjure up riveting insights or evoke any depth or emotion whatsoever, except maybe mistrust.

When an investor becomes accustomed to his or her advisor’s buzzwords, does the investor picture a worry-free future? Probably not.

It’s unlikely that offerings like, “a holistic approach to financial planning”,best-of-breed investment solutions” and “objective advice that give clients peace of mind,” give clients much confidence, yet countless advisors use such sentences.

Some people think that buzzwords exist for the sole purpose of allowing their users to hide.  They feel that buzzwords and clichés can confuse the audience or act as an enabling device for the communicator to avoid an issue.  Others feel that these phrases are mere fluff.  These sentiments are born out in AARP’s study of how Americans felt about financial services communications. 73% of survey respondents ranked financial professionals higher than car mechanics in their use of jargon; 52% said financial professionals use even more jargon than doctors.

  • 54% believe jargon is used instead of simpler terms to distract people from focusing on fees.
  • 63% say jargon is used to make products or services seem more impressive.
  • 49% believe jargon is used is to make consumers feel less confident that they can handle their own finances.[1]

Clichés are easy, and often come with a regulatory stamp of approval.  We’ve used them before on compliance-approved marketing materials, so we know we can use them again.  They’re safe.  We don’t have to put a lot of thought in them.  The problem is, clients don’t put a lot of weight in them either.

15 of the most over-used phrases by advisors.

  1. Sleep at night
  2. Peace of mind
  3. Holistic approach
  4. Full transparency
  5. Put clients’ interests first
  6. Objective advice
  7. Financial quarterback
  8. Best of breed (investment platform)
  9. Best-in-class
  10. Cutting edge technology
  11. Bleeding edge technology
  12. Thorough due diligence
  13. Client-focused
  14. Client-centric approach
  15. Bottom line oriented

Just for fun, run your web content through the BlaBla meter.  This gimmicky tool rates the amount of fluff that is contained in text.  A high score, such as the 76 that I got when I put a randomly selected advisor’s home page through the tool, generated the following feedback:

“This reeks (of BS). I bet you’re a PR-Expert, Politician, Consultant or Scientist.  If there is a message, it’s unlikely it will reach anyone.”

The tool is easily dismissed.  Its methodology isn’t spelled out anywhere, and it was not designed for specific use by the financial services industry.  It might be crass.  Then again, it might be on to something.


[1] AARP, April 17, 2008.