1 Comment

Three Important Business Tips in the Age of the Coronavirus

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has uncovered flaws in many financial planners’ disaster recovery plans, and even normal business plans (if they have them.) None of us could have predicted a worldwide pandemic however, here we are and it’s our responsibility to help our families, clients, associates and businesses get through these difficult times.

In the fall, I created a presentation titled “How to Grow in a Recession.” If you have been in the profession long enough, we all know it was just a matter of time before the market heights were going to take a fall. However, no one saw the economy coming to a standstill.

I cannot say I had a crystal ball, but I am glad I put together advice to help financial planners through a difficult time for their businesses. Unfortunately, all events are cancelled or postponed so I cannot present the advice when it is needed most, so I thought I would share these helpful tips in an article:

(1) Be Proactive

One thing that we have learned from past recessions is that the financial planners in front of a market crisis are the ones who have the best retention rates and actually can gain the most clients. Believe it or not, a period of market turmoil can be one of the best times to win new business. Yet, financial planners become so laser focused on their clients, their prospecting efforts get neglected.

In a time when we are supposed to be “social distancing,” go back to really working the phones. Video conference those who feel comfortable using this technology. Contact as many people as you can to be there for them and remind them you want to help others like them who might need help. With clients, this will reassure them, strengthen the relationship and prevent the competition from picking them away. For prospects, it will get your foot in the door, especially if they have an underwhelming adviser relationship. For those do-it-themselves investors, now is when they doubt their investing abilities the most.

The trouble with the one-on-one meeting approach is that it is very time consuming and difficult to do right now. For that reason, also use all forms of mass communication on a more frequent basis. Make sure to set up webinars, video meetings and maybe conference calls. All of these can be recorded and can be edited to use for replay purposes.

Most financial planners do not create enough videos. Now is the time to do so. Your target market can and will connect better with videos than they can with the written word.

Email and social media are obvious choices for any types of marketing and client service content that needs to be shared. Pay attention to engagement measures (like click-through rates for emails and likes on social networks) so with every communication you get a little smarter each time.

For prospects, create a giveaway related to this market crisis that they can only get by trading their contact information. Create a unique landing page that gets virtual leads and makes them real leads. Once you have a good lead funnel set up, promote it like crazy and track that it is delivering a positive ROI.

(2) Be Personable

Soon robo threats to financial planners will be able to share market communications in a much better way than they are now. Their communications will be timely and even personalized. The way to differentiate, now and in the future, is to be a person, not a robot. What does that mean? Humanize each communication.

Besides one-on-one meetings, the best way to do this is to use personalized video emails. This is not a video uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo that goes to the masses. This is a message just intended for a unique recipient. Technology now allows this to take place.

To call each client in a 150-household client base can take weeks. However, sending a sort two-minute personalized video to each family can be done in one day. These messages do not replace in-person communications, but they definitely complement them, as the recipient feels almost like they are sitting across a table from their financial planner.

These personalized videos should be part of every client service model. This could not be truer than now when the human race is having fewer in-person interactions than any other period in our lifetimes.

Check out a partnership we created to help financial planners use this new marketing tool.

(3) Be Empathetic

Never forget you are talking to humans. Many in the industry are numbers people. We are planners. Most certainly, we are problem solvers. Clients need help in all those areas. However, in today’s scary, isolated world, they just might need to be heard.

Make sure to provide emotional support—now more than ever. Truly listen. Practice active listening best practices. If you find yourself inserting your two cents before the clients are done talking, you most likely need to work on your listening skills.

Because financial planners are paid to give their advice, and are not officially therapists, it often seems counterintuitive to not speak. But, if you can use video conferencing, an empathetic facial expression or nod of the head might be all they want. With verbal communications, a reinforcing word or two can do the trick. In these volatile markets, we might feel pressed for time, but do your best not to rush discussions.

Remember, sometimes the client just needs a friend to walk along side of them during difficult times. We are all going to be on this emotional roller coaster for what could be months. Try to put yourself in clients’ shoes and help them the best that you can.

As part of the Coaches Corner, Byrnes Consulting is a partner with the Financial Planning Association. As a member benefit, set up a free Business Growth Strategies consultation. If you are an active member of the FPA, we would be glad to help.

Want more tips? Visit the FPA Coaches Corner Business Growth Strategies page for insightful advice.

Mike Byrnes Headshot

Mike Byrnes is a national speaker and owner of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisers become even more successful. Need help with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness? Read more at ByrnesConsulting.com and follow @ByrnesConsultin.

 


1 Comment

Building Trust in an Increasingly Skeptical World

A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 43 percent of Americans age 65 years or older agreed with the statement, “Most people can’t be trusted.”

When the same statement was presented to Americans aged 18-29, approximately 60 percent agreed. The survey also found that 71 percent of Americans think people are less confident in each other now than they were 20 years ago.

While this skepticism can be attributed to many sources―the 24-hour news cycle, political divisiveness, social media and generational differences, to name a few―most would agree that we are unlikely to see changes for the better in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the ability to build and maintain high levels of trust in client relationships will be an even more important skill for financial planners over the next decade and beyond.

We believe that clients’ perception of trustworthiness is dependent on three specific factors: credibility, reliability and motivation. Let’s look at each one and identify specific actions you can take.

Credibility

The first factor is credibility. It answers the question: “Does this person know what he or she is talking about?” Clients want to know that you have sufficient knowledge and expertise to competently deliver financial information and advice. They are likely to look to your educational background, degrees and certifications as evidence of that knowledge and expertise.

Credibility also relates to one’s experience and perspective―your ability to apply that knowledge and expertise. Experience is what makes the difference between book-smarts and wisdom, which is why CFP Board requires that candidates complete specific experience requirements before granting their certification. Experience and perspective are often communicated in your confidence and conviction.

Here are two specific actions you can take to improve your credibility:

  • Create and implement an ongoing education plan. Your plan can include coursework, certification programs, books and journals, interviews and online research.
  • Develop stories and case studies that demonstrate your expertise in solving complicated client planning concerns.

Reliability

Reliability is the second factor that influences trustworthiness. It can be defined as the repeated fulfillment of expectations, either directly experienced or inferred from the experience of others.

Obviously, the more you do something, the more others will trust you to do it again.

However, it’s not just repetition, but the matching of expectations to fulfillment that characterizes reliability. Trustworthy advisers and planners are careful to confirm, establish, manage and fulfill their clients’ expectations time after time, even in situations where clients may have uncertain or unstated expectations.

Here are two specific actions you can take to enhance your reliability.

  • During every client interaction, take the time to clarify next steps by reviewing who will do what and by when.
  • Develop the habit of diligently recording every commitment on your to-do list or app, following up, and ultimately communicating back to your clients upon completion.

Motivation

The third factor is motivation. The expression, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” speaks to one’s motivation. Stated simply, motivation answers the question: “Why?”

Clients want a financial adviser or planner who is genuinely committed to putting their clients’ interests above their own, because it’s the right thing to do, not because they are required to do so.

Here are two ways to show clients and prospective clients that their success is your first priority:

  • Ask thoughtful questions. Open-ended questions that begin with “how” or “what” or “tell me…” encourage expansive answers and demonstrate curiosity and concern.
  • Listen intently. According to University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Ralph Nichols, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Active listening includes establishing eye contact, providing non-verbal feedback, clarifying answers and restating responses to demonstrate your understanding.

The Path to Connection

Finally, keep in mind that as you are willing to share your own experiences, hopes, failures and dreams, you provide a path to connection. Establishing trust requires a willingness to be open and honest. Someone has to make the first move, and that someone is you.

While trust levels in general may continue to fall over the next ten years, by diligently working to enhance your credibility, improve your reliability and clarify your motivation, you can build strong, trust-based relationships with your clients.

Adam Kornegay

Adam Kornegay is a co-founder of Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. He has a background in marketing and business analytics. Coupled with his experience as a financial adviser, he helps a broad array of clients, from relatively new advisers to experienced planners, and consults with various financial services firms. He is a coach in the Messaging and Marketing Strategies FPA Coaches Corner

 

Untitled design (7)

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Action 2020: Create Business Success for Today and Tomorrow.” Download your copy of the whitepaper here.  


1 Comment

How to Build 3 Types of Trust

A financial advisory relationship has three types of trust. According to Vanguard’s Center for Investor Research’s 2017 report, “Trust and Financial Advice,” those three types are functional trust, emotional trust and ethical trust.

According to the research, in order to really trust you, clients must trust you in all three areas. Here’s what they are and how you can build trust in each area:

Functional Trust

This is the confidence clients have in your credentials and technical skills.

How to build: Get credentials and certifications in the areas in which you specialize and are interested in. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and legislation that might impact your clients and be proactive in communicating how these might impact them. Present your certifications and qualifications so clients know which ones you have.

Emotional Trust

This is the element in the relationship that makes clients feel positive about you.

How to build: Identify areas where you can help your clients feel a sense of relief or be their advocate. Genuinely ask how they are doing, about their family members and remember what they’ve told you. Be proactive in frequently communicating with them about both positive and negative things.

Ethical Trust

This is whether your behaviors are consistent with “correct conduct,” according to Vanguard.

“Ethical trust is like a sixth sense— clients usually know when something doesn’t feel right,” Billy Lanter, fiduciary investment adviser at Unified Trust Co. in Lexington, Kentucky said in the October 2019 Investopedia article “Trust: An Adviser’s Most Important Asset.”

How to build: Be transparent about what you charge and why. Be open and willing to answer any of the client’s questions about compensation. Remove conflicts of interest and always act in the client’s best interest.

Build all three types of trust by forging an authentic relationship with your clients where you know and understand what they need.

“The superior experience clients are willing to pay for is a personal relationship with an adviser who not only understands their goals but is managing their portfolio in accordance with those goals,” Lanter told Investopedia.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn