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Make Your Practice Stand Out: Don’t Let Contentment Become Complacency

What kinds of experiences do your clients have with you? Would they say that you’re reliable and that they’re satisfied with your services? If so, watch out. In a highly competitive industry, keeping a client “satisfied” may not be enough. Lack of conflict or complaints doesn’t necessarily equal loyalty. It could just mean the relationship is forgettable, and thus, vulnerable to disruption.

According to a study by Russ Alan Prince and David A. Geracioti, only 33.5 percent of “satisfied” clients and 13.4 percent of “moderately satisfied” clients said they would give their primary financial advisers additional investable assets. Yet 94.5 percent of those who identified as “loyal” said they were extremely or very likely to stick with their advisers. This study was published in 2005 in Cultivating the Middle-Class Millionaire; Why Financial Advisors Are Failing Their Wealthy Clients and What They Can Do About It.

Think of your own experiences as a customer at a luxury restaurant, hotel or department store. Chances are your mind jumped to interactions that were either extraordinarily good or extremely bad. But experiences that are just okay? Those typically rank low on recall.

What Are Your Clients “Saying” About You?

The quality of your relationship to each individual client matters more than ever. Today, 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites, with the 65-plus population tripling in the last four years to 43 percent, according to Pew Research Center. Your clients talk, and now they can talk to hundreds and thousands of their peers at once. What do you want them saying about you?

Sending your client a signed holiday or birthday card is a nice gesture. But it’s also a predictable one—the “go-to” for any service professional. So think about your practice from the perspective of an outsider and consider creative and consistent ways to make positive impressions.

The Difference Between You and Everyone Else

According to Thomas Fross of Fross & Fross Wealth Management, one of the most successful independent financial planning firms in the nation, there is no silver bullet for client management and retention. Key to your success is varying your strategy based on how your client likes to be engaged.

“Just as a balanced investment portfolio should include a variety of investments, a balanced practice management strategy needs to include multiple ways to engage clients and prospects,” Fross says. “Different clients will respond to different actions.”

However you choose to engage, there are three underlying principles that Fross recommends to help your practice stand out above the rest:

  1. Image is (almost) everything. It isn’t everything, but it matters more than you might think. Think about how your image would be perceived by current and prospective clients. Do you exude professionalism? Having an office, wearing a tie and taking the time to craft a consistent personal brand are all important to your bottom line.
  2. Talk to your clients. Your clients need information and reassurance on an ongoing basis, especially in a volatile market. Make it a priority to engage in frequent and meaningful communication with investors. If you don’t, studies show that they will move on to an adviser who will.
  3. WOW them. Do you make your clients feel special? Do you acknowledge them in unique ways? Average isn’t good enough. But when clients feel valued and important, they are more loyal and more likely to refer you.

Providing extraordinary service can also expand your client roster. According to the Prince and Geracioti study, those “loyal” clients provided nearly 12 referrals to their primary advisers, compared to just 2.1 from “satisfied” clients and 1 or fewer from “moderately satisfied.” So that time and effort spent going above and beyond truly pays off in more ways than one.

John L. Evans

John L. Evans Jr., Ed.D., is executive director, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Dr. Evans works with the Professional Development Team and provides extensive consulting, training and practice management expertise. He is a sought-after expert and keynote speaker. He regularly contributes to The Orlando Sentinel newspaper on business and politics and is featured in the Advisor Center section of Barron’s magazine. Dr. Evans has authored books on client retention and client acquisition, including The Book of WOW and “A Genuine Persuasion System.” He also serves on the board of advisers for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, and Elevate USA in Denver, Colorado. Prior to joining the financial services industry, Dr. Evans was special assistant to former U.S. Senator Connie Mack and director of business development for the state of Florida’s No. 1 registered investment advisory firm, according to Wealth Manager Magazine, for 2007. Dr. Evans holds an MBA from the University of Miami and an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University. 

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Taking Action is THE Key Ingredient: 3 Steps to Start Now

Taking action is the single most important ingredient in obtaining your goals. Without sustainable and consistent action, goals are merely a wish list. One of the core elements is in understanding the value you place on the steps you need to take. If you perceive an action to be pleasurable, you will most certainly begin right away; however if you perceive an action to be painful, you most certainly will procrastinate.

Andrew Carnegie said it best, “There are two types of people who never achieve very much in their lifetimes. One is the person who won’t do what he or she is told to do, and the other is the person who does no more than he or she is told to do.”

To manage your level of activity, assign a “carrot,” or reward, for fulfilling action items and a “stick,” or punishment, for when you don’t. This process will inevitably change your value system and help you in remaining motivated.

Read on for a more detailed stepwise approach for how you can eliminate inaction and procrastination as it pertains to your business.

Step No. 1: Define the Value of the Task

Most advisers have a multitude of tasks that “should” get done every day. As previously stated, pleasurable tasks get done and typically are accomplished first while painful tasks either don’t get checked off or are delayed in getting accomplished. Unfortunately, this process neglects the fact that sometimes short-term pleasure can create long-term pain.

Ken is a 10-year veteran financial adviser who felt overwhelmed and exhausted most days. After a decade of prospecting, he found himself spending most of his time servicing clients when they called him. He did receive pleasure out of making his clients happy, which is why this had been a priority. As a result, the more arduous task of prospecting was neglected most days and his business growth had grown stagnant.

After a number of queries, Ken admitted that he hated getting rejected but realized the long-term result of not prospecting meant the pain of never becoming a top producer. So, we discussed the client servicing activities that he could delegate to his licensed assistant who was qualified to handle those activities. This resulted in freeing up time for him to prep and tackle prospecting.

Step No. 2: Schedule an Action Date

Typically, goals are much more likely to get accomplished when the tasks associated with them are assigned a time horizon, an action time and date. So, we mapped out Ken’s day to prospect first thing in the morning for 45 minutes. All client service activities that didn’t directly involve discussing investments with clients were to be delegated to his assistant while everything that was investment related but not time sensitive was to be done after his time blocked to prospect.

Step No. 3: Create Leverage

The easy part is in creating the process, but the harder part is sticking to it. In order to ensure that you continue to take action on a consistent basis you need to create leverage by assigning a reward system for accomplishing the activity or a punishment system for not doing the more difficult activity.

Ken was a coffee lover and to him the morning didn’t start until he had finished his first cup of coffee. After he told me this, I knew exactly what type of leverage he needed. He was to use coffee as his reward system, if he started prospecting, he could pour himself a cup of coffee, if not, he couldn’t. At the end of the day, he would send me an “accountability email” to share the day’s results. It took a few weeks of consistently prospecting and delegating to get into a groove but it did become easier and easier.

After a month or so of daily “accountability emails,” Ken’s prospecting paid off and his business started to grow again. In addition, he was feeling far less overwhelmed and excited about his outcomes.

Why Having a System for Scheduling Action Items Works

The reason why having a system for scheduling action items works is because it generates an awareness of what is important about the task, it sets aside dedicated time line for accomplishing it and then promotes keeping you accountable for the results. Oftentimes the simplest of solutions pays off in spades.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me, please email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

There is a topic that has come up in so many conversations I’ve had this past week, it was like the universe was screaming at me to please help some folks with this issue.

So here it goes: How do you decide what to do?

Making decisions can be difficult and professionals today are inundated with so many options that it only adds to the pressure.

  • What should you specialize in?
  • Should you choose a niche or be a generalist?
  • What organizations should you join?
  • Should you join an organization at all or just go it alone?
  • Where should you spend your marketing efforts?
  • Where should you spend your marketing dollars?
  • Who should you hire to help you with technology?
  • What should you do next to grow your business?
  • Should you hire someone?
  • What should you hire someone to do?
  • Who should you refer business to?
  • Who should you ask for referrals from?
  • Should you work from home?
  • When is the right time to move to an office if you are working from home?

I could go on and on, but you get the idea and you’re probably having serious stress flashbacks by now.

The ability to quickly make a decision—and then act on that decision—is a key ingredient to success.

Staying stuck not knowing which direction to go just leaves you, well, stuck! As in nothing is happening.

Not making a decision keeps you in reaction mode instead of “conquering” mode! While some folks can’t make a decision that will get them off the starting block, others have a different issue—they constantly make new decisions.

The problem with too many entrepreneurs, or folks who are responsible in any way for their own paycheck, is they jump from thing to thing to thing and never really give anything a chance to work.

Just like with so many of our half-hearted attempts at weight loss—if the approach doesn’t work instantly to solve all of our problems, we quickly abandon it for the next shiny promise of success.

Looking for some concrete advice on how to make decisions? Here’s my framework for the top three issues that come up in my conversations.

Challenge: Analysis Paralysis

Solution: Set a timer. Seriously. Set a timer or a deadline, do whatever research you feel you need to do and Make. A. Decision. This is a skill you absolutely need to develop if you want to be successful and being stuck in “un-decision” mode is just fear stopping you from moving forward.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received around decision-making was from six-time New York Times bestselling author and one of my personal mentors, Larry Winget. I’ve heard him say this repeatedly: “Make a decision. And make it right.”

Stop dwelling over every little detail of what will or won’t work—make a decision—and then commit to doing what you need to do to make sure it works!

Challenge: Too Many Options for Limited Resources

Solution: I talk to a lot of people about this. Where should you spend your marketing dollars? There’s social media, companies that sell leads, BNI and networking groups, funnels. You name it; it’s out there.

Some people will throw coaching in this category as well, but be clear, that is a completely different situation. Coaching is an investment in learning how to be successful. The rest of these are marketing strategies. This is a very important distinction.

In terms of which marketing strategy you should get behind, think first about what you’re already naturally good at doing. Like I mentioned before, they all work if you stick with them. And if you’re already a bit of a natural in one area, you’re going to have a greater chance at success learning how to dial it in strategically in order to grow your business.

Already spend half your day on Facebook? Then go with social media. Are you a natural go-getter sales person? Then investing in leads could make perfect sense.

What doesn’t work is picking a strategy that you already have negative feelings about but doing it because it’s the marketing flavor of the month. I do a lot of work with my clients around getting over their fears and taking action. But if you have limited resources and can only invest in one or two marketing strategies, give yourself the best chance at success!

And stop switching strategies at first sign of conflict. It’s not failure, it’s feedback!

Take the feedback you get from your efforts and tweak what you’re doing. Don’t abandon the ship prematurely.

Challenge: When to Hire Team Members

Solution: This one is actually a simple math problem: if you are doing $20-an-hour work that keeps you from doing $100-an-hour work, then you need to hire someone.

When you first start out you have time on your hands. You can afford to bootstrap your efforts and do all sorts of work yourself because you don’t yet have clients to serve.

As you get going, your two main focuses must be growing your business (getting new clients) and serving your current clients.

How fast your business grows is in direct relation to how much time you can spend on getting new clients—which means how fast you can hire people to do all the things that are not necessary for you to be doing.

A final word of warning—and hopefully some wisdom. There is one mistake I see people make more than anything else: treating every little decision as if it is the end all, be all, biggest and ONLY decision you’ll ever get to make. There are absolutely zero things I can think of in my history as a professional or business owner that I didn’t get to adjust or tweak if it wasn’t working out.

Have I tried marketing strategies that didn’t work? Absolutely.

Have I hired coaches that ended up not being a good fit for me? Yep.

Have I hired team members that didn’t live up to my expectations? You bet.

All of these things are fixable! Every single one of them.

So get out there. Make some decisions. Even better—make some mistakes and then fix them! You’ll be all the more successful for it.

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Erin Marcus is a nationally renowned speaker, author and consultant who has been creating business success for more than 20 years. Her combination of a street-smart upbringing, formal education and real world business experience provides a unique point-of-view and ability to relate to her audiences and clients. For more information on Marcus, check out her website at: www.ConquerYourBusiness.com.