Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Multi-generational Opportunities Abound, IF...

As a successful wealth manager, you know that it generally takes about the same time to manage a $500,000 account as a $2 million account (assuming you preach passive or semi-passive strategies). Does it take about the same amount of time to manage a $50,000 or $100k portfolio? Maybe so, maybe not.

So, then, would it be worth your effort to engage more low-value clients?

Combine lifetime value and multi-generational influence

If you look at the lifetime value of your clients (total fees divided by client numbers factored by years), even your lower-value clients look pretty good, eh? The emerging wealth sector can offer opportunities for your future prosperity as you patiently guide their accumulation of wealth (though within regs regarding compensation structure and client qualification).

Where do you find them? Surprisingly, the current "Y Generation" (up to about age 30) display attributes different than the "X Gen." While the X Geners chose paths specifically because it's not the way "dad did it" (think snowboarders, not skiers), Y Geners tend to be closer to their parents. They're not oppositional and know that they need to work hard like their parents. And (blessedly) they look to their parents as advisors and models.

Think "Mini-Family Office"

Where X Geners might specifically take their investment money to "anyone but who dad uses," the Y Geners may be more amenable to your working with them, too. While they may have some integrated tax and investment issues with their parents' investments, they are rising professionals in their own rights.

Recognizing that many rely on their employer-sponsored plans for the majority of their investments, working with the new generation, regardless of the current income it generates for you, is a good investment - a good lifetime investment.

But, a word of caution, these next gen opportunities deserve all the respect and service that you accord their parents (and your professional standards virtually require such). While they may be more amenable to an introduction from mom or dad, they will still do their research to make sure that your offering is good and they will demand the quality service that you are sure to provide.

Good luck with the "next gen" of income for your practice.

(Next issue: In light of the market, it's time to reinforce stability, consistency and confidence.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"New" Credibility

Certainly, you intend to go into your wealth management sales presentation with a credible (and verifiable) professional history. That's key, we've talked about it over and over (remember the "five questions" the potential client must have resolved? "Why this source?"). In this day, potential clients have many sources to verify your background between your appointment-solicitation and your visit. The "new" media shouldn't be overlooked.


My guess would be that most of you have Linkedin profiles. If you don't, do it NOW. More and more people use Linkedin as an informational source and if you're not in the game, you can't play. And, do it completely. Spend time reviewing your history and crafting a well-written and persuasive (honest) profile. List your accreditation and your associations. Savvy potential clients (and you want them savvy) do their homework beforehand. Many will check you out on Linkedin and Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

Facebook's not just for kids

The fastest growing demographic segment on Facebook is...women 55-65. So, if you think that Facebook is only for your kids, think again. And, yes, your kids may razz you about having a Facebook page, but it's necessary. Or, they may think that "finally, Mom (or Dad) is finally getting some cool."

Linkedin for sure. Facebook, too.

What about Twitter?

I could be wrong, but I believe that Twitter is a fad and not a trend. Why? First, it's the social platform with the most churn (sign on, don't use), then, too, the message limitations are so severe that it doesn't serve as a "rich" medium. Why not just text? Easier and quicker, too. Finally, in a study we recently completed of 308 college students here in St. Louis, Facebook was the regular source for 93% of the students, while Twitter was but 1%. Finally on Twitter, I understand it's highly geographically preferenced, so what's true here may not be true where you are. Just my thoughts, but it's my blog and I get to say so.

So, be credible before you go into a sales opportunity. It's not an option.

(Next post: Multi-generational sales opportunities)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Credibility - it's not what you think

Remember, we're talking about building credibility in the wealth management sales engagement and doing so is different than building name identification, or showing well-designed brochures, or "model" portfolios. You can't attest to your own credibility, others must attest to your worthiness.

Of course, PR

The publicity function of public relations really does work to build credibility through that third-party endorsement of the publication. It's worth the cost to hire a PR consultant to help you get that positioning. If you can't justify the expense, then don't waste your time reading on in this blog (remember, this is about strategically building sales). If you can't afford the expense, that's another thing. The library has many books on media relations. Read one or two and do it yourself.

Assume you're the PR ace (or you hired one) and you've gotten a great bylined article in your local business journal. During your discussion of your services (in the segment where you are discussing your "features, advantages and benefits"), you need to provide proofs. Your brochure or your model portfolio won't cut it. The prospect knows it's propaganda. Your business journal article is a proof. It's proof that the publication thought so highly of your credentials, that you were so credible, that they would give you space in their publication to enlighten their readers. And, they do do their due diligence and vet potential sources. At least, most of the time.

Other proofs to build credibility...

Client letters are another endorsement. I know, it's hard to ask a client or two for endorsement letters, but that's because you're looking at it all wrong. Think about your really satisfied clients. If you decided to fold your shingle and work for a firm, would you ask those clients for references? Sure you would. Same thing. Your clients know that you must have other clients and grow your business. Asking them to drop you a note expressing their pleasure with your service and your results isn't a big deal. Just do it.

Not as good as letters, but on a similar vein, offering up a few selected clients that a prospect may call works well as a proof, particularly if those clients are well known in your community. Of course, just like the letter, you do need to ask your existing client if that'd be OK, but I'm convinced (and you should be, too), that happy clients are usually pleased to talk about how successful they've been. That's because they are so smart and savvy (in having you manage their portfolio).

Think about the big boys. Even the very large advisor firms are required to site client references in most of their competitive proposals. So, why shouldn't you use that approach?

Case histories and independent research add credibility

What did you do for your clients in the last recession, or on the way out? While earlier I poo-pooed company brochures, real case histories (sans names) of your investment strategies at work are another form of proof. They are particularly good when you can complement them with independent research that mirrors your strategy. Documenting and building the histories, and third finding supportive third-party research takes time, but it's worth it.

Supporting your claims - providing proofs - is instrumental in your sales presentation. The time and effort it takes to create those proofs will pay for themselves over and over as those very valuable new business engagements become more effective.

(Next blog: The application of technical marketing for the investment advisor.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Building Credibility

In an earlier post, we discussed how to answer the "five questions" that all consumers have before they'll purchase a product or service. With wealth management, and all that is at stake, resolving those issues before they are articulated is key.

Remember the question "Will this specific wealth manager solve my needs?"

This is where, and why, building credibility prior to and during the sales engagement is essential. Certainly, this isn't a cold call. Nor, I hope, that it's simply one preceded by a persuasive appointment-seeking call.

If you're doing your marketing correctly, (at its simplest) you've been providing at least some helpful information by mail. An introduction letter with a really interesting article, then a series of mailings with service- (not sales) oriented information. Or, a newsletter. Something to provide name identification and provide a service to the prospect (which, you've thoroughly qualified - again, see earlier posts). Don't start blanketing the prospect with your sales brochures. Company-provided information bears little credibility, particularly if it's a sales piece.

It's a "build" process before a sales engagement

If you've picked-up a business card from a casual interaction (which is typical), building credibility first - before you try to solicit business - is essential. Suppose you met someone at Rotary and exchanged cards. Start building credibility and differentiating yourself with helpful information, be it by mail or by email. Build that name ID, that credibility BEFORE you try to solicit a potential sales engagement.

That's a rule, not an option, in marketing.

Be certain it's "of service." Even better, a "third party endorsement"

Again, over and over, be certain that you provide information that is helpful to the prospect. New tax laws and changes (you can bet that there will be many in the next years - thank you Mr. Obama), market insight, retirement planning. Make it of service.

If you've written something for your local business journal, or a professional publication, capitalize on the "third party endorsement" provided by the media's credibility extended to your thoughts. Get reprints and send them to your prospects (and, of course, your existing clients).

Make yourself credible and you'll get more business, faster, and easier. Those are three benefits of marketing: more, faster, easier.

(Next post: "Using PR to build credibility")

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Overcoming fear: The Financial Advisor as a really good salesperson

Overcoming fear: The Financial Advisor as a really good salesperson

Are you afraid to get out and hustle for new business? You must or you won’t be in business long.

Afraid someone who barely knows you is going to think badly of you because you asked for his or her business? They really won’t. It’s really “so what?”

Fearful that some assistant won’t let you talk to someone that you want as a client? Confidence, enthusiasm, preparation can get you that conversation.

Do you fear the embarrassment of someone you know turning you down? Be prepared and they’ll only for good reason.

Don’t want to impose on a client and ask for a referral? If you’re good enough for them, why not their friends?

Most financial advisors didn’t get into the business to be in sales. But, selling is a must and we do it everyday:

--We “sell” our expertise when discussing that it’s time to re-balance.

--We “sell” our planning acumen when we layout best options for the client to pay for his children’s education.

--We “sell” our experience as we calm our clients’ fears about today’s change in the markets.

--We “sell” our knowledge, skills and abilities every day. Many times every day. Day-in and day-out.

You don’t think of that as selling, but it is. The difference between “selling” your ideas when you advise your clients and “selling” prospects on engaging you is all in your head. You don’t fear selling ideas to clients, why should you fear selling your knowledge, skills and abilities to prospects?

Fear is just a head-game. Your head-game.

Because fear is only in your head, you can use the same techniques to overcome it and become effective at new business development that you used as a novice advisor making your first recommendations. Think back to those early-career client meetings. Afraid, weren’t you? How did you overcome that fear such that today, there’s no question that a client can toss at you, or, no “bad mood” client, or any other client relations that you fear?

Preparation, practice and mindset. You did it before. Relearn it.

Preparation, practice and mindset – let’s refer to that as “PPM.” The little differences between when you’re selling your current clients on your ideas and developing new business are:

Preparation – “how” you prepare. As mentioned in earlier posts, you are simply gathering different information. For a regular client meeting, you gather information. For a new business opportunity, the information you’re collecting is just different– this is all about the prospect and his demographics, buyer behavior and psychographics.

Practice – a more significant difference here. Before a client meeting, you review the materials and maybe run it through your head a few times. For a business development engagement, you practice differently, and more. Again, review earlier posts for the effective sales engagement process.

This (practice) is where “fear” turns into “confidence.” Remember, fear is all in your head. Practice gives you the confidence to ‘get over it.’ Get so good at it that, if you don’t get the business, you walk away knowing it’s the prospect’s loss. And, think “Now that I’ve practiced so much, I’ll quickly research another prospect and go “nail” it.”

Mindset – with an existing client, you know you’re right and you perceive your task as simply “effective communications.” With new business development, your mindset is still to go in knowing you’re right. You want to be so right that they want to be on your team. Exude confidence and enthusiasm. You’re a winner and they’re going to want to be part of your winning team.

“Selling” new business is just that easy. Go get ‘em, Tiger.

(Next post: “Building Credibility”)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

“I didn’t go to grad school to be a salesman”

Or, “I didn’t study accounting…,” or “…didn’t get my CFA (or CFP) to be a salesman.”

Face, it, none of us did. If we had wanted to be in sales, we’d have launched that career right out of college, made a bunch of money, and now be retired with a second home in Bimini and a time-share at South Lake Tahoe. But, we didn’t, because we wanted to pursue more “intellectual” pursuits. We wanted to be “all we could be” in terms of using our gray matter in the complex world of finance.

Sell or “die,” like it or not

But, if we don’t “sell,” we won’t have our own advisory businesses, or we won’t keep our jobs (even it you are a portfolio manager, or a relationship manager/administrator, or a planner).

On the RIA-side, clients “attrit” for “natural” reasons totally unrelated to our service or our performance. We know that and we likely know our “run-off rate.” It/they (the revenue they generated) has to be replaced or our business folds. Then we can’t use all that education and training to help people while we help ourselves.

On the corporate-side as a PM, or planner or administrator, we know there’s a referral “bogey” we must meet for bonus, and (in some places) even to keep our jobs. That’s just the “macro/corporate” version of the same sales stresses on the independent or small RIAs.

“Asset Aggregator” or “Asset Manager.” Which?

I was in a recent dialogue with an advisor that thinks advisors who see their role as “asset aggregators” are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” He felt that an advisor that was good at sales (aggregating assets), then turned all but the relationship management over to a third party (maybe a TAMP, “turnkey asset management provider”) was a charlatan.

Rubbish, I say. Methinks that’s rubbish for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I personally don’t know many (any?) single practitioners, or small RIA groups, that can do all the planning, portfolio design and management, reporting, compliance AND do the relationship management, AND then grow the business enough to sustain it and grow it in the long run.

Some advisors are natural “relationship managers with a portfolio manager mindset (really enjoys the numbers-side).” Others are natural “relationship developers and relationship managers,” but enjoy the people-side more than the numbers-side. He called this second group “wolves.” I’d call them “asset aggregators.”

Whichever you are, you must “sell.”

It’s not as difficult as you (you “asset managers”) think, if, in fact, you honestly believe what you do is good for your clients. Do you? If not, you better rethink a lot about your life.

Selling something that you truly, honestly, and sincerely believe (that’s selling you and your benefits) is no more difficult that studying, practicing, and going into the “distasteful” process of selling with a different approach, a different mindset.

In the next blog, I’ll work to convince you that selling yourself is easy. And, it is good.

Meanwhile, please comment in the box below for all to see.

(Next post: how believing in yourself makes “selling” something that makes you feel really, really, good.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Your “Personal Branding Statement”

Call it your “personal branding statement,” “elevator speech,” or “general benefit statement.” Whatever you call it, it’s the only part of your initial sales presentation which you memorize. Let’s simply call it your “branding statement.”

“Branding Statement” – the context

You’ve got exactly 20 uninterrupted seconds to explain what you do and why it would be of benefit to the person to whom you’re talking. In this context, it is your pre-qualified and extensively researched wealth management prospect who you’re speaking with. You already know (1) that he’s qualified, (2) some demographics, buyer behaviors and project some psychographics, and, very importantly (3) that’s he’s willing to visit with you, knowing that he’s going to be involved in a sales engagement. Don’t underestimate the potential opportunity that #3 provides.

You don’t want to go into a sales presentation with the prospect wondering why you’re there, or why he’s there. That’s even worse than the prospect knowing, not being interested, but willing to give you the time as a courtesy. Bottom line: you and he know it’s a sales engagement.

AFTER you’ve introduced yourself and your firm, and you’ve worked toward establishing a rapport (remember that “chemistry” stuff), then you state your purpose and branding statement.

“Branding Statement” - the content

Give the potential client a better idea of what this meeting is about and why it’s important for him or her to pay attention. Get attention. Focus your personal branding statement on a general wealth management need common to most-all of your particular prospects. You can’t get into a specific needs because you don’t yet know enough.

For example:

“I uniquely manage family wealth such that my clients’ successive generations prosper from their hard work, prudence and, jointly, our diligent wealth management.”


“We work with successful young business people to set and keep a uniquely individual financial plan which simplifies, secures, and enriches their lives and their families’ lives.”


“My clients are successful business people who know that their time and expertise are best used running their business. They have confidence in me that their personal finances are being exactingly managed according to their very specific goals: growing their wealth, creating charitable legacies, assuring their children and grandchildren’s security, are just a few of those goals.”

OK, with those example, you clearly see three different target prospects. When you really have your branding statement down pat, it’s easy to modify it according to the style and flow of the conversation. You can even add objection-overcoming references to your branding statement.

What are your best examples of your personal branding statement?

What works best for you?

What can you share with your colleagues on this blog that can help them maximize the effect of those very rare new business sales opportunities?

Please add your thoughts. Just click “comments” below.

(Next: On “asset gathering” vs. “asset management” and the role of marketing.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Dozen Ways to Help Craft Your Wealth Management Sales Pitch

We’re professionals, and that’s a rather direct way to put it – “sales pitch.” But, by any other terms – “new business introduction,” or “prospect sales engagement," or whatever – it’s still a sales pitch, so let’s get to it

  1. “Find personal information.” Yes, before the meeting research what you can on the prospect’s demographics, buyer behaviors and psychographics, but importantly find personal information. Building “chemistry” is vital and this is where such a bond originates.
  2. “Practice your personal branding statement.” You can call it an “elevator speech,” or “general benefit statement” or “personal branding statement.” Bottom line is that it’s three or less sentences about you and what you do. Know it so well that, according to the chemistry developing, you can modify the words for the particular person to whom you’re speaking. We’ll spend an entire post on the personal branding statement, but my basic (from which I then customize by the occasion) is “I find and qualify potential wealth management clients, determine what motivates them, then craft and deliver messages through a variety of means to persuade them.” If I am talking to someone who really understands marketing, I say “I segment, target and position in the wealth management industry. Same meaning, totally different audience.
  3. “Observe – the one minute chemistry lab.” Notice “personal” touches in the ante room or in the prospects’ office. Are there industry awards on the wall? Or, kids’ soccer team photos? Or, a duck-hunting motif? Combine these observations with your earlier research to mentally prepare your “greet and meet.”
  4. “Remember, people prefer to do business with people they like.” The prospect ultimately buys ‘you.’ You are the first product “benefit.” Go in wanting to be liked.
  5. “It’s all about (almost) the first three minutes.” The importance of chemistry and that initial couple minutes, the “greet and meet,” cannot be overstated. This is where you synthesize your initial personal research with your observations and “make” the prospect like you.
  6. “Be a sensational conversationalist by listening.” I was taught that if you can get the prospect talking about himself, he’ll remember you as a brilliant conversationalist. Hence, points 1, 3, 4 and 5.
  7. “Never miss the opportunity to shut up.” If you’ve got the prospect talking, let him talk. You don’t get high quality sales engagement opportunities very often, so your time is of minor consequence.
  8. “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” We all know that consultative selling is based on asking and listening, not telling. In financial planning, just like in medicine, ‘prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.’ So listen.
  9. “Right questions.” Remember the five questions that the prospect has to have answered in his or her mind before their buy (see earlier posts)? Ask questions to set up your answering those potential obstacles.
  10. “Wrong questions.” Don’t leap into a hard close too early (see earlier posts). Trying to go into the hard close question too early will make you seem either pushy or superficial.
  11. “Gladly settle for a slice of salami” Yes, you want all the business, but settle for a little piece. That’s a way of testing you and you know you’ll pass the test. Take a little piece of the business now, and you can ‘pipeline’ more of the account quickly.
  12. Think “how would a Junior Leaguer handle this?” Write and send a hand-written thank you note. Yeah, it’s old fashioned, but that’s precisely the reason it works.

(Next post, “Effective Personal Branding Statements”)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Research. Research. Research. You’re on deck and getting ready to face the pitcher…

No wealth manager with any experience would go into a sales engagement without knowing some facts and making some fact-based assumptions about the prospect, for without this preparation he or she wouldn’t have been in the field long-enough to get any experience. These facts or assumptions would require you to assume the prospect’s stage in the wealth life cycle (roughly: accumulation, maintenance, distribution). For without this knowledge, you don’t know whether to prepare to discuss savings and investment strategies, asset allocation, or how to maximize estate and charitable-giving, or intergenerational wealth transfer strategies.

First, remember the basic fact of wealth management new business: it’s all about “money in motion”

Understand that most new wealth management business comes from “money in motion,” life events such as inheritances, sale of a business, divorce (ugh), settlements, etc. Rarely, very rarely, does new wealth management business come from a “take-away” unless the former advisor gave terrible service (portfolio performance ranks far lower in reasons for switching advisors - don't fall for that faulty "performance" argument). And, it’s more rare that a “take-away” comes from persuasional strength, or sales pitch quality. Let’s not fool ourselves.

Research deliverables and how to get them

For many of you, this is pretty basic, but it never hurts to revisit what we already know.

Prospect demographics – facts you can discover – such as age, gender, occupation, place of employment, civic and professional activities, education, etc. What once required researching volumes of “Who’s Who” publications, city directories, public tax records, newspaper morgues, etc. ad nauseum, is now replaced simply with two sources “Google.com” and “Linkedin.com.”

No only can your discover the demographic information to help your structure your product emphasis, you can find interesting tidbits to discuss in that very first few minutes in the sales engagement, where you are building a cursory relationship. Like, “I understand you’re a runner, too…” (you found her race times in your Google search), or “I really appreciate your leadership of the Alzheimer’s Association…” (again, easy to find on the web), or “How about those Jayhawks (or Longhorns, Huskies, Trojans, Sooners, yada, yada)...” found because the prospect’s information on Google includes their alumni activities.

Buyer behavior – yes, you can often find what financial products they already own and even approximations of their existing asset allocations. This is the study of their “buyer behavior.” It gives you the ability to laser-target your sales engagement. How?

If you “own” identifying customer data, for example you are in wealth management of a bank, you can see if they rely heavily on debt, the size and types of their deposits, durations on their CDs, you can even delve into ACH data payments into and out of their accounts. Shocking, but it’s true, you can do that. There are federal regs which must be, and are easily, abided by, but the data is mostly available.

Whether being in a financial institution’s wealth management function, or you own the data through some sort of prospect relationship and purchase (insurance, for example) or an inquiry, you can “bounce” your own data against external sources (again, comply with federal regs). Those sources can then apply estimates of “income producing assets,” or “specific investment products and values.” Some of those estimates rely heavily on geo-coding, but they are close enough to pre-qualify your prospect and help target your sales effort.

Psychographics – Projected psychological needs which prospects would hold and the financial products that may meet those needs can be determined through either “bouncing your list” (see above) or purchasing very expensive, highly selective, lists from vendors. Of course, the latter, buying lists, means you’re cold calling and that’s a very inefficient, very difficult and not-too-productive way to sell. If you’re good at it, congratulations. That’s not something that I’d advocate, save for the entry level broker and that’s not who this blog is devoted to.

If you know their demographics, which are easy to discover, you can study-up and use your own application of psychographics to fashion your pitch. If you find someone that is male, 68, lives in a $750,000 home, he would likely be seeking “self actualization” (look-up “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” if you don’t understand) and likely would find interest in intergenerational transfer or charitable-giving strategies, not the “security” of a retirement plan.

Next blog, those “dozen ways to help craft your pitch.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comment from Mubai...

Tonight I'll post the promised "researching your prospect and a dozen ways..."

I'm appreciative of our growing group of wealth management professionals following our blog. What I'd like to see is more two-way conversation, via the comments sections. We all have valuable insights to complement my thoughts. Please do comment, and do share the blog site with those whom you think could benefit.

I received this email today:

Hi Ron,

I have been a wealth manager for the last 8 yrs of my life. I happened to come across your blog by chance. I must say that the lucidity of your thoughts were absolutely fantastic and it made for a great reading.

Do keep the blog flowing.

Thanks and regards.
Arijit Mukherjee
VP - Anand Rathi PCG,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Putting "Context" into the Wealth Management Sales Engagement Process

Thus far in our new blog’s short life, we’ve been addressing the wealth management sales engagement process – how to plan what happens once you’re in front of the prospect. We started with the most important - overcoming objections before they are brought up (those five questions to answer in any consumer’s mind), and the differences between soft-close questions and hard-close questions.

In a few weeks, we’ll have completed the sales process and will start looking at segmentation, targeting, positioning (though the sales process is, indeed, part of positioning) – other components of the marketing mix. For clarification, the “marketing mix” are those things which you can control in acquiring and keeping clients.

Sales Engagement Process

Now, it’s time to put this all into context with the outline of the sales engagement process, then a step-by-step primer to maximize effect. Meanwhile, don't forget to use the "five questions," and the "soft" and "hard" close techniques discussed earlier.

PRIOR: Research, research, research your prospect. There is a wealth of preparatory data available for you. More on that next post.

Here’s the actual process with a couple points on each of those items which we haven’t yet discussed:

1. “Greet and Meet” Introducing yourself, building a cursory relationship, sharing your personal branding statement, fact-finding.

2. “Building Desire” Pre-empting those “five questions,” asking need-discovering/probing questions, confirming the need for problem-solving.

3. “Overcoming Objections” Specific ways to overcome verbalized roadblocks.

4. “Closing the Sale” Making the deal, setting the plan of action. Use those “hard close” techniques.

Starting next blog, we’ll dissect each step and help you get to what most financial advisors enjoy and benefit from most: gathering assets and client relations.

Next blog: Researching your prospect. A dozen ways to help craft your pitch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Three More Effective Sale-Closing Methods

Last post, we discussed two very important means of closing that wealth management sale. They included:

Direct method: Summarized as simply, ask the question, ask for the business. Refer to the previous post for details.

Minor point method: Ask a what, when or how question that involves client commitment. Again, this point in detailed with examples in the previous post.

Three more effective methods to close the sale...

Alternate close method: Chose an alternative to asking for the entire relationship, it's almost a salami-slice method - one slice at a time. Ask something like "you mentioned that you're thinking about selling your business to your son. While the market is up since last year, it's still far below highs, and still provides discounting opportunities. May I arrange for a valuation?" Or, "without a financial plan, you may have difficult balancing your retirement and gifting goals. Why don't we work together on a solid financial plan for you?"

Buy Now Method: This encourages the agreement because of a concern for the future, and certainly everyone of wealth has a concern for what the current Administration and Congress are going to do to us about taxes. "We know that Congress is going to raise taxes, but we don't know how and when. The way things are going, we could wake-up tomorrow with horrendous changes in the tax laws. It's time, now, to start on the tax-advantaged strategies we discussed..."

Summary Method: Almost like a legal brief, summarize your points and get to your conclusion as to why your proposal is valuable and needs to be consummated. Answer those "unexpressed questions" discussed earlier and ask for the business.

So, there are the five "hard" closes to getting wealth management business. The questions you ask and the strategies that you take using the various methods depend on your style, the prospect, and the actual engagement dynamics. If you've used "soft" close techniques in your presentation and end with an appropriate "hard" close, you'll stand a great chance of getting the businesses.

Next: Working backwards from soft and hard closes and overcoming objections, to "creating desire." Following that, we'll put the segments into an actionable plan you can review prior to and during each and every sales engagement process.
Please, let me know your thoughts...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The 'Soft' Close and the 'Hard' Close - a time and a place for each
In helping the prospect to overcome objections, we've been asking affirming questions (called a 'soft' close). It's somewhat like affirming "are you with me?" when speaking in a group, but specifically focused on potential objections to the wealth management sale.
Going to a 'hard' close entails leap forward. First, you've got to be certain that the prospect's objections have been overcome, and, even prior to that, that you've created a desire on the part of the prospective client for you to manage their wealth.

Before getting to the close, do this: expect to win-over the prospective client
You've got to have the proper closing attitude. Expect to close. Assume that the prospective client wants to be on your team, a winning team. Then, and only then, can you select the "right" closing method. Remember, they all end in questions.

First two of five closing methods
Direct method: For many advisors, this method takes a lot of courage. Simply, ask the question, ask for the business. Like, "may I put together our team to work with you?" Or, "shall I start on your financial plan?" Or, maybe, "do you have an inventory of your assets such that we can get started?"
Minor point method: Ask a what, when or how question that involves client commitment. Maybe something like "When may you and I meet with your accountant (or family, or spouse)? Or, perhaps, "How soon do you want me to get our engagement agreement back to you?"

Next post: Three more 'hard' closing methods...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Putting "Soft" and "Hard" Closes Into Your Wealth Management Sales Engagement: Using the "Soft Close" to propel you along in the closing process

So, you've done a good job at overcoming objections before they are made. You've answered the "five questions/objections" before they were articulated. You can now build a series of "soft closes" into your discussion.

The purpose of a "soft" close (or "trial close") is, while building desire to engage you, get the prospect's reaction to your benefits. Using a soft close while handling objections is to determine that those objections have been overcome. Don't continue on in your sales process until you know that there are not lingering objections - they'll ruin the deal and waste an opportunity.

Soft close questions in the sales engagement process for wealth management can include such as:
"So, does that clearly explain why a fee-based advisor is best for your needs?"
Or, "Could you please be more specific about your current costs, like the commissions you're paying?"
Or, you can directly, in the soft close process, address objections and move toward a close. Use "soft" questions like:
"Knowing who else I serve, does that address your concern?
Or, "Have I resolved that concern about the real benefits of a fiduciary?"
Or, "Does this performance review approach make good sense?"

Notice, you have not asked for the business - the hard close - rather you're making sure that you've overcome objections and opened the door for the prospect to ask you to engage.

(Next issue: "Hard Close" techniques)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting That Sale (Part 2):

For Wealth Managers involved in a sales engagement, pre-empting potential objections helps to secure the sale. If we don’t answer those questions prior to attempting a soft- or hard-close, they will certainly appear or, potentially, kill the deal and you’ll never know why.

The five questions to answer:
1. Do I need an investment advisor? Answer this with features and benefits to show the consequences of not using an investment advisor. For example, access to institutional-class funds, proprietary research, integrated investment, tax, estate and insurance planning. That’s particularly important in both financial planning and in selling against a non-fiduciary, transaction-compensated, broker or advisor.

2. Will fee-based advice benefit me? Few investors realize that financial advisors can be either fiduciary or not, and that those who are not fiduciaries have no legal responsibility to act in the best interest of the client. The simple explanation is enforced with “ask your attorney about this.”
From the financial side, if the potential client is buying class A or class B mutual funds, the fee-based argument is particularly simple. Otherwise, a clear accounting of transaction-based fees and charges will help answer this question.

3. Will this specific wealth manager meet my need or solve my problems? Pre-empt this question with a clear understanding of your credentials. “In addition to being registered, I’m a Certified Financial Planner (or CFA, or other designation) and this means…”
Likewise, use case-studies and testimonials to help convince the prospect that you are right for them.

4. Is the fee (price issue) right for my needs? Focus on the price:value relationship, the integral nature of investments, tax, insurance, and estate-needs coordination. Many transaction-based advisors do simple investment plans and call them financial plans, they aren’t. What you can offer is.

5. Why do I need advice/this advisor right now? Simply, now is the time because you won’t know what opportunity or obstacle tomorrow will bring.

Next blog, we’ll address the best format for the actual one-on-one sales presentation, and start a conversation on “soft” and “hard” closes, and the right timing for each?

What do you think? Please comment below.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting That Sale (Part 1)…

“Wealth Management Marketing and Sales” will address best practices in the marketing and sales processes. Simply, “how to get and keep clients.” It’s a big subject of potentially great value for wealth managers. All in due time

The single, most effective, piece of advice first: overcome objections before they surface

It takes a lot of work, a measure of luck and not just a little fortitude to get in front of qualified prospects. Not walking out with an agreement – either an engagement or to discuss it further – is both emotionally draining and a bad waste of a valuable opportunity. Such disappointments can make the advisor even more adverse to the “sales” process, it can create a long-term downward spiral that ultimately dooms the business.

The sales meeting follows significant efforts at segmenting, targeting, positioning, research and preparation. While the “best practice” process for an effective sales engagement (“the” meeting) is comprised of “intro, creating desire, overcoming objections, and closing the sale,” nothing is more disheartening for the advisor than a barrage of potentially deal-killing objections.

You can overcome sales objections before they happen by understanding the essential questions that your client prospect will have before they articulate them.

Five questions to answer before they are asked
All consumers ask themselves five questions that must be answered before they will buy. It matters not whether they are buying a pencil or engaging a wealth manager. When specifically focused on wealth management advisory, here’s what they look like:
Do I need an investment advisor?
Will fee-based advice benefit me?
Will this specific wealth manager meet my need or solve my problems?
Is the fee (price issue) right for my needs?
Why do I need advice/this advisor right now?

Answer those questions using the most appropriate combination of strategies and proofs and they won’t appear as stressful, likely opportunity-busting objections.

So what do you think?

Next blog: preparing strategies and proofs which answer those objections before they’re asked. In my next blog, we’ll address the exact strategies and proofs that answer those questions, eliminate (or prepare you for) objections, and help you get toward both “soft” and “hard” closes which will land you the new client.