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”)