Success is not an accident
By Ed Morrow
Intl. Assoc. of Registered Financial Consultants
Begin by answering the questions at the bottom of this article.
Your action plan
If your score is 15 or greater, then you need to improve the effectiveness of your marketing and reduce your concern level.
You probably need to present your services much more effectively than you are doing now. You can do this — and there are assocations that will help you — but you must make sensible and diligent changes. Effort, rather than money, will be required.
Your initial presentation interview needs to be well conducted. This will enable you to charge a larger fee. The larger fee will increase your income. It will also increase the likelihood and size of your product sale commissions.
You must ask for, and expect to receive, a steady flow of referrals from your clients. And you must have a referral process to turn most of these prospects into clients.
You must deliver your planning services with the maximum impact. Merely being average or just good will not cut it. Clients now want and expect a superior experience. This will give them the confidence to implement your recommendations.
Perform a self-assesment
You will have to perform a conscientious self-assessment. This may not be fun, but it is essential. Which elements of your presentation of services are you only performing adequately? Are there a few aspects you have omitted, or simply allowed to be delivered on a sub-superior basis?
Long before a prospect enters your office, you should be preparing to enhance their future experience. Remember, if you do not close the initial engagement on the right basis or at all, the subsequent revenue opportunities will not be achieved. Close attention to detail will pay big dividends – in plan fees, in product sales, AUM, and in referrals.
Soon you will have fulfillment of your goal, and your practice evaluation (the prior shortcoming scores) will drop from the 40s toward a rating of 5. You’ll become a five star financial consultant.
Get some help
While the IARFC has many tools, articles and checklists, you will need the services of some local persons. Sometimes you can be too close to the problem to recognize the damaging impact of your activity – or your non-activity.
Your staff members can help, unless they are part of the problem. However, that is not likely. They may be secretly harboring a poor impression of some aspect of your services, but feel that you would not appreciate their opinion.
Let’s examine a couple of real cases of initial presentation problem identification and solution.
Case No. 1: A veteran consultant asked her staff for a frank appraisal of the image her practice was presenting. Her senior assistant said, “What day do you want to schedule this?” She was expecting a five minute opportunity for comments and what the discussion required was five hours. She soon realized that what she thought of as “her” practice was really “their” practice. That was the good news.
The session was scheduled and the opening comment suggested massive room for improvement. She was told, “Our stationery sucks. It's on poor paper, needs better use of color and it tries to sell the primary insurance company. It does not reach out to prospects with a message that "We can help!"
Her assistants said, “We can design nice, colorful letterhead and print it on better quality paper and then replace those ugly company envelopes.”
Soon they were designing a new, warmer letterhead. They also designed business cards and, to her surprise, each of her secretaries (service associates) wanted their own cards and asked for a title to explain their personal service and strengthen their personal image with the firm’s clients.
Gradually, they built an improved image, including the way papers were presented to clients — now introduced to prospects in a folder with flaps and a dual die cut — to hold two business cards. This encouraged all new clients to ask first for their designated service representative, allowing the consultant to maximize the time spent making presentations and sales rather than on routine service.
Not only were they re-packaging the first impression created with clients, but internal morale and enthusiasm were skyrocketing.
Case No. 2: Another consultant had read articles that mentioned the use of archive cases for the filing of all the documents requested from new clients as part of the data gathering interview. He had bought one, but never used it. It was just being moved from one shelf to another, occupying space.
Then one afternoon, he was presenting his services to a new prospect and the conversation was not going too well. He decided to get rid of the documents archive case. He went to the supply closet, took down the archive case, removed the CD with the Word template pre-formatted for printing labels. He handed the case to the prospect and said, “This will help you gather all the documents for our analysis.” The client's wife opened the lid and, recognizing the topics on the 25 folder tabs, said, “We really need this. Our records are all over the house, a real mess! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this!" Needless to say, they became clients and the cost of the archive case was miniscule compared with his income from the fee, commissions, AUM and referrals.
This financial consultant recognized the value of handing something physical, like the archive case, to a client before asking for the agreement to produce a fee-based plan.
Case No. 3. A third financial consultant started out as an insurance salesman. He never felt comfortable asking for the initial fee to prepare and present the financial plan. We stressed several items that should always take place in the initial presentation interview to a qualified prospect:
- Be extremely well prepared and have folders ready, with nicely printed items, including certificates.
- Have two or three sample plans available, one each for the different markets he serves: high-income executives, small business owners and moderately affluent retirees. Each plan was similar in appearance, but the size of the numbers and the resultant graphs and scope of recommendations were different.
- Have a printed fee schedule with several levels of plan fees.
- Have a list of products he can make available on a commission basis, and a larger list of those which he may recommend, but does not personally offer. This helps convey commissions will be earned in some areas.
Preparation, not perspiration
Why worry about whether or not you’ll close enough new clients? Get well prepared and the results will come. It does not require much more effort to do things in a first class manner, but it will make all the difference in your income.
The appropriate questions — Score yourself
1 = No; 5 = somewhat; 10 = Yes
|Do you need a more consistent flow of clients?||_____|
|Do you need to gradually elevate the economic level of your client base?||_____|
|Are you highly stressed with the tasks and of getting new prospects?||_____|
|Would more revenue improve the status of your practice?||_____|
|Do you need more or better office help?||_____|
|What’s your total score?||_____|