Four tips for truly connecting with skeptical clients

By Maribeth Kuzmeski

Red Zone Marketing, Inc

Just because the market collapsed and Wall Street's dirty laundry got aired all over the world doesn't mean people need financial advisors any less. In fact, they need you more than ever! But to win their business in today's post-financial collapse environment, it requires that you spend more time building trusting relationships and truly connecting with your clients.

People today are seeking out a trustworthy, intelligent, calming voice in all of this uncertainty that will provide an individual approach, analysis, and solutions to their financial situation. And to win over today's investors, you absolutely must be prepared to spend the time necessary to build a meaningful relationship.

Now is not the time for financial advisors to back off in their marketing, but it is the cultivation of relationships that is critical. Today's investors must feel they can completely trust their financial advisors, and you have to show them you are willing to take the time to build that trust.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But the good news is, it's highly productive work, the kind that leads to very profitable client relationships.

Have a compelling, impactful message. In today's world, the message you're putting out there to bring people in must compete with tons of other information. That's why you really need to up the ante in terms of impact. What you say to and do for potential clients and current clients must be memorable. Is your message -- including the information on your Web site, in your newsletters, in ads, and so forth -- worth passing on to others? Are those materials compelling enough to go viral? Use your marketing materials, including your Web site, to create a connection between you and everyone who sees them. Simply put, your marketing messages must stop people in their tracks.

But you don't have to spend a ton of time and money completely overhauling your marketing messages or the way you do business. One very simple way to get people into your office and encourage them to refer you to others is to have a simple, repeatable statement of value that they can easily pass on to friends, family members, and colleagues. Here's an example of one that is working: "I work with family owned businesses, helping them pay less in taxes and protect their assets. I specifically work with those with serious profit problems. Those that have big profits."

Give 'em something to talk about. Don't assume that people talk about the things that are at the core of what your company provides. After all, those things are supposed to be there. What people will remember and talk about are the unexpected things that set you apart. It's often the small things that grab their attention.

You should leave something behind with the people you encounter: a thought, a memory, or a connection. They won't talk about the financial products you provide, but they certainly will talk about your service, if it is unexpected. If you give them just what they expect, they won't ever mention it.

One financial advisor has given his clients something totally different to talk about. He buys books at the local bookstore on the 75 percent off table. He buys them for his best clients that he will be meeting with the following week. He wraps them up and gives them as a special gift after their meeting. He says that people actually talk about the fact he got them a book (i.e., he thought about them) more than they talk about his core offering of investment advice and planning. It has been a great referral tool for him.

Be referable. (And if you're not, find out why.) When your clients are reasonably satisfied with your services, they ought to agree to endorse you to others. So why don't they do it? Wouldn't it be amazing if your clients were so impressed with your company that they voluntarily shared you with others? It's not outside the realm of possibility.

If you're not currently receiving the amount of referrals you'd like, don't assume that you're not referable. Chances are, there is simply a disconnect between you and your clients that is affecting the number of referrals you receive. In order to develop the kind of customer loyalty that lasts forever and acts as your most valuable marketing tool, your company must be the type that is visible and credible in the eyes of customers --and something you do must exceed their expectations.

Some of the industry's top financial advisors receive 100 or more referrals each year without ever directly soliciting them. And I have seen that there is a direct correlation between the acquisition of referrals and the relationships that advisors have with their clients. That's why I suggest you develop a "Client Delight Survey" that covers every detail of the client's experience. Ask about her perception of your quality of communication, level of trust, response to problems or setbacks, willingness to go the extra mile, and what stood out. It sounds simple, but if you take this feedback to heart, you'll gain awareness of directions you can take for increasing referrals. Moreover, your clients will feel that you've truly taken time to form a relationship with her.

Listen first, then pitch. Hearing is a physical ability. Curiously listening is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Unfortunately, too many time-crunched financial advisors, without even realizing it, may not take enough time to listen to their clients and potential clients in order to find a message that works for them. Most of the top advisors we work with and observe actually spend more than 50 percent of the time in every meeting listening, not talking. Listening is the key. It sounds simple, but because so few people truly practice the art of listening, it's the most effective way to make lasting connections with others. Being a good listener sets you apart. It makes you very likeable, because others will feel comfortable and valuable when they're with you. Cultivating this skill will bring you satisfied customers, content employees, and trusting supervisors. And when it is time for you to make your pitch, being a curious listener will help you say the right thing every time.

Ultimately, this is a field where the advisors with the highest relationship quotients -- a mix of financial expertise and the ability to relate to and connect with others -- win the business. The attribute that is truly unique to each advisor is the relationships that he or she develops; the resulting trust and confidence that is built; and the referrals that come in.

And no matter how high your quotient, there is always room to improve your client connections. The fact is, if your clients like you just as much as the service you provide them, they will not leave you; and they will refer business to you again and again.

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