The professional bio
By Katherine Vessenes
When it comes to lining up your dominoes to create the No-Sell Sale(TM), sometimes even the smallest things can make a huge difference. One domino that can help take your cold prospect to very warm before they even get to your office is the one-page résumé or biography.
Send out a professionally written, single-page bio to your new prospects in advance of your first meeting. This is a domino that I stumbled upon by accident when I was testing out the No-Sell Sale. The planning firm I was working with routinely sent out a well-written, single-page description of every financial advisor in the firm to new prospects in advance of the first meeting. Even as a brand-new advisor to the firm, who hadn't seen an investor in 15 years, I had my own bio. Even though I was a journalism major in college and had written two books at that stage, I collaborated with a local writer to make sure biography had a warm marketing spin and, just as important, no typographical errors.
I didn't realize how powerful sales tool bios are until I got to the end of a few initial meetings with new prospects. My style is to let the client do the talking. I never start talking about me. In fact, I don't say much of anything about me or the firm until after we have gathered all the clients' information and let them talk themselves out. Towards the end of the meeting, I would ask, "Do you have any questions about me or my background?" Much to my surprise, about 90 percent of the time the prospect would say, "No, we learned everything we need to know about you from your bio." The light went on and I realized the prospects already had enough trust in me that they didn't need more information. I just needed to keep my mouth shut and not mess up the sale. I didn't need to embarrass myself talking about old accomplishments and run the chance of undoing what was working.
Having given me this huge vote of confidence, the prospects almost inevitably quickly agreed to go ahead with a financial plan. This is when I became a solid believer in the power of the bio. It made a huge difference in closing more sales.
Here are a few tips to make sure your bio is a powerful trust-building tool:
1. Use a great, four-color headshot photo that is at least 3 inches by 4 inches, and place it in the upper left or right corner of the page -- it really needs to stand out and call attention to the document. Think of good ads. Most good ads have a large photo in color.
I have seen a number of bios that use a photo the size of a postage stamp. Something this small loses all its punch and gets lost on the page, just the way it would in a full-page ad. In fact, a significant number of prospects will just look at your photo and then make a snap decision about you. Many will not even read the copy, so the picture needs to be so good it could stand alone. Black and white photos may be artsy, but they don't have the power you need to have your prospects trust in you.
2. Spend the money to have a pro take your photo and touch it up. This is no time to have bags under your eyes or look like you haven't slept in a week or go cheap and have your spouse take a quick, digital snapshot. Go ahead and have them touch up any blemishes or wrinkles -- OK, you don't want to look 20 years younger, but seven years is just fine.
3. Make sure you are looking directly at the camera with a warm smile on your face. You should appear very warm, friendly and approachable. Failing to look at the lens of the camera makes you look shifty.
4. A nice touch is to have some color in the photo that goes with your logo or marketing materials. For instance, if you use red on your letterhead and brochures, consider wearing a red tie or scarf, or using a red backdrop. This helps tie in the entire look, making you look very pulled-together.
5. Wear a nice-looking suit, guys; and women, wear a professional outfit. Your clothes can also build confidence in your prospects, so you shouldn't underestimate the importance of professional dress. We recently reviewed the bios of one of our advisory clients. They were promoting all the members of their team. All the men looked great in suits or sport coats, with the exception of the lead member of the planning team. He was in a white shirt and didn't even have on a tie. He stood out like dog pee in a snowstorm. Every one else looked like what they were: an experienced, expert professional. "Mr. White Shirt" looked like a blue-collar worker who wandered in to the photo shoot on a bad day. There was no way he looked as if he had the credibility to be trusted to invest a kindergartner's allowance, let alone anyone else's.
Once you get a good photo, you can focus on the copy. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. This is a good time to hire a professional to help you write your bio. It takes a special talent to write about someone without sounding too pompous or too boring. Sometimes it's just plain difficult to know what to say about ourselves. Besides, if writing is not your strength, you will tend to put it off and not create a document that puts your best foot forward. Go ahead; this small investment can pay for itself many times over.
3. Avoid including where you went to school and listing all of your degrees. Also, no one really cares that you were born in Tennessee.
4. Do be sure to include any professional designations or associations. This shows you have deep connections in the industry and leaves the subliminal message that you're an expert who hangs out with other professionals.
5. If you have written any articles or books, make sure you mention them. These become subtle third-party endorsements.
6. In the last paragraph, include some personal information about yourself. It could look like this: "Jim has been married for 25 years to his high school sweetheart, Susan. They have twin daughters who are both enrolled at the University of Chicago. In their spare time, Jim and Susan like to square dance and play tournament Scrabble. Jim teaches Sunday School to 8th graders."
I don't think the entire résumé should be personal, but this short paragraph gives readers a glimpse into your personality and tells them a lot about what is important to you. Once again, it makes you look more trustworthy.
7. Have two or three people carefully proofread and edit your piece. A significant number of prospects are turned off by typographical, spelling and grammar mistakes. You don't want to offend anyone before you even meet them. The headline
Two headlines are important in bios because some people will only look at the headline and your photo. The first should be your name in very large, bold type at the top of the page; the second should be a short description of your business mission or philosophy. Go back to your elevator statement, that short response to the question: "What do you do? Use that to create a tagline for your firm. Two examples:
- For Jim, who believed in net-planning: "Your Tax-advantaged Wealth Builder"
- For advisors working with wealthy clients concerned about losing money: "A return of capital is more important than a return on capital."
- Since I help financial advisors build their dream businesses, my tagline says: "Breaking Down Barriers, Building Up Business."
Your bio should be single-sided on one page of standard 8 ½ x 11 paper. If you have a good color printer, use that to reproduce them and make sure prospects can download a PDF version from your Web site. Higher quality paper is also a nice touch.
Once again, the size of the paper is more important than you think. One of our broker/dealer clients paid a very pricey marketing firm to create bios on all of their reps. This was no small expense, but in my mind, was entirely wasted. First, they were printed on paper that was the size of a bookmark, so they were about six-up on standard letter-sized paper. Then they used a postage-size photo in black and white. There were three paragraphs -- in very small type -- in every single bio, but the first and third were exactly the same for all one thousand reps. The middle paragraph was the only one that was customized for each rep, and all they included was the rep's name and where he lived.
This piece was so tacky, I doubt any prospects would take the time to read it. The net result was a completely ineffective marketing piece -- it didn't have enough size or color to convey the message: You can trust this advisor.
Finally, no matter how accomplished you are, keep your business résumé to one single-sided page. There is a limit to how much prospects will read, even if it is well-written.
Tuck your bio into your introduction pack, along with a brochure about your firm and your fact-finder. Include a personal note to your prospect, and you have gone a long way toward warming up the prospect before they even walk into your office.
One last thought: Your broker/dealer will consider this bio to be advertising or sales literature. Make sure you have your compliance office review it and include their required information on the bottom of each one.
If you would like information on biography writers or a sample of the one I use with investors, be sure to indicate your interest in the forum below.