The 3 keys to practice growth

By Dave Scranton

Advisors Academy


Trying to do the right thing for my clients led me to a fantastic opportunity for success. By focusing on the universe of conservative, income-generating investment options, I was able to become my own competition in a business niche I created.

The same opportunity is available to you. I’d like to elaborate on the three areas of focus that enabled me to grow my business: lead generation, practice management, and a turnkey sales process.

Generating quality leads
Lead generation should be your number one job, because every hour you’re not in front of a qualified prospect is an hour you’re underpaying yourself. Every hour you spend with qualified prospects is worth $500 to $1,000 to you.

So, what forms of lead generation are there? Let’s start with seminars. Now, you may have heard that seminars are dead, and that they no longer work. I was told the same thing 10 years ago, and I want to assure you that they weren’t dead then, and they aren’t dead now. If you think you have the talent for public speaking, I believe seminars are the best approach to use for lead generation. It’s no secret. If you look at the top producers who are doing $20 million a year in annuities, 90 percent of them are seminar people.

If you don’t have the capital to do it, I urge you to find it. However, if you can’t find the money or just aren’t comfortable with that kind of capital investment, you can still do public speaking events with affinity groups (clubs or organizations) or adult education classes at your local high school or community college. If you look through your contact list, you’ll find people who are well-placed in a club or organization. Ask to present at one of their meetings — a more economical approach.

What if you’re not comfortable speaking in front of groups? You can still grow your business. Use direct mail, for example. Sure, it’s more work, but if you do direct mail and do it consistently, it works. There are also companies today who will make phone calls and schedule appointments for you.

Then there are referrals, the best leads of all. Leading that pack is the unsolicited referral. So how do you get those?

First, you have to create the “wow” experience for clients. The primary reason we lose clients is they feel they don’t hear from us as often as they should. We need to over-service our clients. I believe every client needs to receive a phone call from our office every three months. I also use newsletters, cards and whatever else it takes to stay in touch.

Twice a year, we’ll hold referral appreciation parties. If they referred someone to me in the last six months and we actually met, whoever referred them gets to come to the party. It’s usually a themed event, and we raffle off something significant. For example, one of our parties was held at a winery, and the gift was a trip to wine country in California. Once you do a couple of these, people start asking themselves, “Who can I refer so I can go to the next event?”

Another effective technique is to take five or six of your top clients and create a board of directors. Tell them you need their help in determining how you can improve client service and grow your business. If you prove receptive to their ideas, they’ll begin to feel like they’re your partners in this enterprise. Ultimately, as you talk about how to grow the business, the topic of referrals will come up as a natural part of the conversation. As board members, they will feel obligated to begin referring business themselves. And because they are your top clients, you’ll be getting the kind of referrals you really want.
Some of you are thinking, “I can’t afford any of this.” I want to challenge that way of thinking. A misconception many financial advisers share is they think of themselves as salespeople. In fact, we are business owners.

As advisers, we’re taught to tell our clients to pay ourselves first. We need to do the same thing as business owners. Pay your business first. The first 10 percent to 20 percent of your revenue shouldn’t even hit your checkbook. Put it back into the coffers and use it for marketing and lead generation to grow your business. That’s what grew my business.

Practice management
The first key to good practice management is properly managing your own time. If your time is worth $500 to $1,000 an hour, don’t spend that time doing $20–$30 an hour work.

I’m amazed when I talk to advisers and they tell me they pick up dry cleaning or do their banking during the business day. They are robbing themselves of the ability to generate income. Those are obvious mistakes. But there are several tasks many advisers take on that are less obvious income robbers.

Do you do any paperwork? Do you handle incoming calls? Do you make calls to schedule your appointments? Stop it. Depending on your location, you can pay someone $10–$30 an hour to do those things. Think about it. When you call your doctor, do you talk to him or her? No. And as long as you receive prompt service, you don’t care.

Granted, if your current staff consists of one part-time assistant, this won’t happen overnight. Building an office is a process. But you need to begin thinking in that direction or it won’t happen.

When I began the process of putting my office together, I sat down and wrote down some goals regarding what I wanted my ideal day to look like, and how I wanted my office to function. As I was doing that, I really didn’t know how I would accomplish it, and part of me didn’t even believe it could happen. But the human mind is an amazing thing. Once I wrote very sensory-specific goals — goals that depicted a specific outcome — my mind found ways to achieve them.

Sharpening sales skills
No matter how good you are at selling, you can always improve. That’s true for you, and it’s true for me. Interestingly, improving your closing ratio by 10 percent will actually double or triple your sales. How? Because now you’re going to be getting the bigger cases that you might otherwise have lost.

The key is to never wing it. If you find out you’re using a completely different approach every time you go into a sales situation, you’re winging it. You need a repeatable, effective sales process you can use time after time.

Ideally, the sales process should be a discovery process. As Brian Tracy says, “Telling is not selling.” Wouldn’t it be great if you could just tell someone they have a problem and that you have the solution, and they would simply buy it? We know it doesn’t work that way.

Instead, you need to bring them through a discovery process where, with your help, they discover they have a problem. Then, with your help, they discover you’re the person who can solve that problem. Let’s face it, people don’t change strategies when they find one that may be a little better than what they have. They change when they have a problem, and they have to change.

I don’t advocate scare tactics. Those are for amateurs, and eventually they’ll put you out of business. I’m talking about education. The sales process should be more like judo than karate. In karate, it’s block and strike, block and strike. That’s akin to overcoming objections in a traditional sales process. Judo, on the other hand, teaches you to use the momentum of the other party to win.