Building Your Practice Network — Part 1 of 2

I was approached by a young man who recently switched to financial planning after a career in graphic design.  He said, “I’m learning the technical side of financial planning through my company and CFP studies. But I’m not finding a lot of detail on how to build a productive professional network.  Do you have any suggestions on how to do that, as well?”

Having been a ‘convert’ to financial planning myself I shared some thoughts on the topic . . .

Quick background.  I was a Psychology major in school and one of my student jobs was taking care of / walking timber wolves (magnificent animals, by the way).  I wasn’t in graphic design, but I can relate to making a fairly radical change and not having a ‘MAP’ to make the journey. ‘-}

I was recruited into the financial services field by a General Agent who’s classic line was, “Well, you’ve been shoveling their (the wolves’) _ _ _ _, why not try shoveling ours and see which one you like better”.  That lead me to be in ‘the biz’ for 17 years in various capacities in the US and around the world.  But I began as an agent / representative who had to find clients or starve. So I can relate to your situation.

Passion . . . You’d Better L-O-V-E What You Do!

Two bound heartsWhy you’ve decided graphic design is not going to float your boat and financial services will, is only relevant to you.  But I do hope your decision fuels your passion.  Why?  Because if you’re not turned on by whatever you do in life, it’s going to be difficult to get up each morning and ‘go to work’.

Find Your Ideal Market

missile on targetLike you, I had to find a way to get clients.  I quickly learned that my ‘natural’ market of college students wasn’t filled with ideal prospects.  Why?  My competition was the myriad alternative ways my peers could spend their time and money.  Good times, high times, etc. were far more compelling to most of my peers than investing or saving those dollars for a delayed gratification in the future.

I decided to seek out people who had some compelling motivations to insure their future and invest their money in other ways than my college chums.  My prospect of choice looked like this: “Under 30 years of age, employed full-time, career-oriented, married, with 1 or more kids (or, planning to have them), owning a home and paying off a mortgage”.  That completely changed my life in the business.  Why?  I had a profile I could use to ask, “Do you know anyone who . . .” with practically everyone I knew or met.

In the beginning I was pretty much of a rank amateur.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I also didn’t know what wasn’t supposed to work.  So I made things happen that my more senior colleagues would tell me would never work.  Sometime, ignorance is bliss.

Back to your question.  I like that you’re coming into financial planning from a non-financial background.  As a psych major I ended up learning the business by getting my CLU and ChFC within a few years of my decision to go into the financial services field.  You’ve already figured out that the ‘technical’ aspects of the business are not too difficult to learn.  Yes, you must study, but you can learn what you need to not harm your clients’ interests if you’re willing to pay the price.

HOW . . . Do I Build a Productive Network and Profitable Practice?

The ‘real’ question you want answered is “How do I start networking in this (new) field?”.  

Permit me to share some wisdom that, had I learned it earlier, would have created more success more quickly and easily than it did under the ‘trial and error’ approach I labored under.

By ‘networking’ I presume you mean ‘prospecting’.  Specifically, prospecting TO meet people you don’t know (yet) THROUGH people who already know, like and trust . . . Y-O-U.

If you’re reasonably connected with people who want to be financially stable, happy, independent, etc. then you can apply what I’m about to share with you to grow your clientele and, in so doing, enjoy both significant financial success for yourself while you create substantial value, financially and otherwise, for far more people than you’ll ever know directly.

I hope you do just that.  It’s hokey to say it, but when you can see the magnificence of the daily activities of your work, you turn mundane activities into magical ones and your life will be illuminated with a majesty that few people ever know from the work they perform while they’re on the planet.

So, here’s my advice to help you build a highly successful, effective and profitable network and practice for yourself.

Four Keys To Successful Networking

Let me suggest four (4) elements to create a ‘lean, mean, client-development machine’ . . .

PROFILE:

You must define the kind of person you want as your client. This is key — don’t offer, ask, invite or expect anyone to know if someone needs or even wants what you offer.  Why?  Because most of us don’t know people who need a financial planner.untitled

Most of our friends appear to be doing pretty well.  They live in nice homes, drive expensive automobiles, take great vacations, etc.  So stick to what I call ‘CVS’ characteristics to build your Ideal Prospect Profile.

  • C = common to people you want as clients,
  • V = visible to the naked eye and
  • S = suggests a high correlation with the kind of person who can best understand, value, desire and afford the products and services you’ll offer.

My first profile helped me quickly determine if someone I was talking with knew anyone who was “under 30, employed, married, had a home, a mortgage and 1 or more kids”.

It was my job — not my nominator’s — to determine if someone had a ‘need’ or ‘want’ for the beneficial difference my problem-solving expertise, products or services could provide.  Burden someone to know if someone they know has a ‘need’ for what a financial planner can do is likely to produce a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look and . . . no names!!  (Arghhh!)

SOURCE:

2 guys talking verticalYou must seek out people who know — and can introduce you — to people who fit your PROFILE.  I quickly learned my college buddies didn’t know too many people who looked like the kind of person I wanted to meet and, I hoped, make my clients.  So I started to ask other people if they knew anyone who fit my profile.  Some did.  Some didn’t.  But here’s what I learned!  Just as I had formed a profile of my ‘ideal prospect’, I was also forming a profile of my ‘ideal SOURCE’.

As soon as I’d find someone who seemed to know people in their network who looked like someone I wanted to meet, I’d note what my source looked like and I built a profile of my ideal source — of people I could approach who’d likely know people who fit my ideal client profile.

Ironically, these two profiles were actually very similar.  DUH!  Water seeks it’s own level.  People of a certain nature do, too.  So if you want to find people who are gainfully employed, own a home, are married, have kids, take exotic vacations, etc. then it helps to ask people who look just like that, too.

METHOD:

Knowing WHO you want as a client and WHERE you want to go to ask for help to meet them is worthless . . . unless you have a way to make your Sources produce the names of people who fit your prospect Profile. This is not easy to reduce to a few pithy lines — but I’ll give you a Special Report I wrote on the topic if you ask.  just visit: bit.ly/1wOx6j6SR YINA 2

That said, the ‘secret’ that caused me to enjoy week after week after week of sales early in my career in the field was to ask my sources — once I verified they knew people who had any of the CVS characteristics in my prospect profile — for an INTRODUCTION — to the people they knew who fit my profile.

I learned that asking for an introduction is far less problematic than asking for a referral to someone.  I explain why in my Special Report.  But trust me.  If you want to meet with qualified individuals who can become your client, seek introductions.  If you want to become extremely frustrated with yourself, your contacts and your results . . . seek referrals.

Once your source is willing to introduce you to someone they know, you need a system to do this.  And a key part of your system must include a commitment to report back to your source on how their introduction/s turned out for you.  Why?

First, it proves to your source that you didn’t destroy their relationship with the person they helped you to meet.  Letting your source know that ‘nothing went badly’ when you followed-up with their introductions is so important to your success.  It’s also good manners and up-bringing.

Second, it makes going back to that Source a whole lot easier in the future.  Trust me, you WILL go back – repeatedly – to any Source who can introduce you to people who can best understand, value, desire and afford to work with you. So why make it more difficult to do that?

PLAN:

iStock_000003581765XSmallThe last element in your lean, mean, client-development machine is your plan of WHAT you’ll do and WHEN . . . to generate new opportunities you can convert into clients.

At a minimum, you’ll want to break your activities down into monthly, weekly and daily behavior goals.

To keep this simple, focus on doing the following kinds of activities:

1) approach sources for a meeting,
2) meet with sources,
3) generate introductions,
4) approach introductions,
5) follow-up with Introductions,
6) report back to your sources

In my next post, I’ll explain what EACH of these six (6) key activities imply and how to make them productive parts of a process that helps you ‘Get New Clients’.

POINT:
Building a Practice Means Building and Leveraging Your Network

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