Building Your Practice Network – Part 2 of 2

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Quick Recap of My Last Post

Building Your Practice Network — Part 1 of 2, was prompted by a question from a young man who was transitioning from a career as a graphic designer to becoming a financial advisor.

While his financial education was being addressed by his company and CFP studies, he didn’t feel he was learning how to build his practice.  Specifically, he was seeking guidance about the best ways to find and grow his clientele.

In the prior post, we set the stage for this post.  My biographic ramblings notwithstanding, several points were made by me to this new planner:

Passion
It’s imperative that, whatever you do, you do something you love.

Leveraging Your Network To Find Clients
There are several options to connect with prospective clients.  I highly recommend finding prospects through introductions from people who know, like and trust you to people they know who look like the people who can best understand, value, desire and afford what you can do for them.

4 Keys of The Preferral Prospecting® System

Actively seeking introductions to prospective clients is far better than waiting passively for referrals to magically ‘show up’.  Asking people who know, like and trust us for help connecting with people who could use our services isn’t easy for most of us.  But, it’s also not impossible.

A system for generating introductions to people is the ‘secret’ to generating opportunities with new clients on a consistent basis.  There are four (4) key elements to such a system:

PROFILE
. . . of someone who looks like the kind of person you know or believe can become a client.  The reason for such a profile is to share with other people when you ask them, “Who do you know who . . .”

SOURCE
. . . this is someone who knows, likes and trusts you so well that, if you ask properly, they’d be willing to introduce you to people in their network of connection who fit your profile

METHOD
. . . this refers to 2 things.  First, what you must say and do to help your Sources identify people they know who fit the profile of your Ideal Client.  Second, what you must say and do to approach those people and decide if they’re viable for you.  Or, not.

PLAN
. . . If your method suggests a number of actions you must take to ‘make things happen’, your plan helps you orchestrate and coordinate them.  Some call this the ‘How Much’ and ‘What Kind’ of activities must you engage in, daily and weekly, to generate the number of prospects that will be come the clients who support your annual revenue goals.

Getting Introduced To Others

There are seven (7) ‘mission critical’ activities that will help you generate introductions to people who look like the kind of people you’d be happy to have as your clients.

I’m assuming you’ve done the work necessary to implement your introduction system.  Namely, you have a clear PROFILE of your ideal client, you know people — SOURCES — you can approach to generate introductions to their contacts who look like your PROFILE.  Your METHOD — the things you’ll say and do — has been developed and readied to use.   So now, the PLAN of what to do when is all that remains to be done.

Six (6) Key Activities

1.  Approach your Source/s for a Meeting 
You want to begin with people you know well and, vice versa.  You can just pick up the phone and ask to meet.  Tell them you’re actively building your clientele and would like their input on how to do this most effectively.  Most people who know, like and trust you will agree to help and meet with you.  You’ll also quickly discover who your real friends are here!

2. Meet with your Source/s 
I highly recommend you have a face-to-face meeting with someone if possible.  But, if you know someone really, really well or they’re not able to meet with you in-person . . . then a phonetical can work just fine, too.

3.  Generate Introductions 
10 Step Preferral Guidethis is where your METHOD comes into play. You want to explain that you have a challenge (to grow your clientele) and you’d like their help –– if they’re able to help you (by introducing you to people they know who fit your Profile).  This is all covered in detail in this Discussion Guide:

4.  Approach Your Introductions
the best way to do this is by snail-mailing a notecard or note on blank paper to each introduction you generate. You simply want to prepare the person for a phone call that you’ll make shortly after they receive your note.  Do NOT assume or suggest the person has any need or desire for your products or services. Leverage the relationship you have in-common with the Source with a simple “P.S” like “Prior to my calling, please contact Bill Doerr concerning who I am and what I do.  Bill’s number is (860) 798-6964”.  Here’s an example of what this might be:

5.  Follow-up with Your Introductions . . . about 3 days after you mail them your note of introduction.  You’ll want to call these people, introduce yourself, reference the person you know in common (your Source) and see what happens.  Generally, there are only three possible outcomes.Vintage Traffic Signal

“It’ Over!” . . . First, they may not only have ‘no need’ to know more about you / your services but they may already have a great relationship with another planner and have no desire to look at you any further.  Congratulate them on their relationship, thank them for their time and hang up.  (In time, you can pursue these kinds of people, but for now, keep it simple.)

“Receptive, BUT not now” . . . Second, you may find someone doesn’t have a ‘financial girlfriend’ and also isn’t opposed to knowing you.  But they also have no compelling reason to get to know you any better.  Today.  Again, you weren’t calling to sell them, today.  You wanted to find out if they’re the kind of person who might need to know someone in your field . . . probably in the future, right?  So ask them to invite you to keep-in-touch over time so that when (not if) a need arises that you can help address . . . you’ll come to mind like candy from a PEZ dispenser — i.e. first and favorably.  You’ll need a system to do this — a ‘cultivation’ system.  But it’s not hard to set that up and use it to keep-in-touch and top-of-mind with these people who are likely to become someone’s client . . . and you want them to be yours!

“Come on down” . . . Third, you may find yourself talking with someone who, upon learning that you’re a financial advisor, reveals that they’ve been thinking about their financial affairs and were wondering how to address them.  These people may give you an appointment!  It happens.  But not it’s not common on a first call.

6.  Follow-up with Your Source/s
If there’s one thing you can do that will make it so easy to generate additional introductions in the future from the person who just helped you to meet someone they know fitting your profile it’s this . . . give your Source a simple update on how their introduction turned out for you.

It’s such a simple courtesy!  This one simple action will mark you as someone who has both class and manners.  I suggest using a form to be able to make these ‘reports’ to your Sources — e.g.

Preferral Follow-up Report Form

Using a ‘Follow-Up Report’ form will allow you to do two things:

1.  Record . . . what happened with each introduction your Source made for you, and

2.  Report . . . back to your Source very easily on what happened with their introductions

The Key To Ongoing Success:  Cultivate 240 People!
If you follow this process and grow your contacts being cultivated to about 240 people who agree to be cultivated, you’ll have a steady stream of predictable revenue-generating opportunities . . . each and every month!!

Let’s assume you call each of your well-qualified contacts every 3 months.  If so, you’ll be calling about 1/3 of your total contacts EACH month.

Monthly Calling Chart

If you’re cultivating 240 people, it means you’ll have roughly 80 people you’re to re-call to ’touch base’ with each month.

You won’t connect with 50% of these people (40 people) due to timing issues — yours or theirs.  It’s OK.  They’ll come back again for another call in 90 days.  That leaves you with 40 people who will be reachable.

50% of the remaining people (20 people) will thank you for your thoughtful diligence and follow-up call but have no need, at this time, to talk with you further.  OK, they stay in your system and will also come back again in 90 days or so.

The remaining 20 people will either agree to talk with you about their financial matters and/or agree to introduce you to people in their networks who fit your Ideal Client Profile.  Remember, these are people who ‘qualified’ to be cultivated in the first place and are growing closer and closer to their ‘need’ and purchase.  So stay with them and see what develops!

Assuming you actually end up meeting with 20 people . . . how many will give you introductions . . . possibly half?  How many meetings will generate updated ‘facts’  and turn into ‘open cases’ for you?  How many open cases will result in a ‘decision meeting’ where you can present a recommendation for someone to buy something from you?  What’s your average client transaction worth to you?  How many of these do you require to ‘make your numbers’ . . . for the month . . . for the year?  See where I’m going with this?

My friend, and I say this not knowing you personally but in a collegial way, you are in a wonderful position to do a great deal of good for others and enjoy a great life and lifestyle for yourself as a financial advisor.

If I can be of any further assistance to you, contact me.  I’m delighted to be able to transfer what I’ve learned worked for me on to a new generation of advisors.  To download my report on this topic, just visit: bit.ly/1wOx6j6  Enjoy and prosper!

POINT:
Building a Practice Is Best Done By Design, Not Accident

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Building Your Practice Network — Part 1 of 2

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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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3 Keys To Your Successful Value Proposition

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“How often do you change your value statement . . . AKA . . . your ‘Elevator Pitch’?”

I ask that of people I meet with in workshops and in passing conversations.  Those who say they “rarely change” fall into 1 of 2 camps:

  1. they’ve not given the subject a lot of thought, or
  2. they’ve found something that works and they’re not going to ‘fix what ain’t broken’

But most of the time I hear, “I’m always changing it — when I find one I like, I’ll let you know!”.

The Search for a Good Elevator Pitch Never Ends

While I’m all for having a short, targeted statement that resonates with someone who may find the value proposition you offer is of interest, it’s just a the ‘first move’ in a larger game of marketing ‘chess’.

It may help you capture the attention of a potential prospect, but it’s not going to close a sale. In fact, there’s a long way between your ‘opening gambit’ and the ‘checkmate’ move that ends the game!

What you may want to give as much (if not more!) thought to is what is your value proposition?  That’s not necessarily something that fits the one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it something that you can give out as quickly and easily as an elevator pitch.

Your Value Proposition Is Not Your Elevator Pitch

If your elevator pitch is useful in ‘opening the game’ — like a good serve in tennis or a solid drive off the tee, your value proposition is what sustains the game to a decisive conclusion.

Your value proposition is the ultimate basis for a qualified prospect making a decision to do business with you.  Or, not.  The latter being true if you’re not a good fit for one another.

How Your Value Proposition and Elevator Pitch Differ

An effective elevator pitch must answer two questions:

  1. “Are you relevant . . . to me?”
  2. “What benefit will I enjoy . . . as a result of working with you?”

The relevance issue . . .
is easily addressed by defining or communicating WHO . . . is your ideal client.  One of my clients likes to say, “I work with business owners who are 55 years old or older . . .”.  That’s pretty clear and, I can tell you from her feedback, it’s pretty effective in quickly engaging the attention and interest (or, curiosity) of people who are over 55 and own a closely-held business.

The benefit issue . . .
is easily addressed by pointing out, in a very tangible way, what someone stands to gain (or, avoid losing) as a result of using the problem-solving expertise, products and/or services of the person who’s answering the questions, “What DO you do?”  Another client describes the beneficial difference he makes in a client’s life this way: “I help my clients achieve their 5 year plan goals in 3 years or less”.  Again, a measurable outcome he offers as a meaningful benefit that attracts the attention and  engages the interest of someone he’s just met.

If your elevator pitch is a one-size-fits-all statement of WHO and WHY, your value proposition is more of a custom-tailored response that perfectly addresses the questions:

  1. “Why You?” and
  2. “Why Not?”

Why YOU? . . .
The fancy-schmancy marketing term this suggests is ‘positioning’ or ‘differentiating’.

It goes to the issue that, all other things being equal, what makes you the preferred provider of the beneficial solution to the problem that you used your elevator pitch to capture my attention back when we first met?

If you’re no different — or, better — than other providers of the solution I may (now) be interested in . . . any competitor with a clear and compelling reason to chose them over you could . . . beat you out at the box-office.  So you’d best find out why you’re not only different but better than the alternatives.

Why NOT? . . .
In sales, there’s an old adage that says, “A decision to do nothing, is still a decision”.  I’d argue it’s the default decision that each of us must assume when talking with a prospective client.  They’ve been doing something before we showed up and they may feel that’s good enough UNLESS . . . they learn of a compelling reason to do something different.

This raises the issue of ‘risk’.  No one likes to make a mistake.  So they make a decision to do no thing that will change their situation — for the better or, the worse.  It’s a big reason behind why people don’t take actions that could, potentially, benefit them.

You probably hear of many people who didn’t jump back into the stock market after the big crash in 2008 out of fear of getting ______’ed again.  But they lost out on the recovery, too.

You’ll need to manage the risk of action vs. inaction in the value proposition you offer someone or they may just decide to ‘stay put’.  And that, for both of you, may be more costly than either of you like.

The 3 Keys . . . To a Successful Value Proposition

If you want to build a value proposition that will move people to make a decision about working with you, consider what you must address with whatever and however you communicate it . . .

Interest . . . you must focus your prospect’s attention on WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).  Everyone has more choices for investing their time and money than they have time and money to invest.  Unless you’re talking about what your prospect cares about, you’ll be talking to yourself before too long!  So focus on the benefit you offer and hit it . . . hard and quickly.

Competitive Position . . . despite what your mother told you, you are not the only game in town.  You have competition.  You know it.  Your prospects know it, too.  So embrace the obvious.  The ‘elephant’ in the room. How?  By acknowledging your prospects’ alternatives to you.  Reference your competitors and position who you are, what you offer and how you’re better . . . relative to your alleged competitors.

Avis rental cars claimed, “We’re #2, we (have to) try harder”.  By adopting that position, they re-positioned the #1 car rental company (Hertz) very effectively . . . “They’re #1 . . . they don’t have to . . . (give a _ _ _ _!)”.

Credibility . . . prospects are not clients (yet) because they’re already doing some thing else!  Think about it.  They are already doing some-thing by simply doing no-thing . . . with you or anyone else in your field!  A decision to do nothing is still a decision to do something . . . to maintain their status quo.  Why do people do this?

Life coaches Walt Hampton and Ann Sheybani teach that the desire to avoid possible pain is, for most of us, more powerful than the desire to make changes that may lead to greater gain.  We may want to ‘steal 2nd base’ but we know keeping our foot on first base won’t get us tossed out of the game.

Never mind that doing no-thing may be more costly than some-thing you may be suggesting.  We don’t make changes easily until we believe the cost of doing nothing (different) poses a greater risk of loss than the benefit we may gain by doing something new, different, and . . . possibly better.

Your value proposition must address these three issues — interest, position and credibility. How?  Often with client testimonials that your prospect can relate to as credible parties whose situation was similar to what their’s is now and whose outcomes were more promising to seek than maintain the status quo they’re living with now.

POINT:
Your Elevator Pitch can start the game, but a solid Value Proposition can close the sale for you

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Making a Good Impression on Your Prospective Client

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“How can I convince a prospective client that I’m better than other advisors in my field?”  That’s a great question.  One I get asked a lot.  OK, here’s an insight for you . . .

Prospects decide to work with you — as their advisor —  the same way they decide to buy a book. But before they buy the book, they ‘buy’ the book’s cover. Consider the following scenario:

You’re in a bookstore.  You find two books on a topic you’re interested in.  You want to buy one book, not two.  Question: “How do you choose which book to buy?”

Do you read both books before you decide which one to buy?  No.  That’s not practical.  So what does help you choose one book over another?  Short answer?  It’s the book’s cover!  

Specifically, it’s the experience a cover offers you that helps you choose one book over the other.

If it’s sufficiently appealing, you’ll probably buy the book.  If not, you’ll put it back on the shelf. That’s the very same process prospects use to decide to work with you . . . or, your competitor.

The Impression You Make is Key to Your Success with Prospects

Let’s be candid.  Financial planning is an overcrowded and highly competitive field.  Next to encountering a few ‘coaches’, attending any social event means you’ll find more than a couple of ‘financial advisors’.  And we both know that’s being conservative.

Your Challenge:  Standing Out . . . from Your Competitors

To people who are not in the financial planning field, every planner looks like all the rest.

At a minimum, you call yourself by a common term — ‘financial planner’.  You probably have letters after your name on your business card — CFP, CLU, ChFC, etc..  You’re licensed by the various financial regulatory agencies, you hold membership in your professional associations locally and nationally and you have awards and accolades from your company or broker-dealer.  So do all the other planners!

There’s really very little ‘difference’ between you and your competitors . . . as Joe or Jane Public perceives things.

So here’s the problem:  You may be no worse than your competition.  But, you’re also not seen as being any better than they are, either.  Not good.  For you!

What you SAY and DO . . . Differentiates You

Some years ago a major accounting firm hired the ‘father’ of modern differentiation — Ted Levitt, Professor Emeritus of the prestigious Harvard Business School.  They asked him, “Tell us how to ‘differentiate’ our audit services from the audit services our competitors are offering”.  Winning an audit contract with a major company — think Boeing, Apple, Google, etc. could bring in millions of dollars in fees — to the accounting firm that’s chosen to do the audit.

Levitt knew that to ‘stand out’, something must possess two qualities.  First, it must be unique.  In a me-too world, you won’t be noticed unless you’re different.  Think of Waldo.  He doesn’t stand out so it’s hard to find him, right?  Second, it must also be beneficial.  Something must offer a legitimate benefit — as the target audience defines ‘value’.

The problem is it’s not easy to sustainably differentiate a professional service –– like you offer.

If your offering is beneficial, competitors will copy you and you won’t be unique for long.

If your offering is unique and competitors aren’t copying you, maybe there’s really no benefit.

There’s your dilemma.  Finding a way to sustain a ‘competitive edge’ . . . a point of differentiation for you . . . over time . . . is a very real challenge.  It’s why you feel like Waldo more than you like!

The Secret To ‘Standing Out’ and ‘Kicking Your Competitors Butts’ 

Good News!  Professor Levitt’s first requirement . . . being unique . . . is actually easy . . . for you.  Last time I looked, there was no one else on Earth who is just like you.  Heck, even your mother told you that, right?  Listen to your mother!  She’s right.  You are totally and perfectly unique.

As for being beneficial, here’s how you address that issue.  Manage your behavior!  Why?  Because there’s a direct connection between:

1.  what you SAY and what you DO in front of a prospective client

2.  how they perceive you as a preferred provider of financial expertise, advice and products

3.  whether they’ll choose you (or, your competitor!) . . . when the ‘beauty contest’ is over

I use a simple graphic with my clients to illustrate how this works . . .

It all begins with / depends on your behavior.

Everything (EVERY Thing) you do and say — i. e. your behavior — creates an experience for your prospective client.

 

In social psychology, it’s well-known that your perception of someone reflects the cumulative effect of the behavioral impressions they offer you.

If I’m always late or always have a messy room, you tend to perceive me as undisciplined, uncaring, disorganized, lazy, etc.  That may not be true.  But because that’s your subjective perception of me, that’s your reality of me and you’ll tend to behave accordingly toward me.

Pulling It All Together

OK, so how do you use these insights to help your prospective clients perceive you as the advisor they’d prefer to work with . . . assuming they’re ready to do so . . . and all other things are ‘essentially equal’?

First, learn what your ideal client wants to find in an advisor
Leavitt learned audit clients really didn’t care about the audit.  It was a necessary evil — like undergoing a colonoscopy after age 50. What they really wanted / cared about was to work with a ‘business advisor‘ whose firm could also do their audit.

AHA!  It was never about the audit, it was always about the relationship the client wanted!

The best way to learn what your prospects want in an advisor is simple.  Ask your best clients this question:

“Why did you choose ME . . . over other planners you were aware of / considering using?”

You may hear:  “You knew about . . . “, “You were thorough”,  You listened well”,  “You made me feel comfortable”, etc.  These are perceptions . . . of you . . . expected by your prospects.

Once you learn the answer to the question, “Why me?”. . . you’ll know what your prospects are looking for in an advisor in your field.  Then, I urge you to identify the ‘Top 3’ most commonly cited answers you hear.

When you know what makes you a preferred provider, you can create the experience (of you) prospects will use to decide if you’re the advisor they want.  Yes, it’s an Open Book Test!

RULE:
“3 Behavioral Impressions –––> 1 Subjective Perception”

It takes 3 behavioral impressions to cement a single perception (AKA ‘truth’ or ‘reality) about you with a prospect.  If you create 3 behavioral impressions for each of the Top 3 perceptions that educators want in their financial advisor and, all things being equal, you’ll have a decided edge over any alleged competitor!  See?  Amazingly simple.

Second, choose what you must SAY and DO to validate the Top 3 perceptions clients want
Your current clients were once your prospects.  They were looking for someone they could feel comfortable trusting to help them manage their financial affairs.  Behaving like what your clients wanted from you is the key to presenting your ‘best side’ to prospects in the future.

For example, let’s say you work with educators.  Your best clients told you, “We chose you because you seemed to know a lot about teachers”  If so, you may want to communicate your expertise by asking a question or sharing an insight.  e.g.  “Many of the teachers I work with are not aware of what their maximum contribution to a tax-deferred annuity program is for this year.  Have you determined what you’re allowed to contribute and are you planning to take full advantage of that amount?”

That’s one (1) behavioral impression!  If you make three (3) similar behavioral impressions during an initial meeting with a prospective educator client, they’ll form the perception that you’re someone who . . . specializes in working with educators!

Repeat that process with the #2 and #3 perceptions educators use to choose . . . their financial advisor . . . and you’ll end up not only standing out in your initial meetings, you’ll end up converting more prospects into clients, too.

POINT:
People buy books by their covers and advisors / planners by their behaviors!

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Finding Your Authority as an Author

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I love psychology. I have a degree is in psychology.  But I really love the field social psychology.  One fascinating aspect of that is known as ‘Impression Management’.  That’s where what you believe is real reflects the input or impressions you receive from various sources.  Being an author has a lot of value.  It marks you as an expert or authority in your field.  More on that in a moment . . .

My wife and I were on a cruise ship.  One of the evening shows featured a stage hypnotist.  He called up several audience members to be part of the show.  After being hypnotized, he told one young man, “You’re outside . . . in sub-zero Antarctica . . . and you have no coat”.

Immediately, the man began to shiver uncontrollably.  Was he actually feeling cold?  Objectively, no.  He was on a boat in the Caribbean!  But subjectively, he was feeling that cold like a polar bear in January.

All Reality Is Subjective

There’s an established truism that our behavior reflects what we believe is real.  The fellow on the cruise who believed he was in Antarctica without a coat behaved accordingly.  He shivered uncontrollably. But was he really cold?  Of course not.  But he believed he was!

Behavior Follows Belief

So you know that what’s real is only real because you believe it’s real.  Whether it’s truly real or not is irrelevant.  All that matters is that if you believe something is real or true . . . it is.  For you.

Differentiation By Managing How People Perceive You

Let’s say you’re at a social gathering.  Personal or business.  It doesn’t matter.  Someone comes up to you, introduces themselves and asks, “So, what do you do?”  I’m sure you have a better answer but assume you just want to reply as simply as you can.  “I’m a financial planner”.

We both know that’s accurate but deadly.  Almost as soon as those words leave your mouth the other person is mentally checking out of the conversation, right?  And why not?  What are they going to do with that line?  Either they’ll open themselves up for a possible pitch or they’ll say something truly inane like, “Financial planner?  Gee, sounds fascinating . . .”  Seriously?

Control The Conversation . . . Manage The Perception

2 guysNow assume your answer is this . . . “Me?  I’m a financial planner . . . and I’m writing a book on The 10 Biggest Mistakes Affluent People Make Before They Retire“.  

You’ve just introduced a piece of information that isn’t readily known about you — you’re writing a book!  That helps someone perceive you in a whole different light than simply being just another financial planner.

Once someone perceives you as an author, they’re ascribing you with a role and a status.  Your status is Expert . . . on the topic of retirement planning for affluent clients (or, any other topic of your choice that gets a conversation going in the direction you want).

What really differentiates you from your competitors isn’t easily understood by a financial ‘civilian’.  Even if they learn you’re a CFP, ChFC, CPA, etc. they usually can’t appreciate what that means like you can.  But once someone learns you’re writing a book on some topic (hopefully of interest to them) and they’ll perceive you differently.  Usually, you’ll be intriguing and that . . . is very, very attractive!

Tell The Truth . . . Always

writerWhen I advise clients to use this approach, I’ll hear, “But I’m not writing a book!”.  Excellent observation!  That may be true.  And, I never advise clients to lie or misrepresent themselves to anyone.  That said, let me suggest that you make a commitment to write a book . . . on a topic you know well and people find interesting.  Writing a book is a powerful marketing tactic and it helps people perceive you as the Expert you are.

Now stay with me here . . . somewhere between committing to write your book and actually publishing it . . . aren’t you actually ‘writing the book’?  Yes.  Yes, you are!

In fact, I have some clients who are always ‘writing a book’.  They’re never finished!  But they find themselves having the most involving conversations with people at parties and meetings because of the book they’re (still) writing!

Let’s face it.  Reality is what you believe it is.  If you happen to provide information to someone you’re speaking with about yourself and, as a result, they perceive you to be an Expert . . . you’re no longer ‘just another financial planner’ . . . your status is elevated . . . you’re a bona-fide Expert.

What impact will THAT have on their financial well-being and, your success?   Quite a lot!

POINT:
Manage the impression/s you make with others . . . by design, not accident.

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Stand Out or Sit Down!

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It’s not often that I find an unusual / unusually effective way for someone to make a statement about WHO they are and/or WHAT they do.  It happens.  But it’s not common.

Then, yesterday I received an invitation to connect on Linkedin with Joe Lavoie.

I didn’t know Joe before he reached out to connect on Linkedin.  Even our ‘who you know in common’ didn’t reflect a list of the usual suspects I would normally expect to see.  So I did what I do most of the time.  I checked out Joe’s Linkedin profile page to assess whether I should accept his invitation or, politely, decline it.

Joe’s Profile

When I viewed his profile page, here’s what I saw . . .

Joe Lavoie

Joe’s tagline was a significant ‘pattern interrupt’.  It stopped me.  Cold.  I was hooked.  At this point I didn’t know all that much about Joe except that he had me smiling.  He had me admiring his courage for stepping outside of what convention suggests one should do with the tagline on Linkedin.  Most of all, he had me wondering, “Who the heck is this guy??”

Why I liked Joe . . . Before I Ever Met Him

Joe’s decision to put himself out there with his uncommon tagline automatically set him apart from the pack.  One of my favorite sayings is, “The ONLY dog on a dog sled team with a change of scenery . . . is the LEAD DOG”.  (Think about it for a second.  You’ll see what I mean!)

In business and in life it’s not easy to be seen as so different and unique that you stand out from the pack of me-too positioned people.  Joe Lavoie succeeds at standing out because he’s made a courageous decision to do so.

Joe didn’t have to be a ‘rocket surgeon’ to say what he did.  True, he’s pretty creative.  But it’s not beyond anyone — including you and me — to seize the same opportunity Joe did . . . to make a distinctive and memorable statement that causes him to be memorable in a world where most people forget your first name after just meeting you!

How To Stand Out Like Joe

A good Core Message or tagline needs to do two things:

  1. Convey what you do and/or what benefit you produce for your client
  2. Be memorable . . . which means being distinctive and beneficial

The father of differentiation . . . HBS professor and noted author, Ted Levitt, defined ‘differentiation’ in his 1986 book, The Marketing Imagination as the ability to be both unique and beneficial.

The challenge, of course, is to be both.  Why?  Well, think about it.  If you’re beneficial, you’ll be copied by your competitors.  So you’re not likely to be unique for very long.  And, if you’re truly unique, no competitor has tried to copy you.  So maybe you weren’t all that beneficial after all.  See, there’s the rub.  Finding a sustainable way to differentiate or position yourself effectively . . . is a real challenge.

The good news is that, as an advisor to your client, you’re not a tangible product that is readily available to your prospective clients from any one of a number of retail outlets.  You are, simply by being who you are, unique.  There is no one else like you.  So there’s half the battle.

The second challenge is to be beneficial . . . as your Ideal Client defines it.  This is, as I’m sure you know, less about what you do and more about what you do for your client.  Once you shift your frame of reference on that, you’ll see and communicate the beneficial difference you make in your clients’ lives . . . fairly quickly and easily.

POINT:
If you’re good at what you do . . . don’t hide your light under a bushel!  Convey the beneficial difference you create in a client’s life simply, creatively and . . . effectively.

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Packaging Your Service (Part 4)

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package

Constructing Your (Intangible Service) Package

Today, we’re going to delve into what it packaging your service really demands. It may help if you keep  “The Pure Powder Skiing Escape” from the 1/8/2013 post in mind as we do this.

Building Your Package . . . Step by Step

In this post, I’m going to explain the first 2 of the 9 steps shared in part 3.  With this insight, creating a ‘package’ for your service will become much much easier!

Step 1:  DEFINE . . . your CORE BENEFIT
Everything you do should be a harmonic reflection of your business’ purpose — as your clients would describe it.  And your package is simply a ‘bundle’ of elements that produce that beneficial difference in a client’s life.  If you start out with the ‘end’ clearly in mind, then the components that lead someone to that destination become equally clear to you.

Take McDonald’s Happy Meal as an example.  That’s a ‘package’ in every sense of the word. Burger.  Fries (or, fruit!), drink and toy (God forbid they forget to put the toy in the bag, eh?).

Parents buy Happy Meals (not kids).  So what is the real benefit a McDonald’s Happy Meal gives a parent?  According to what I can tell, it’s “7 minutes”.  Huh?  Well, think about it.  A parent buys a Happy Meal . . . so they’ll get “7 minutes” to wolf down their own food before their kid drags them outside to the play in the playscape.

POINT:
Start by focusing on the Big Picture / end result / ultimate benefit . . . it makes building your package a breeze (well, relatively so!).

Step 2:  REVIEW . . . Your RECENT CLIENTS
In marketing, it’s often helpful to use a ‘personna’ or ‘avatar’ — a mental construct that embodies or represents the essential qualities of your ‘Ideal Client’ — to write to, speak to . . . when you’re seeking to communicate effectively with your clients.  

For example, allow me to introduce you to “Harry”.  Harry is a client personna constructed out of the collective experiences of many different clients.  He’s the owner of a company that employs 28 people.  Harry’s clients are ‘significantly above average’ in terms of their total household income.  Harry’s company offers a variety of services to these people. He’s got a lot of competitors to contend with on any given day.  Which doesn’t make Harry too happy.  Why?  Well, lately, his margins have been squeezed a bit because . . . (you getting the idea?).

You want to create a ‘Harry’ (or, Harriet) for your business.  It helps you focus on WHO it is you’re building this package for in the first place!  Your package should contain ‘everything ‘Harry’ wants or needs and nothing he doesn’t’.  But if you don’t know who it is you’re building a package for . . . you’re likely to get it wrong.  You may include ‘nice but not critical’ stuff.  Or worse, you may (inadvertently of course!) omit something critical to Harry’s enjoying the benefit he’s buying your package to create and enjoy.

POINT:
Build a marketing personna or avatar based on your best and most recent clients.  Keeping your ‘Harry’ in mind as you build your package will make sure it’s attractive AND effective!

Don’t want to wait?  Download the full Special Report . . . NOW!

Packaging Your Service (Part 3)

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package

Constructing Your (Intangible Service) Package

Today, we’re going to PRE-view what must go into an effective package. It may help if you keep  “The Pure Powder Skiing Escape” from the 1/8/2013 post in mind as we do this.

 

9 Key Steps in Creating Your Intangible Service Package

As you build packages for your services, it becomes easier and easier (I’m NOT kidding — trust me!).

Why?  Simple.  You begin to see the structure of ANY package whenever you decide to promote a service.

We’ll go through each element, in detail, but first . . . let’s list ALL the elements at once . . . THEN . . . we’ll come back and explain each one for you.  OK?

The nine (9) step PROCESS you’ll  use to create your intangible service package is:

1.  Define your . . . core benefit or ‘Mission’ (if you haven’t done so before!)

2.  Review your . . .  most recent clients

3.  Identify the specific PAIN of each group / sub-group of recent clients

4.  Refine your core benefit as the ‘ideal Client’ for this service sees it

5.  Choose the essential elements needed to deliver your service

6.  Choose the optional elements that may enhance the delivery of your service

7.  Seek feedback from prospective clients and fine-tune your package

8.  Add in any ‘missing’ elements that your clients’ feedback suggested

9.  Name your package with a distinctive and attractive name

That may sound like a LOT to do . . . and, maybe it is.  But remember this — it’s very do-able.  And, with practice, it’s easier and easier to do!

To recap this PART 3 on Packaging Your Services:  

•  a ‘package’ has a specific ‘formula’ like a recipe

•  a ‘package’ is built by following a 9 step process

•  a ‘package’ makes it easier to buy what you offer

In PART 4, we’ll explain what’s implied by each step in the 9 step process outlined above.

Don’t want to wait?  Download the full Special Report . . . NOW!