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Granted, the title sounds a bit naughty, doesn’t it?  But it’s true!

The prestigious Harvard Business Review recently published an article that validates this is, in fact, true.

This particular article originated from a 2006 study in which the researchers demonstrated a direct connection between moral purity and physical purity.  It’s actually called The Macbeth Effect.

In the rather gory Shakespearean play, Macbeth . . .  Lady Macbeth literally has ‘blood on her hands’ and indulges in incessant hand-washing as a result.

Lady Macbeth’s famous line, “Out, out…spot”  wasn’t referring to the dog who wanted to go out to do his business.  It was actually the blood on her hands from the intrigues of the play that prompted that line.  But, I digress . . . 🙂

Why Business Networking Makes You Feel Dirty

Believing that moral lapses lead to physical feelings of being impure or ‘dirty’, these brave social scientists set out to test their hypothesis that when you engage in business networking — it evokes feelings of being non-authentic (ergo ‘dirty’) more often and more intensely than if you engage in social networking with your friends.

I won’t bore you with their marvelous methodology, but . . . they proved their hypothesis!

There IS a correlation between engaging in business networking that produces feelings of being ‘unclean’ that social networking doesn’t generate.  Which, is why we sometime hear someone say, “I need to take a shower after going to a networking event”.  In many ways, they’re not kidding!

Networking Isn’t The Problem, It’s Your Motivation For Doing It

The research study didn’t just reveal that many people feel, well . . . ‘dirty’ when they network for business, they revealed an important insight into why!

One of the groups examined in this study was lawyers.  (Please, no jokes).

The researchers looked at how senior partners vs. newer associates in a law firm felt after engaging in business networking.  They found senior partners felt LESS ‘dirty’ as a result of networking activity than the newer associates felt after doing the very same thing.

It’s About Value . . . Who’s Got It and Who Needs It

The conclusion of the study was that business networking is an activity that does not, by itself, make anyone feel dirty. But the degree of self-interest being exhibited by someone in a networking exchange was far more likely to determine if they felt dirty or not.

Think about it.  The partners were going into a networking exchange with (usually) more value than their junior associates.  In their case, value meant these partners were bringing substantial resources into a networking exchange — their extensive network of connections, access to resources of all kinds, etc. was much greater than what a junior legal associate might bring into a networking exchange.

Are You a ‘Giver’ or a ‘Taker’?

On the other hand, a newer associate has relatively less power to bring into a networking exchange and a lot of reason to seek to take something valuable out of it — can you help me find a good position, can you mentor me in the firm, can you tell me who are the players in town, etc. These newer legal associates bring more need than power into a networking exchange and, that generates feelings that make them feel ‘needy’ and that’s not a good feeling to have.  Neither is feeling dirty.  See the connection?

“Is This About Me or . . . About You?”

The study concluded that you’re LESS likely to feel dirty from business networking IF:

1) you believe you have valuable ‘resources’ — contacts, information, etc. — to offer, and

2) you seek to give value to others more than you seek to gain value for yourself

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

untitledTake an extreme situation.  Let’s say you’re playing ‘Santa Claus’ for a kid’s holiday party.  Everybody’s going to love you.  So why would your role as the great benefactor (Santa) and the ‘resources’  you bring (presents) make you feel badly or, ‘dirty’ in any way?  Answer: it wouldn’t be possible!

Now take a different but equally ‘extreme’ situation.  You’ve lost your job.  You haven’t been able to find another.  You’re low on funds.  You’re feeling depressed, hungry and getting a little desperate, too.  You hear about a Community Christmas party sponsored by The Salvation Army.  There will be food and gifts for the homeless and unemployed.

You never saw yourself ever attending an event like this when you were working but, this year, things have changed.  Drastically.  You decide to attend.  Reluctantly.

So why are you attending?  Are you planning to give anything to anyone.  Nope.  Your motivation is to take value for yourself.

Nothing wrong with that.  Especially if you’re going through a difficult time in your life.  But that also changes your mental framework of the ‘exchange’ event from one where your motivation is to give . . . to one where your motivation is to take . . . value away from the exchange.

The BIG Takeaways!

Networking is a Contact Sport
If you want to network effectively, you have to go and show up.  Networking is, by definition, a ‘contact’ sport. Like the lottery commercials say, “You can’t win if you don’t play”.

Framework Matters
If you don’t view networking in a positive light, you’ll find all kinds of reasons not to do it.  And, if you don’t do it (or, rarely), you won’t develop this important business building skill.

Attitude Matters
An attitude that empowers you to network with others comes when you see yourself as:

1)  bringing great value to others in every exchange you have with people, and

2)  seeking to give your value to others more than you seek gain for yourself

BNI’s Ivan Meisner had it right long ago – “Givers Gain”.  Now you know why!

Life is a Party . . . And You’re The Host
My mother was very successful in real estate.  Her career spanned 42 years.  She threw a lot of parties over the years.  Invariably, she would greet a guest when they arrived and say, “I’m so glad you’re here.  Come with me . . . I have someone I want you to meet”.  Mom was connector.  She was always adding value to other people in her own inimitable way.

One day I asked her the secret for her success.  She said, “Billy, life is a party.  You’re the host.  You’re responsible for making everyone feel good for attending your party.  Do that and you’ll be successful.”  And that’s why I use the phrase, “I want to be a party to your party”.  Life’s good.  Networking makes it even better.  Seeking to serve others ultimately serves you, too.

POINT:
You’re The HOST — it’s your party to share your value with with your guests.

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Growth

Growth of your practice, to be specific.  It’s a good thing.  Yes?  Then let’s look at some more ways you can see more of it in the coming months and make your 2015 a banner year.

In my previous post, we looked at three (3) keys to help you grow your practice:

1.  Generate More Clients
2.  Increase Your Average Client Transaction
3.  Create Transactions More Frequently

In this post, I’d like to look at three more specific keys to increased growth of your practice.

By the end of this post, I’ll show you how to manage these three keys to effectively DOUBLE your production.  (Got your attention?  Good!  Stay tuned . . . film highlights at 11!)

 

Face-To-Face Meetings

I can think of no better metric at predicting how your year is going to turn out than how many people you’re meeting with on a daily basis.

Meetings with new prospects or with existing clients whom you meet with to review their planning, are the fertile ground from which great things can come to you and cause your practice to grow.

Big deal.  Everyone knows the old adage “See More People” is the secret to increased production, revenues and income.  You’re right.  Everyone knows WHAT will grow your practice.  But HOW do you get those ‘At Bats’ with people who can either buy from you or, refer you to others who can?

The real driving force behind having enough meetings comes down to your prospecting.  If you aren’t seeking introductions to people who are most like your best clients — i.e. referral prospecting — I suggest you learn how to do that as soon as possible.  Doing that will help you grow your meetings and, ultimately, your practice.  Probably better than many other marketing tactics will — and I say that from experience.

We offer a Special Report on this topic as well as private coaching on how to utilize a proven and proprietary prospecting system known as The Preferral Prospecting® System.  Click these links for more information.

untitledCase Size / Average Client Transaction Value

If all things are equal, but your average case size (remember the A.C.T we talked about in my last post?) is more or less than another advisor’s, the revenues you produce will be more or less, too.

If you want to make twice as much as you have in the past (2014?), then you’ll either need to work twice as hard or, generate twice as much revenue from each transaction you generate.

Obviously, you’ll have a range of transactions.  We all do.  Some cases will be larger (or, smaller) than others.  Regardless, your average case size reflects where you’re marketing yourself and prospecting for clients.

If you want to improve your average case size, ask yourself, “Am I in the BEST market/s, for the value I offer?”  You can, if you do some research, find a more lucrative marketplace — and the clients it offers — than the one/s you’re in now.  Remember — even a modest change in where you’re marketing can have a significant growth on your revenues and income.

Lifetime Value of a Client

When we’re in ‘hunt’ mode . . . we’re seeking to close a sale . . . and it’s so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Quick story.  As you probably know, life insurance policies have an optional feature that allows an insured to be able to buy additional insurance at ages 25, 28, 31, 34, 37 and 4o regardless of their health.

This feature known by various names (Additional Purchase Benefit, Guaranteed Issue Option, etc.) is offered because insurance companies know that, at those ages, the need to buy more life insurance is the greatest it will ever be.

During these critical years — from 25 – 40 —  most of us get married, have kids, buy a home, have a mortgage, start a business, etc.  It’s also when the most people will have the greatest need for the insurance the companies want to sell.  Offering APB or GIO options practically guarantees additional policies will be sold . . . by the companies.

Not surprisingly, only a small percentage of all policies (about 7%) later issued under these guaranteed issue options are sold by the agent who sold the original policy.  To be fair, it could be these policies were sold by agents in these same age groups (e.g. under 30) and agent attrition can’t be ignored as a factor behind the low percentage of later sales made by the original agent.

But I submit there’s another reason.  The original agents didn’t stay in touch with their clients.  They were so busy seeking new people to sell that they ignored their past clients.  True, some clients moved away from where they bought their first policy.  But more often than not, benign neglect may be the most significant reason why those later policies were sold by agents who didn’t sell the original policy.

SYNERGY . . . It’s a Beautiful Thing

Earlier I promised to show you a do-able way to DOUBLE your production.  Not surprisingly, it depends on how you use the information we just discussed above.

Your growth or productivity reflects three factors:

•  The People You’re Seeing / Meeting
•  The Size of Your Average Case
•  The Percentage of a Client’s Lifetime Value You’ll Enjoy

Here’s a simple graphic that reflects how this works:

untitled

Each factor is a key element of a formula or functional relationship — as you can see is being shown by the white numbers in the red box at the top.

Let’s assume each factor is equal and valued at “1.0”  The resulting formula thus gives us a growth factor of “1.0”.

OK, now let’s see how you can DOUBLE your growth!

 

The first way you can double your revenue or growth is to double the number of people you’re seeing and meeting with . . . i.e. your ‘At Bats’ . . . e.g.

 

The second way you can double your revenue or growth is to double your average case size . . . e.g.

The third way you can double your revenue or growth is to double the length of time you retain a client and, as a result, realize a greater portion of that person’s lifetime value based on future transactions for the service you offer . . . e.g.

untitled

 

 

 

 

 

In theory, each of these approaches will DOUBLE the revenues or growth you’re currently enjoying.

In practice, that’s not likely.  Why?  Because it’s not easy to double the people you’re seeing, double your average case size or double the length of time you retain a client.

That said, here’s a far more practical (i.e. DO-able!) way to double your revenues . . . e.g.untitled

 

 

OK, now let’s suppose . . . you improve each of the factors we’ve introduced by 25% . . . that’s far more do-able than if you actually had to do twice as much of any one of these factors as you were up to now.  Fair?

But look . . . if you improve each factor by just 25% across the board, you actually end up DOUBLING your revenues!

Making a ‘little bit’ of improvement in each factor goes a long way toward making your revenues and the growth they’ll support . . . what you really want them to be.

POINT:
Growth comes from doing many things, a little better and more consistently than you are now

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untitledOK.  It’s January.  Almost February.  And, if you’re like many advisors, visions of lofty goals for growing your practice in 2015 are still dancing in your head like sugarplum fairies were in December, right?

In this post, I’d like to share three basic opportunities that, if used properly, can really help you grow your practice.

 

I’ll explain each and show you how, synergistically, addressing each of these factors can create exponential growth for your practice.

CLIENTS

Here’s a simple fact: growing your practice means generating more clients.  The more clients you have, the more revenue you’ll enjoy.  Pretty simple, right?

What isn’t always so obvious, however is that generating a client is merely a symptom of doing enough of certain behaviors often enough and well enough that a client results.

Some people like to refer to this as ‘How Much’ and ‘What Kind’.  That means referring to your ‘cookbook’ of key behaviors that are required to generate a client.

Personally, I advise clients to consider the following key activities:

untitled

SEEN . . . are your face-to-face meetings with qualified individuals who are meeting with you to discuss a challenge or opportunity you are in a position to help them fix or achieve.

FACTS . . . refer to the information you need from a prospective client to determine if they need something you can provide, has a budget that you can both afford to work with and a commitment to ‘do something’ in the reasonably near future.

OPEN CASE . . . happens when you have obtained sufficient information to determine that a problem exists that is addressable, a budget is available and adequate, and a presentation is ready to deliver.

DECISION . . . is the kind of meeting you have with a prospect to discuss your presentation and seek a decision to either act on it or, not.

CLIENT . . . is the natural result of successfully moving through each of the above gateways.

The bigger picture issue here is this . . . there are certain ratios between these factors in what some call a revenue pipeline.  The specific ratios vary for each of us.  But tracking ‘How Much’ and ‘What Kind’ of activity is needed in one area to proceed to the next one allows you to predict the ultimate results (i.e. clients) you’re likely to generate if you do these activities.

A quick example.  If you track your activities and you learn that you require:

3 Decision Meetings to generate 1 client transaction,
2  Open Cases to generate 1 Decision Meeting,
3 Facts to generate 1 Open Case, and
2 Seen to generate 1 new or updated Facts from someone you meet

THEN . . . to produce one (1) new client transaction, you’ll need:

3 Decision Meetings
6 Open Cases
18 Facts, and
36 Seen

The above formula identifies HOW MUCH and WHAT KIND of activity you need to generate a client transaction.  It doesn’t explain how you generate these activities (that’s a different topic and a different post!).

Once you know your numbers, multiply them by the number of client transactions your annual plan requires and you’ll know How Much and What Kind of activities you’ll need to produce the number of transactions your revenue goals suggest.

untitled

 VALUE

When you do business with someone, what, on the average, is the size of the transaction?  That’s the value, to you, of each client transaction. This is your A. C. T. or, ‘Average Client Transaction’.

If your A.C.T. is $5,000 and a competitor’s A.C.T. is $10,000, if your Cookbook ratios and behaviors are the same, you’ll make half as much as your competitor.

The implication I’d like you to take away is simple.  Find ways to increase your value per transaction.  If your cookbook numbers don’t change at all, you’ll still end up generating more revenues.

This requires more thinking and less sweat than you might think.  Take McDonald’s.  By simply asking, “You want fries with your order?”, they added billions of dollars their bottom line by boosting their average customer transaction.  It’s more about looking for overlooked but appropriate ways to up-sell and cross-sell than anything else!

untitledFREQUENCY

A third key to increased revenues is to generate buying and selling opportunities more often than you are now.

If you’re providing a professional service, you may be thinking, “I don’t use coupons or anything like that”.  True.  But increasing the frequency of opportunities to think about using your services is actually pretty easy to do.

Most professional service providers are reactive, not pro-active. They wait for clients to present them with a need for the problem-solving expertise and services the professional provides.

The problem with this approach is that those same professionals are doing little (my apologies if you’re the exception) to give their clients and prospects a good reason to ‘raise their hands and ask for assistance’.

Assuming you provide a client-letter, do you invite response from your readers?  If not, you should!  How?  Add a mini-case study and include a call-to-action.  This alone will easily generate inquiries from people who ‘discover’ they have the problem your case-study reveals and . . . you’ll generate more revenues for services you can render.

Poor communications = poor revenues.  The opposite is true, too.  Think about it!

In my next post, I’ll reveal a simple matrix that will show you how easily a little improvement, across the board, can have significant and positive impact on your practice growth for 2015.  Stay tuned!

POINT:
Growth comes from knowing your numbers, realizing more value and generating more opportunities

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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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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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“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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Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be invited to do an ‘Ask The Experts’ call with Colleen Ferrary, President of Small Business USA. Colleen and her organization are dedicated to helping small business owners access resources that help them succeed.

On our call, we discussed a number of factors that both enable and dis-able the ability of a small business owner or solo-practitioner to be effective in their marketing.  I thought it would be timely and useful to share some of the highlights of our call with you, today.

Marketing Means

We began by talking about the role and definition of marketing.  While there are various ways to define this essential business growth function, I said I like one that’s fairly simple:  

“Marketing is a business function that reflects the decisions you make and actions you take, over time, to increase the quantity and improve the quality of opportunities where a sale can be made”

Marketing effectively, means you’ll be coming into contact with people who can best understand, value, desire and afford the beneficial difference you can create in their life on a predictable and regular basis.  And that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

The Challenges You Face

Typically, if you’re a small business owner or sole-practitioner, marketing is a challenge. Why?  Because it sucks . . . resources away from other activities in your business where you’d prefer to use them.  Notably, there are four (4) factors that limit your ability to market your business, your products and your services as effectively as you’d like:

Time
You have all the time in the world.  24 hours per day.  So a lack of time isn’t the problem.  OK, what is?  Making choices on how to use your time that doesn’t help you your marketing, effectively or efficiently.  Too often, I see people who make bad choices on how to invest their time on marketing as well as other areas of their life.  Making better choices seems easy enough.  Until you realize there is an emotional payoff for the choices we make.  Yes, including the ‘bad’ ones.  Reframing the importance of marketing can help.  But this is a real issue.

Money
Business people often lament, “I can’t afford to spend money on marketing”.  Really?  Tell me, “Can you really afford not to market your business or practice?”  Unless you’re absolutely without a source of funds for marketing, this is not a good mantra.  Said often enough, you may actually believe it!  My suggestion . . . get in touch with WHY you want to market — the consequential benefits it will produce — and you’ll reframe this issue in a totally different and far more productive way.

Skills
This is probably one of the few legitimate reasons why people don’t market effectively.  You need to have an aptitude for marketing.  Not everyone does.  Maybe not even you.  But even if you have it, you need time to invest in learning how to do it effectively.  For these two reasons alone, having the requisite skill to do your own marketing isn’t something that’s safe to assume is always likely to happen.

Staff
If you’re a solo-practitioner, you have a number ‘hats’ to wear.  For that same reason, you will be most challenged by this factor.  You know the meaning of the saying, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to ME!”.  Your nemesis is, more than anything, time.  More precisely, it’s all the demands you have to do everything you must in the 24 hours a day you have to do it.  If you lack the skills to do your marketing, then you’re really in a tough spot to get your marketing done effectively and efficiently. If you lack both time and skill . . . get someone else to do your marketing activities for you . . . or, suffer the consequences.

If you have staff, they may be just as challenged to do your marketing –– for the reasons cited above.  First, they must have skills to market your business, products and services.  Second, they must have the time — in addition to what you’re already asking them to do — to do marketing on top of everything else.  Regardless of what your employees’ challenge may be, something has to give and usually, it’s not something you’ll like.

A Solution You May Like

If you’re a big company with lots of money (a sure-fire way to buy someone else’s TIME!) and staff (some of whom have some aptitude for marketing), then this won’t be of interest to you.

BUT . . . if you’re a time-starved solopreneur or self-employed advisor / planner / professional . . . this may be the best way to do marketing –– for you –– that is not only simple and effective but affordable and sustainable, as well. (How cool is that!)

istockphotoPAM

Say “Hello” to PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing

‘PAM’ is a marketing service that’s designed for you if you lack the time and possibly the skills you need to do your own marketing.

Because PAM is affordable, you don’t need to invest a lot of money to see meaningful and measurable results.  In fact, your marketing budget, large or small, is capable of generating a really nice ROI for you . . . in the hands of ‘PAM’.

 

How It Works

The power of PAM comes from a series of ‘touches’ . . . contacts made with people who are your prospects, clients and centers-of-influence.  Most of these are done FOR you . . . by a VMA (Virtual Marketing Assistant) who is assigned to handle your marketing.

We’ve learned the #1 reason smaller firms, consultants and advisors find marketing so frustrating is that they’re trying to do it themselves.  Not good!

That’s why you want someone else — your VMA — to do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ your marketing requires.  This allows you to respond to marketing that puts people, with a PAIN or a PREFERRAL into contact with you on a regular basis.  That is ‘all good’ for your bottom-line!

The Eight (8) Touches PAM Makes For You

Since most of your clients are buying a relationship with you, PAM focuses on creating ‘touches’ that are personally meaningful to the people you’re cultivating for the lifetime value they offer you . . . either in the form of revenues and/or referrals.  These include:

Emails
PAM sends these to people who want to hear from you — i.e. 100% opt-in.  These emails are short, interesting and can be scanned in no more than 7 seconds.  We feature your photo and contact information prominently on each one.

PAM also does all the ‘work’ involved in creating these emails.  From researching, writing, releasing and reporting on what your people do after they receive them.  All you need to do is invite people to receive them from you.  PAM . . . does everything else!

This keeps you top-of-mind with people who can, sooner or later, buy from you or refer you to others who can.  They’re also designed to get people to ‘raise their hands’ and let you know they’d like to learn more about specific products or services you offer.  Sweet!

Phone Calls
Once a quarter, your VMA will make a ‘courtesy call’ to each person you’re cultivating.  The goal for each of these calls is to do three (3) things:

1.  remind them that you are thinking about them . . . in a fiduciary way . . . to ensure they’re doing well

2.  learn if they have a need that someone (an ‘Expert’) in your network may be able to help them address

3.  invite them to request a call or arrange a meeting with you, if they wish, to discuss a matter of importance . . . to them

Do you get a periodic call from the office of your doctor, dentist, accountant, coach, auto mechanic, remodeling contractor, etc.  Few do.  But the impression it makes — and the perception of ‘preference’ it generates — for you when you do this is . . . ‘priceless’.

Meet ‘N Greet Lunches
One of the best ways to reconnect with people who are ‘key’ to your practice or business — prospects, clients and centers-of-influence — is by breaking bread together.  Once or twice a month, PAM arranges for you to meet with 2 – 3 other people you’re actively cultivating.

You have to eat anyway, why not use the opportunity to strengthen relationships, introduce people who know you to one another.  In the process, you’ll discover needs and opportunities you can address.  Plus, ‘PAM’ takes care of everything — from contacting the restaurant (or, ordering the food to be delivered to you office), inviting and confirming the ‘guests’ and following-up afterwards.

Thinking of You Emails
Periodically, PAM will send a brief email to people you’re cultivating with one or two sentences.  Something like, “Dear Mike — I saw this post on Linkedin and thought you’d find it of interest.  Hope all’s well with you and yours.  Sincerely, Christine”

Sending these thought-full emails to your ‘special’ people on topics you know (and, tell PAM!) are important to them will make YOU far more valuable to them, as well.  Guaranteed!

Preferral Exchange Meetings
You know there are certain people in your business circles who have referred people to you in the past and likely would do so again in the future, right?  Well, do you plan to reconnect with them on a regular basis?  If not, PAM can help make that happen.

Once or twice a month — you choose — PAM will arrange for you to meet with people who are likely to introduce you to new people who are likely to understand, value, desire and afford your problem-solving services.  Of course, fair’s fair and this is an excellent opportunity for you to return the favor.

But the bottom-line is that, by doing this consistently and conscientiously, you’ll be regularly generating new people to talk with because of the influence and prestige of someone else who’s already established a ‘trusted advisor’ relationship with them.  Kind of makes your work a lot easier, doesn’t it?

Introductions to Your Experts
As PAM connects with your people each month, ‘needs’ will be learned and shared with you.  Many of these will not be needs for something you do.  But other people you know will be able to help.  When that’s the case, PAM will help you make an introduction of your contact and your expert.  This tends to delight three (3) people.

Your contact is delighted because you’ve helped them to identify and meet with someone they can trust — because they trust you, yes?  Your Expert is delighted because you’ve helped them to meet with a prospective client they might other never have known about.  And then there’s you.  You now have two (count’m 2!) more people in the world whose opinion of you has gone up a few points.  That’s called goodwill.  And goodwill turns into more revenues and referrals!

Items-of-Value
Staying-in-touch and top-of-mind with your key people is an important thing to do.  And, do regularly.  That’s why an item-of-value is so important.  This ‘touch’ needn’t be expensive.  But, it must be thoughtful.  It’s a tangible experience that reminds someone you’re cultivating that, “You’re important to me”.

These items are usually very simple, inexpensive and have a high utility value.  One of the more creative clients we’ve had the privilege to work with uses a solid milk-chocolate bar that shows their practice’s name and logo.  It doesn’t last long (DUH!), but the feeling it creates for our client and their firm is . . . priceless!

Handwritten Notes
Each month, PAM will remind you of certain individuals who should receive a handwritten note from you.  These are (mercifully) brief.  Why?  It’s not the message you write.  It’s the message you’re sending to someone you’re cultivating — “You’re important to me”.

The reason notes work so well is that in a high-tech world where it’s so easy to ‘like’ someone’s page on Facebook or ‘follow’ someone on Twitter, you have to give your personal attention and time to write a note and (snail) mail it to someone.  What your effort communicates, more than any words you may write on the card, is that the recipient is someone you regard, respect and value.  Get your people feeling that feeling on a regular basis and you won’t worry about any alleged competitors!

The Power of PAM: Synergy

As good as each of these ‘touches’ may be, the real power of the PAM service doesn’t come from using any one of them.  It comes from the synergy of combining all of them into a coherent and coordinated plan of action that is carried out consistently and diligently.

Your PAM plan is uniquely tailored to your needs and resources
For example, you may not want to have two Meet ‘N Greet lunches every month.  OK, just do one.  Or, you prefer your item of value to be a white paper — rather than a keychain calculator.  That’s fine.  You have a lot of latitude and options.

Regardless of your choices, just be sure the type and frequency of the PAM ‘touches’ your plan calls for are done consistently.  That’s why we assign a Virtual Marketing Assistant to you . . . to help you make sure your marketing activities  happen “according to plan”.

POINT:
Don’t Let Limiting Factors Hold Back Your Marketing and Your Success!  Get PAM working . . . for you!

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Learn More About PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing
Complete the form below.  Mention ‘PAM’ in the comment box.

We’ll be in touch to discuss how it works and, more importantly, how it may be able to do what your previous marketing efforts haven’t done as well as you wanted.

Money TreeThe more people who ‘know, like and trust’ you, the better.  But do you really know why?

It centers around the value of building a network of ‘raving fans’ — people who know, like and trust you.

Doing that is not only easy, but motivational as well.

Your Network IS a ‘Money Tree’

If you’re a solo-practitioner, there’s a practical limitation on the number of business relationships you can cultivate.  Despite what you might like to believe, it’s difficult to maintain a quality relationship with more than a few hundred individuals.

In fact, an English researcher named Robin Dunbar did research that revealed how most people can only maintain a viable relationship with around 150 people.  Thus, the ‘Dunbar Number‘ of 150 people refers to the number of people you can maintain an active relationship with over time.  And, by ‘active’ I mean they’ll respond to you when you call or contact them.

If you look at the average person’s network connections on Linkedin, they probably have a few million ‘close, personal connections’.  The fact is . . . most of your online ‘connections’ don’t know you exist and couldn’t pick you out of a police line-up if they had to (and why would you be in a police line-up, anyway?).

I’m not putting down social network connections.  But the reality is, absent a personal effort to cultivate an awareness of you and build a position for you / your brand, you’re not likely to generate new clients from social network connections.  Doubt that?  OK, in the last 12 months, how many new clients did you generate who only know you from Linkedin, Facebook, Google + or the like?  See.  I rest my case.

What’s a Better Approach?  Cultivate Your Own Network!

Again, there are very good reasons to be active on social media — especially Linkedin.  But generating new revenues from people whom you have not connected with in a meaningful and ongoing way . . . is not one of them.

What is better is to identify people who are likely to buy what you offer and/or likely to refer you to others who can?  In a word, ‘Cultivation’.

Cultivation is a KEY Function for Growing Your Clientele

Cultivation is one of the six (6) key client-development functions you must engage in or you’ll be relegated to making cold calls for the rest of your career.  These are:

Fueling . . . generating introductions to people who MAY be able to buy or refer you

Qualifying . . . learning if someone can buy and/or refer you to others who can

Cultivating . . . building top-of-mind awareness and preference for the brand called Y-O-U

Converting . . . helping someone make a decision to act on your recommendations

Servicing . . . keeping someone happy to work with and spend money with you

Managing . . . operating your practice in a way that consistently exceeds clients’ expectations

Once you’ve found someone who’s able to buy what you offer and/or refer you to other people who can, you’ll want to cultivate a relationship with them.  This helps you build the ‘know, like and trust’ factor you need to be thought of first and favorably when (not if) a need arises for your problem-solving expertise, services and products.

To keep this function simple, all you want to do is keep-in-touch and top-of-mind with your qualified people.  Reconnecting with them to remind them you exist . . . with relevance, respect and regularity . . . is all you need to do.

This calls for a very simple ‘plan’.  For example, you can build a Cultivation Plan using any or all of the following means of keeping-in-touch and top-of-mind with your ‘qualified’ connections:

1.  a newsletter

2. a personal, handwritten note of appreciation

3. a phone call to ‘touch base’

4. a ‘Thinking of You’ email with a link to an article of relevance to your contact

5. an invitation to reconnect over lunch or coffee with 2 other people-of-interest

6. an introduction to a person of interest or value

7. a referral to someone you know who might do business with your contact

8. an item-of-value that your contact would likely appreciate receiving

You don’t have to incorporate all these different activities.  Nor do you need to do them each month.  But you do need to choose some of them and use them consistently and conscientiously.

Why 240 People . . . Is Your Magic Number

Earlier, I said it’s not practical to attempt to cultivate more than 150 – 250 people on a regular basis.  But if you do cultivate 240 people, you’ll see a lot of opportunities to generate clients, revenues and referrals.  Here’s how . . .

Let’s say your Cultivation Plan requires you to call your people once a quarter.  That means you’ll be calling, on average, 1/3 of all your contacts being cultivated, each month.  (If you want to know why, call me — 860-798-6964).

If you’re cultivating 240 people, you’re re-calling 80 people a month.  Unfortunately, between your schedule and theirs you aren’t going to reach 50% of them.  No problem.  They’ll remain in your cultivation system and you’ll continue to cultivate them as your plan suggests.  Yes, you’ll call them again in another 90 days.  So you’re down to 40 people.

Of the 40 people you do reach, expect that around 50% will thank you for calling but they’re not going to have a need you can address or know someone they can refer you to meet.  It’s OK.  They go back into the cultivation pool as well.

Now you’re down to roughly 20 people.  A couple are likely to tell you, “Let’s stop”.  They (or, you) will decide that they’ll never buy from or refer to you.  It’s over.  It’s OK.  You’ll live.  You remove them from your cultivation system and make room for new, more viable contacts to go into it.  It all works out in the end.

Of the remaining people you do reach, you’ll either find a reason to meet or you’ll generate some referrals to people they know who fits the profile of the kind of person who can best understand, value, desire and afford your services.  It’s all good.

Now remember, these are WARM calls . . . to people who know, like and trust you.  Each one is growing steadily closer to the next time they need to buy what you do — lifetime value of a client, remember?

So how many discussions do you need to generate an open case?  How many open cases can you turn into a decision meeting?  How many decision meetings do you need to close a single sale?  What’s your average sale look like?

Now, do you see why you want to cultivate qualified people?  It reinforces your relationship with key people for your practice, it makes your life easier, your revenues greater and, best of all, more predictable, too.

POINT:
Cultivating Key Relationships . . . helps generate revenues easily, predictably and significantly

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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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money magnetFew outcomes of significance — like generating more and better referrals for your practice — requiring the coordination of time, skills, efforts and people happen “by accident”.  Usually, planning is involved.

The Moon Landing, the Apollo 13 recovery, America’s declaration of independence from England, your having the best year year ever due to generating better referrals and introductions than ever . . . are examples of what’s possible when you make plans to make something important happen for you and your practice.

Referrals Don’t Happen By Themselves!

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past about generating referrals for yourself.  What you want to remember is that you’ll never be as good at generating high-quality referrals today as you’ll be tomorrow . . . assuming, of course, that’s important to you in 2015.

One of the keys to improving the quality and increasing the quantity of your referrals and introductions is the use of a SYSTEM.  In The Preferral Prospecting® System we use to coach advisors, there are four (4) key elements of a referral system that, used correctly, consistently and conscientiously can significantly improve the quality and increase the quantity of revenue-building connections, introductions and referrals your practice needs to grow:

1.  Profile . . . of the kind of person who can best understand, desire and afford your services

2.  Sources . . . people who can introduce you to people they know who fit your Profile

3.  Method . . . what you must DO and SAY to generate introductions and referrals

4.  Action Plan . . . the daily activities you must take to use our system and see results

You Can Make 2015 Your Best Year Ever . . . IF . . . You Plan To Do So

Pull Quote 122214When I was a consultant for LIMRA International, the esteemed trade association for the financial services industry in the US and around the world, I was taught a powerful planning process by Gordon A. Kratz, CLU who was a Director in the Company Operations division.  It was based on a simple process for planning: “DOME”.

D . . . Diagnosis is the first thing you want to do.
Some call it ‘situational assessment’.  Basically it means taking stock of what you have (and, what you don’t have!) to help you achieve your BHAG — your ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals’.  But wait.  You don’ t set goals here in this step.  That comes next.

O . .  bjective is the second step.
This is scary easy to screw up –– and your plans and results will show it if you do!

This step is not where you set a goal to “Increase sales by 25% in 2015”.  This is where you set goals to reduce or eliminate any factor that’s limiting your ability to achieve that kind of goal.

Let’s get away from referrals for a moment.   Let’s say your kid, in middle school, announces, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up”.  That’s a BHAG, isn’t it?  It’s laudable.  But not helpful.  What’s better?  Smaller goals! Like getting A’s in math, chemistry, physics, biology, etc.  Why?  Because if those goals are NOT achieved, your kid won’t be qualified to get into a decent pre-med program, apply to any medical school and, if he or she is able to stay ‘on course’ over many years . . . become a medical doctor.

M . . . Method is the third step.  This is where the ‘nitty-gritty’ actions are chosen and coordinated into do-able Action Plans that, when completed, mean the goals are accomplished and the BHAG is more likely to be realized, as well.  My buddy in high school wanted to be a doctor.  Only problem, he sucked at math.  Fortunately, his family could afford to send him to a prep school for 2 more years.  That action built the math and science skills he needed to not only get into a good university but made him academically able to handle the rigors of a pre-med course of studies and qualify, eventually, to apply to medical school.  Today, he’s a radiologist and doing very well.  But if he didn’t overcome his inadequacies in math and science, he might be doing something other than practicing medicine later in life.

E . . . Evaluation is the last step.  This is where you assess your progress-to-goal on a regular basis.  It’s really no different that your Diagnosis step, EXCEPT . . . this is done, periodically, AFTER  your plan is underway.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image18105419Did you know the Apollo astronauts were only ‘on course’ during their lunar missions about 2% of the time. Shocking, isn’t it?  BUT . . . by evaluating if they were ‘on course’ regularly and frequently, they were able to make minor course corrections — fire their guidance rockets for a few seconds here and there — when they weren’t.  As a result, they achieved their Big Hairy Audacious Goal . . . they successfully went to the moon and returned safely.

How This Applies to You Generating More Referrals . . . in 2015

Knowing the process of planning to make things happen is one thing.  Actually using it to reach the Big Hairy Audacious Goals you have for your tax or financial planning practice is a little more involved.  Not impossible.  Just easier said than done.

Regardless, what I want you to take away from this post is that if you want more / better referrals in 2015, you must PLAN to make that happen.  And not just set a fluffy goal like, “Get more referrals than I did in 2014”.  No, you must assess if you have a system for generating referrals and if it’s working for you (assuming you’re also using it!).  If not, THAT . . . is a legitimate factor that will limit your ability to generate the quantity and quality of referrals and introductions in 2015 that you want.  So THAT . . . calls for a ‘goal’ to eliminate that situation.

Specifically, I urge you to set a goal to find, use and benefit from a proven system for generating referrals by design, not accident.

POINT:
Make a goal . . . to find and use a proven system for generating referrals in 2015

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