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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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Packaging Your Service (part 5)

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Constructing Your (Intangible Service) Package

Today, we’re going to delve into what 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 . . . Steps 3 – 4 of 9

In this post, I’m going to explain Steps 3 and 4 of the 9 steps shared in part 3.  With these insights, creating a ‘package’ for your service will become much much easier!

Step 3:  IDENTIFY . . . Specific PAIN/s of Your Ideal Client
As important as it is to have an ULTIMATE benefit or goal in mind, in this step you drill down a bit more and get a lot more specific about what issues, frustrations, concerns, irritations, etc. your service package might address.

When you consider your Ideal Client (remember, “Harry”?) you’ll quickly realize that he or she may want a ‘big’ beneficial outcome from you but that may require achieving several smaller component goals.  For example, a financial planner’s client may want to ‘retire with an income that supports a decent lifestyle’.  But making that bigger goal possible may require more specific goals to happen.  Such as:

•  Having a guaranteed income in the event a client is unable to work
•  Avoiding the catastrophic loss a long-term illness suggests
•  Tax planning to legally reduce taxes and maximize income
•  etc. etc.

Each of these ‘component’ goals suggest different ‘packages’ of applied expertise that, in total, contribute to producing the ultimate benefit a client desires — to retire with sufficient income to support a decent lifestyle.

POINT:
Build a package for EACH specific outcome that a client wants from you.

Step 4:  REFINE . . . Your BENEFIT for Specific Groups of Your Ideal Clients
In step 3 (above) you saw how an ‘ultimate’ benefit is actually made up of one or more ‘supporting’ benefits.  But when you consider specifically WHO you’re seeking to attract with your package, you’ll begin to see how each group of clients wants to enjoy your ultimate benefit . . . in their own unique way.

Remember the “Pure Powder Skiing Escape”?  That’s a specific package for a specific type of client — the corporate traveler who wants a ‘civilian’ holiday where skiing is the ‘main event’.

While the same level of amenities is still desired by the travel agency’s business traveler client, this package addresses how this same client wants to get away from it all on their vacation vs. a business trip.  If you go back and review what this business-traveler-on-vacation package offers, you’ll see it’s specific in WHAT it does but is still mindful of WHO is going to get to enjoy it.

In this step, you want to consider your Ideal Client and the Ultimate Benefit they want but . . . choose a specific benefit that contributes to that ultimate benefit and build your package to provide that outcome or result for your client.

POINT:
Every package is built to produce a specific benefit that contributes to and is supportive of the ultimate benefit a client is seeking from you and your problem-solving expertise.

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

Packaging Your Service (Part 4)

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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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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!

Packaging Your Service (Part 2)

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What is a ‘Package’ . . . Really?

Unlike packaging for a tangible product — think ‘Book Cover’, the package for your intangible service is totally different.  It’s not some container into which you pour your service, it’s not an image you use to promote your service and it’s not a set of ten (10) cassettes in which your service can be sold.

So, what is it?  Good question.  Here’s a good example to show what I mean:

“The Pure Powder Skiing Escape”

If you’re a serious skier who’s tired of the crowded, packed powder runs of New England and you yearn to ski in the wide open spaces . . . one day you make a decision to visit your friendly old travel agent.  Once you’ve told her about your disappointment with the heavy crowds and the packed powder problems you’ve had skiing in New England, you hear, “I’ve got exactly what you want –– The Pure Powder Skiing Escape!  (feeling excited already?)

It’s seven days of deep powder, no crowds, no phones, no fax machines, no kids (your option) and no demands on you except to have a great time!  We’re talking Utah here — where the powder is deep, the crowds are gone and the people are great.

The Pure Powder Skiing Escape includes your airfare, hotel, and all lifts.  You can stay at any one of six lodges and ski any day at any of three top-rated ski areas.  Or, for an extra $450 you can have a 3 bedroom, fully furnished condo that’s just a 5 minute walk to the base lodge or the tri-area transportation bus station.

I can also include a meal plan that provides a hearty breakfast and dinner each day if you wish.  Sound good or would you like the option of exploring the local restaurants on your own?  (Yeah, I thought you would, too.)

To get around the area we include a mid-size rental car with free mileage; an upgrade to a full-size luxury car is just $85 more. If you like we can include some optional activities: ski lessons: group or private as well as horseback riding or snowmobiling day trips in the high country.  Not for you, huh?  (I understand . . . been there / done that.  I get it!)

Now you can leave any day Monday through Friday. And, we include without charge, door-to-door limo service and all ground transportation in Utah.  Naturally, we handle all baggage checks for you.  The basic price of The Pure Powder Skiing Escape is $3,200 or $4,000 per person if you fly first class.  You can charge it on your credit card — we accept American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discovery and Diners Club.  So now . . . the only question I’ve got for you is this:  “When do you want to go?”  

My friend, THIS is what I call a powerful package!

If you’re a serious skier who’s had it up to here with crowded trails and packed powder skiing, I’ll bet this ‘package’ of travel services is very, very compelling, right?  Could YOU do the same for your particular expertise?  If you’re not sure, we’ll examine why this package ‘works’ and how you can apply the same principles to achieve success in packaging your expertise, too.

To recap this PART 2 on Packaging Your Services:  

•  a ‘package’ provides what your Ideal Client wants

•  a ‘package’ includes everything needed to do that

•  a ‘package’ is the FIRST thing a client gets from you!

In PART 3, I’ll deconstruct the Pure Powder Skiing Escape — so you can do the same

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

Packaging Your Service (part 1)

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If you’re providing a service and find you aren’t getting as many qualified prospects to become clients as you like, you may want to examine an often overlooked yet significant factor: the way you package your service.

Why You Need A ‘Package’ for Your Service

Let’s face it.  Selling an intangible service is not the same as selling a tangible product for a lot of reasons.  I won’t go belabor the details, but it is sufficiently different because when someone decides to become your client, they’re not (yet!) getting your service.  You see, technically they can’t!

With a tangible product like a hot dog from a vendor, you immediately know what you’re getting.  But, how can anyone know what they’re getting at the time they’re buying your service?  Afterall, they haven’t experienced your service yet, right?  And, they certainly haven’t enjoyed the benefits of your service, either.  So, what are they buying in that magical moment when they commit to become your client and avail themselves of your service?  It’s the implicit PROMISE . . . that they’ll (eventually) enjoy the benefits you offer them.

By the way, before we go any further, let me clarify two things.  First, I’m assuming that you have adequately defined the benefits of your service so that qualified prospects can identify what’s in it for them if they buy it.  Second, I’m assuming that you have already sold yourself to your prospect by intentionally developing a relationship with your prospect through the things you’ve said and done with your prospect starting from the moment you first met.

So, if you are acceptable to your prospect and your service’s benefits are truly attractive, but your otherwise qualified prospects aren’t buying . . . it might just be the way you’re packaging your services.

To recap this PART 1 on Packaging Your Services:  

•  prospects can’t experience the benefits of your service until some time passes

•  a ‘package’ is how you make your intangible service . . . tangible

In PART 2, I’ll reveal how to construct intangible service ‘package’ — so you can do the same!

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

Creating Your WOW Factor

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I don’t often tout a product.  Today’s an exception. 

I found a really cool little online service this week.  ContactMe. This cloud-based service makes it easy for people who find you online to contact you and it helps you manage your follow-up with them, as well.  Very nice little app — Check it out on the right side of the page!

I also found another service called “Notebook“.

This little app organizes all kinds of information that I find on websites, in emails, Word documents, etc. in a way that’s very intuitive and extremely easy to use.

Where’s The WOW Factor?
These apps exist because they solve problems. Period. And these apps are . . . FUN!

“Easy and Fun” Beats “Difficult and Complicated”
I’ve given up far more sophisticated CRM software because ‘hard-to-learn’ or ‘difficult to use’ is going to LOSE . . . every time.

Form and Function (Should!) Go Together 
Both these apps are GOOD LOOKING,  INTUITIVE and SIMPLE.  That’s not easy!   It takes a lot of thought to create something you can use easily and effectively without thinking about it.

Attitude
In the ContactMe blog there’s a post where they introduced an innovative change in their service.  They wrote, “You Asked.  We Listened.  We Delivered”.  That reflects their attitude of CARING for the relationships that make their business successful.  Do that for your business.  It is a beautiful thing to see.

KEY POINT:
Demonstrating you CARE about what matters to your client . . . is a competitive edge 

Sampling Your Way To Success

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iTunes App Store reveals that ‘free’ games are generating the majority of new revenues from the ‘Top 100″ money-makers.

But It Doesn’t Make Sense
No, it doesn’t. At first glance.  After all, if you’re giving something away without charge . . . how can you generate revenues and make a profit at the same time?

It’s called ‘SAMPLING’.  And it’s one of the oldest and best promotional tactics you can use to market your products or services.

Services Benefit The Most From Sampling
An intangible service is difficult to assess — until AFTER you’ve used it. But that requires a purchase.  And therein lies a problem.  You can’t tell if a service is good unless you buy it.  But you aren’t likely to buy it if you can’t tell that it’s going to be good.  And THAT . . . is why a small sample of your problem-solving expertise or ability is smart to offer — it’s unique, valuable and differentiates you quite nicely!

KEY POINT:
FREE! . . . isn’t a dirty word . . . IF . . . you apply it wisely!

What’s In The Package?

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If you’re providing an intangible service, odds are the real  benefit of your services will not be enjoyed by your client until some time has passed.  You’re not selling ice cream cones that a client can buy and consume immediately.

That’s a problem.  Why?  Because it forces your prospective client to DELAY GRATIFICATION.  That’s not fun to do.  When people pay their money, they want their ‘ice cream’ … NOW!

It’s The Package
So what can you offer a prospect today that seems ‘real’ — even though you can’t deliver the real goods until some time in the future?  Simple.  A package. This is just a BUNDLE of your services that suggest the benefit your prospective client wants is likely to be enjoyed.

For example, we helped one client create a series of ‘packages’ that she describes in a one page format and each one addresses specific PAINS her target clients want to solve.  The mere fact that she has a package for a prospect’s problem communicates that she understands her prospect’s problem.  Her package also communicates that, while you may have to delay gratification, you’re more likely to enjoy it if you hire her than if you work with some other consultant who just says, “Yeah, trust me . . . we can help you”.

KEY POINT:
Packages make it easier to buy — and sell — your intangible services!

Simplicity . . . SELLS!

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Recently, social media anchors LinkedIn and facebook have made the news.

LinkedIn went public with an IPO and within a month is trading at about 66% of what it sold for on day one.  But no doubt LinkedIn is happy as are the many people who own a piece of the dream as they say.

Meanwhile, facebook’s BranchOut — a competitive online networking service, has not been idle, either.  Actually, it has.  For the past 10 months, it wasn’t really attracting new users.  But, in just 2 weeks, utilization has soared. From 200,000 to almost 1,000,000 users.

WHY?  Simple.  BranchOut changed it’s user experience. Dropped the irrelevant bells and whistles.  Stuck to it’s core function — simple, elegant, professional networking.  Made it easier to use.  Form followed function. Simple elegance.  Elegantly simple.  The marketplace followed.  Amazing how ‘getting it right’ often results in ‘getting it done’.

KEY POINT:
Simplicity . . . that’s functional and valuable . . . sells!