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Building Your Practice Network – Part 2 of 2

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Quick Recap of My Last Post

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

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

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

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

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

4 Keys of The Preferral Prospecting® System

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Introduced To Others

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

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

Six (6) Key Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preferral Follow-up Report Form

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly Calling Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Learn more about our Preferral Prospecting® System ––  Download your free report here.

Building Your Practice Network — Part 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Your Ideal Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Keys To Successful Networking

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

PROFILE:

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE:

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

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

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

METHOD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLAN:

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

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

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

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

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

POINT:
Building a Practice Means Building and Leveraging Your Network

Like this post?  Get our bi-weekly, one page INSIGHTS Client Letter!  It’s free. 
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Learn more about our Preferral Prospecting® System ––  Download your free report here.

4 Factors Behind Marketing Failures

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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
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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.

Your Contact Network IS a Money Tree

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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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Planning . . . To Get More Referrals in 2015

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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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How To Avoid Referral Partners Who Can’t Help You

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Referral partner discussionHere’s a dirty little secret  hiding in plain sight . . . everyone can’t (or, won’t) connect you to people in their circles who can buy what you do and/or refer you to others who can.

I know.  It’s not easy to accept, is it?  After all, you want to believe that everyone and anyone not only CAN help you connect with qualified prospects, but they WILL do so.  Happily and readily.

RINGGG!!  RINGGG!!  Wake- up call!  That’s not the way it is.

The Right Person Makes Referrals More Likely!

When you take the time and make the effort to identify, approach and gain the commitment of the right kind of person, you will see a number of benefits:

 1.   You’ll generate more introductions and receive better referrals
2.   You’ll grow your  base of connections quickly and easily
3.   You’ll meet quality people who don’t waste your time
4.   You’ll enjoy a consistent flow of introductions and referrals
5.   You’ll close business sooner rather than later

Pull Quote 121914I could on (and, on) but I think you get the basic idea.  Having the right kind of person to work with will help you generate more business, more quickly and far more easily than if you don’t.  It’s that simple.

Want To Meet More People, By Referral? 

One key to generating more referrals than you can handle (a problem you’d love to have, right!) is to work ONLY with people and partners who can help you make your goal of working primarily by referral . . . a reality.

This means you must seek introductions and referrals ONLY from someone who:

1.   Respects you, professionally
2.  Knows the kind of people you want to meet (i.e. fit your Preferral Profile)
3.  Has potency with the people you want to meet from their network
4.  Will introduce you to these people — if approached properly

In addition, the kind of person you want as a Connection or Preferral Partner must also:

5.  Offer a complementary, non-competitive service to the same target market/s you are
6.  Be able to receive introductions to people you know who fit their Preferral Profile
7.  Be actively seeking to grow their practice . . . i.e. they’re not ‘gliding into retirement’

Of course, the absolutely-you-can’t-do-jack-without-it factor is :::drum roll::: TRUST.

Without trust, no one will introduce or refer you to their contacts because the RISK of losing their Relationship Capital is simply too great.  So whatever else you do, establish trust, first.

POINT:
Knowing who to avoid, makes it easier to identify people who can help you generate referrals

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Leveraging Your Relationships

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What’s Your TRUST FACTOR?
People who know and like you are likely to trust you.  Trust is evidence you have relationships that allow access to the contact networks of others and that allows you to generate referrals for your business.  And, as you know, more referrals = more revenues, profits and owner equity.

Why is TRUST Important?
To build business, you want referrals.  The more people who allow you to leverage their TRUST of you, through their endorsement of you to their network contacts, the more referrals you’ll see from it.

Why Relationships Matter
Consider this . . . the average person has a contact network or sphere of influence with 200 people — more or less.  So building a solid relationship with people whose contacts are most likely to 1) understand, 2) value, 3) desire and 4) afford what you do, the more opportunities for referrals you’ll be generating.

Strategic Alliances
One of the types of relationships you’ll want to establish and maintain is with someone who satisfies the following characteristics:

1.  they are highly regarded and trusted by people in their contact network

2.  they know or have clients who look like your ‘best clients,

3.  they know, like and trust you . . . i.e. ‘raving fan’ material, and,

4.  they are willing to introduce you to select members of their network

 If you will build a strong relationship with 25 people who serve the same kind of client as you do — with complementary vs. competitive services or products — then you should be seeing both referrals (inbound leads from receptive individuals) and Preferrals (outbound introductions to qualified individuals).

The numbers of Reality
Let’s say you have 25 Strategic Alliances.  On a quarterly basis, that means you could be meeting (I prefer lunch) with 2 of your alliances each week.  Now, because they already know, like and trust you AND you’ve been able to give as well as receive . . . they’re coming to lunch with the full understanding that this is a time to exchange introductions to people in their network who share characteristics in common with people who are your ‘Ideal Client’ and you’re coming to lunch to do the same thing for them.

Assume you manage to collect, on average, 5 names of people who may, sooner or later, be likely to need the services (and, outcomes!) you offer.  That’s ten (10) preferred introductions (Preferrals) a week . . . 40 or so a month.  So what happens when you follow up?

Roughly 1/3 will say something that means there’s no future — e.g. “Oh, did I tell you my wife is a CPA and does all our tax work?”.  See, it’s over before it gets going.

Another 1/3  will express interest in what you do but have no current need for it.  If they invite you to ‘stay in touch’, you have a ‘future opportunity’ you can cultivate, over time, until one of either ‘coughs up’ or ‘gives up’.

Finally, 1/3 will be interested and receptive to some kind of immediate ‘next step’ . . . a meeting to get better acquainted, an agreement to take your online survey and schedule a debriefing call or meeting, etc.

The REAL Payoff — “Life Gets Much Better!”
Over time, as you build up your database of people who share characteristics in common with your best clients, and they invite you to keep-in-touch so you can stay-in-mind should they or someone they know ever need the service/s you provide, roughly 1/3 of the people you’re cultivating . . . will come ‘up’ each month . . . for a recall to requalify to remain in your Client Cultivation System, or ‘CCS’

Say you have just 240 qualified prospects in your CCS. That means that about 80 people are due, each month, for a ‘touch base’ call.  Now, because they already know you, it’s not a ‘cold call’.  As they’ve invited you to stay in touch, it’s a call with ‘permission’ — so you’re not intruding. And, assuming they were qualified to be cultivated in the first place, with each subsequent call, they (or, someone they know!) are getting closer to the time when they’ll need someone who does what you do.

It’s called ‘CULTIVATION’ for a reason — just as a farmer keeps the weeds away, the insects at bay and makes the water plentiful, so too must you, as a service provider, offer the ‘gentle care and feeding’ of the relationship known as ‘client’.  And if someone is not (yet) your client, keeping-in-touch on a regular basis and in a client-centric manner is one of the best ways to ‘harvest’ the seeds of success you’ve planted in the past.  It’s also a proven strategy to both differentiate yourself from others in your field, and build up client loyalty to you and your brand.

POINT:
 Relationships matter.  Cultivating relationships for both current and future revenue opportunities is a wise strategy to make your business or practice generate clients (and, the revenues they suggest!) consistently and efficiently.

COI or BOD — Does It Matter, Really?

Yes!  A number of our Preferral Prospecting® System clients have been asking for a clarification between a COI (Center-of-Influence) and a BOD (Board-of-Director).  That’s a good question and a significant distinction.  Let’s see if we can shed some light on this issue.

They BOTH must:

  • know the kind of people you’d like to meet
  • have potency and prestige with these people
  • be willing to introduce you to these people

The basic difference reflects the degree to which:

  • the other person wants to receive Preferrals™
  • the other person wants to work with you to do this

A BOD wants to:

  • grow their business,
  • use Preferral Prospecting™ to achieve that end, and
  • work with YOU to do this

COI’s may be willing to help you meet other people via Preferred Introductions but they either:

  • don’t care to obtain Preferrals™, or
  • you don’t know the kind of people they want to meet

Because a COI offers you a “one-way and limited” vs a BOD’s “reciprocal and repeatable” prospecting opportunity, you want to get as many BOD’s as you can — 20 – 25 are ideal!

And just a friendly reminder . . . GET 20 – 25 BOD’s . . . NOW!

Why? Because that many BOD’s means you can be having 2 Preferral™ Prospecting lunches each week. And, once you’re doing THAT, you’re pretty much guaranteed to generate 39+ Preferrals™ each month! Oooh, won’t that be nice! ‘-)

Getting More Referrals?

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If you’re wondering why the image of nice boats at a marina is being displayed, let me explain . . .

“I’d Like (a lot!) More Referrals!”
That’s the most frequently cited comment that I hear when I’m talking with providers in financial services, accounting, law, etc.  It’s a definite issue.  Maybe for you, too?

And why not?  After all, isn’t meeting a prospective client through a referral from someone who knows, likes and trusts you . . . about as good as it gets?  I sure think so.

Why You May Not Be Getting More Referrals

Reason #1:  You’re Not Asking
The most likely reason is that you’re not asking for them!  So obvious.  So true, too.

Reason #2:  No System
You don’t have a system for generating referrals. Referrals don’t happen by accident.  That’s why many people aren’t getting the quantity and quality of referrals they want on a consistent basis.

Reason #3:  No Skill
You have a system but you’re not skilled enough to be effective using it.

OK, So What’s with . . . The Boats?
Great question!  In our Preferral Prospecting System® — it’s like a referral, only better — we show you how to create a referral system based on four (4) elements:

Profile … of the ‘Ideal Person’ you’d like to meet
Source … of the Preferrals you’d like to receive — e.g. a ‘Center-of-Influence’
Method … the means for making your sources produce Preferrals
Plan … the coordinated schedule of actions that will generate the Preferrals you want

PROFILE . . . is based on a few observable characteristics . . . that correlate highly with the kind of people who truly understand what you do, value the benefits you offer and are willing and able to pay you a ‘fair’ price to enjoy them.

Some examples . . . “a CPA” . . . “a parent with children in private school” . . . “a homeowner” . . . etc.  The key is to choose a characteristic that doesn’t require someone to be psychic or make a subjective judgement that someone ‘needs’ whatever benefits you offer.  And that’s why we have those ‘boats’ in today’s post.

One of my clients, a financial advisor, has found that asking, “Do you know anyone who owns a big _ _ _ boat — 42′ or bigger that is kept at a marina on Long Island Sound?” is the ONLY profile characteristic he needs to use to gain an introduction to someone who is most likely to understand, value and afford his services.  See how that works?

KEY POINT:
Developing a PROFILE of your Ideal Client, based on observable characteristics, is a key element in creating a system for generating more and better referrals for your practice.