No one wants to feel like they’re selling too hard. Even if you’re being sincere, if you stray too far into “sales mode,” you can come off as manipulative and irritating. And as a financial advisor, that’s the last way you want to be perceived.
What’s a term that feels better than “sales?” Business development. While business development often requires an entirely different skill set than that of servicing clients, it certainly is a necessary component of a successful, growing financial advisory firm. In order to drive business growth while not crossing the authenticity line, financial advisors must establish trust. There’s no getting around the fact that, in our lifetime, consumers’ perception of the financial world has taken a hit, so repairing this trust is no easy task.
Here are nine ways to approach financial advisory business development in today’s environment of the (rightfully) cautious and suspicious prospective client:
Hiring a financial advisor is an overwhelming and emotional process. If your main focus is educating the client (versus doing the song and dance about how great your firm is), that speaks volumes. They’ll get a sneak peek into how their client relationship will feel with you by their side. In the age of social media and fake news, consumers can be highly misinformed and not even know it! Having an advocate and an educator can make all the difference.
A common client complaint is about their financial advisor not communicating enough. With email always at our fingertips, you actually have to try to under-communicate. In other words, over-communicating should be the easiest business development tactic you employ. Not only can you be proactive about meeting follow-up, but you can also send along informative articles and other pieces that simply made you think of the prospective client. This communication goes a long way, both in terms of establishing a relationship but also making sure you’re top-of-mind.
Taking the time to go through, step-by-step, what you’re doing for your clients increases the odds that they understand how you’re adding value. The more clients understand how you’re adding value, the more likely it is that they can tell their friends. If they have no idea what you’re doing, they’re also more likely to solely turn to performance for indicators of how well you’re doing as their financial advisor, which of course, with a long-term mindset, is not ideal. Take the time to ensure clients truly grasp and appreciate what you’re doing for them, and you’ll reap the benefits in referrals and business development.
The truth of the matter is that if you have nothing to sell but yourself, the game gets a lot easier. It’s when you start pushing products or showing other conflicts of interest that things get more convoluted. Best to minimize that arena altogether.
Depending on your prospective client’s particular situation, he or she may already have a team of trusted advisors, including an attorney, an accountant, an insurance agent, etc. Ask about their team; you may already know one or more of them and give yourself a leg up. Or, if the prospective client does not yet have a team assembled, based on his or her situation, you may be in a great place to recommend one. If you approach the prospective client as a united front, this can make their decision a lot easier.
Along the lines of doing your research, if you can poke holes in the prospective client’s existing plan (whether they’re lacking in estate planning or paying too much in fees), this gives you an opportunity to actually show how you can add value, qualitatively and quantitatively. Do a thorough dive into their current comprehensive financial plan (or lack thereof). This can often give you a great jumping-off point in your relationship.
Brand value carries a lot of weight with prospective clients. If they’ve heard your name before (or, more likely, your firm’s name), they at least think you have some degree of credibility. Consumers trust third parties the most, like positive press, because it’s not coming directly from the horse’s mouth. But any form of advertising is often better than none, since it simply gets your name out there. Recognition is everything.
If your prospective client is smart, they’re talking to a number of different firms, not just you. Ideally, you know your competitors as well as you know yourself, along with their strengths and weaknesses. You certainly should not go around bashing your competitors, but knowing your differences and being able to accurately portray them can be very helpful to the prospective client during the decision-making process.
Recognize where you add the most value. If you take on anyone and everyone as a client, you are doing your clients and yourself a disservice. In other words, if you recognize right off the bat that the client would not be a good fit for your firm, let them go. Even better, give them a recommendation of another firm where they’d be a better fit. Instead of a lose/lose, this situation becomes a win/win.
Bearing in mind these authentic business development tips, you’ll find you close more and better qualified prospects. Instead of throwing darts at a dartboard, you can hone in on where your business development dollars are best spent. While selling is a necessary evil, it doesn’t seem so evil when everyone wins.