GUEST POST: FRED DODDS, CEO of Institute of Financial Advisers
One of the key themes for the IFA for 2014 is Being Successful on Purpose and at the recent MDRT meeting one of the best sessions I went to was by a George Hartman who examined the 10 things that top-performing advisers seem to do better than most other advisers.
1. Have a vision of success
The process of building a great, sustainable practice starts with having a clear vision of what you, as the founder and leader of your practice, want it to look and feel like at some point down the road. Your vision statement should be an overriding description of what you are trying to accomplish; an expression of ‘what you want to be when you grow up’.
To be truly effective, your vision statement should answer such questions as:
2. Create a written strategy to realise your vision
Top-performing advisers always have written plans that they review regularly and use to guide them in their decision making. Drafting an effective strategic plan doesn’t have to mean creating an 80-page document. However, they must provide enough information to guide the adviser in managing the business with clear purpose and sharp focus.
The process for creating a strategic plan should be very familiar to advisers because it is likely the same one they use with clients to create their financial plan. Mr Hartman uses one called ‘Think, See, Draw and Act’:
3. Understand the metrics of your business
The metrics of your business are things like the size of sale and ration of cases that are in progress as compared with in-force. Top-performing advisers have a keen awareness of what they can expect if they spend time or money on various activities in their business.
4. Know your target market
Top-performing advisers have a clear picture of the people with whom they want to do business. They can define their preferred client profile by such things as age, income, occupation and marital status. They have also identified psychographic characteristics, such as willingness to take advice, ability to make decisions, risk tolerance, beliefs, biases, options and likability.
Knowing their target market enables advisers to build their knowledge, identify client issues more quickly, and make recommendations more easily. It also provides a greater opportunity to differentiate their practices by demonstrating specific subject matter expertise for people who fit their preferred client profile. As a result, they get more referrals, enabling them to reduce their marketing costs.
5. Have a compelling value proposition
Top-performing advisers give people a compelling reason to want to do business with them, through an articulate and powerful description of their value proposition. In simple terms, your value proposition should tell people what you do, who should be interested in what you do, how you go about it, and why it would be of value to the audience.
To be truly effective, your value proposition must:
◾Inspire people to want to do business with you
◾Be deliverable, given your capabilities and resources
◾Differentiate you from competitors
◾Focus on personal and emotional benefits that the clients will enjoy
Top-performing advisers give people a compelling reason to want to do business with them
6. Effectively manage your pipeline
Top-performing advisers are extremely good at managing the flow of prospects through their business development pipeline. Most important, because they understand the metrics of their business, top-performing advisers can predict the conversion rate of prospective clients with reasonable accuracy, which allows them to control the momentum of their business.
Rather than adopting a traditional ‘funnel’ approach, whereby putting more people into the funnel results in a sufficient number coming out at the bottom, top-performing advisers use a ‘pipeline’ approach. The pipeline approach says that the only people who go into the sales process are the ones that the adviser wants as clients. Your objective in pipeline management is to move prospective clients along a continuum that steadily increases trust, confidence and rapport.
Top-performing advisers know the best opportunity to grow their business is likely through internal marketing to people who already know and trust them – their clients. That’s why they always have some current clients in the pipeline, knowing that their needs change, their ability to access additional products improves, or new information warrants a review of their current program.
7. Standardised processes – customised solutions
The business of providing financial advice cannot be rendered into an assembly line-like process; there are too many variables in people’s lives, too many emotional differences, and too many products and services to follow exactly the same procedure every time. However, this does not stop top-performing advisers from using standardised processes for efficiency gains.
Standardised processes may include generating the same documentation for every client, using CRM technology to welcome every new client to the practice, having a systemised approach for booking client meetings, etc. The value is in the consistency and efficiency of the process and its ability to gradually deepen and strengthen the client-adviser relationship, which enables customisable recommendations.
8. Integrate marketing, sales and service
Effective marketing leads to sales. Sales result in a service commitment. Service delivery provides marketing opportunities, and the cycle starts over. Top-performing advisers ensure there is alignment in the message that their marketing conveys, the value proposition they offer, and the service delivered.
The lifetime value of a client far exceeds the initial compensation.
9. Make every relationship profitable
Many advisers would argue that they have profitable businesses, but this may be because the larger clients are subsidising the costs of smaller clients. Top-performing advisers segment their client base so they can align the level of service they provide with the value of a client to their business. Lower-value clients are serviced in the most cost-effective way, such as through technology or other team members.
10. Create clients for life
The final thing that top-performing advisers do well is to recognise that the lifetime value of a client far exceeds the initial compensation.
The lifetime value of a client is:
◾All revenue generated from products or services you provide to them
◾All revenue generated from new clients as a result of introductions from your current clients
◾All revenue generated from new clients as a result of introductions from your new clients
Fred Dodds is the CEO of the Institute of Financial Advisers, the professional association for financial planning practitioners in New Zealand, and a highly respected and popular industry veteran who has worked with financial advisers for over 3 decades.