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Archive for May, 2011

Time Blocking For Professional Service Providers

Posted By Michael Roby | Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Today I received an email from a financial advisor who is a coaching client. A portion of the email read as follows:

“Mike; I am working on a schedule for my assistant for blocking time and activities.  What are your thoughts on the subject…?  Thanks.”

This was my reply:

For a start, book appointments – as many as possible – on Tuesday through Thursday. Mondays would be for staff review, planning, and case preparation. Fridays would be for finishing the week, planning the coming week, and cleanup of messes.

An example of the client meeting times on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday would be as follows:

8:30 – 9:30
9:45 – 10:45
11:00 – 12:00
1:30 – 2:30
2:45 – 3:45
4:00 – 5:00

Does this mean you wouldn’t see a client on Monday or Friday, or for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or possibly an evening or Saturday appointment? OF COURSE NOT! However, MOST clients can be guided to one of these time slots. Furthermore, I suggest that unless you plan to work Saturday, don’t schedule an appointment after 11:00 AM on Friday. This allows you to finish early – and let your staff catch up – from the busy and productive week.
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Please feel free to send me your thoughts on time blocking and scheduling appointments.

Good selling!

Working With High Net Worth Clients

Posted By Michael Roby | Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Only two things matter when you seek to improve production. You have your choice of one or both of two strategies:

A. Increase Sales Activity

B. Work with Larger Cases and Larger Clients

If you cannot meet with more clients than you do at the present time, examine your activities. Look for tasks you do that could be handed to an assistant.[1] Your role is simple; meet with clients, design strategy, and implement solutions. Marketing and selling[2] to different groups requires different strategies and tactics, and as a group, high net worth individuals[3] require different strategies and tactics.

MARKETING

Top-performing professional service providers possess many common denominators, including a focus on marketing to High Net Worth (HWN) people, as well as a marketing and follow-up strategy that includes the following five steps for growing a practice and increasing the bottom line:

1. Provide a Personal Touch In Your Marketing Strategy – To develop relationships, you must know your clients. The more personal your communication with clients, prospects and centers of influence, the more effective your message will be.  The secret in your personal touch is to know your clients and focus on the value and benefits you bring to relationships.

2. Communicate Your Benefit-Based Defining Statement (BDS) – Successful professional service providers understand how important it is to differentiate themselves from the competition. Your marketing message needs to communicate your unique value proposition in the form of a BDS, which is short, repeatable and focused upon the needs of the client, not what you do. Communicate your BDS through traditional and online strategies. Traditional strategies should include postcards, letters, cards, and tasteful, appropriate gifts.[4] Your online strategies will include e-mails, social media and article marketing. Make sure that your marketing message is consistent, stands out and resonates with your target audience.

3. Know Your Market – The core of your marketing strategy needs to focus upon a niche market or markets. Once you identify the clients you want to serve, you can then find out everything you need to know to dominate that market. By working with a group of people with similar needs, you can learn exactly what they see as challenges and opportunities, which allows you to provide a better service experience. When your affluent clients experience this level of care, they provide high quality referrals.

4. Networking – One of the easiest methods for receiving highly qualified referrals and introductions from other professionals in the same niche is to network with the purpose of building professional relationships, which provide opportunities for sharing referrals. Networking, professional, and community events provide tremendous opportunities for business expansion. In addition, using social media marketing strategies designed to identify potential mutually beneficial relationships results in an amazing amount of new business.

5. Maintain Consistency In Your Client Contact Strategy – Top advisors touch their affluent clients between 18 and 36 times per year. Depending on your clients needs, you may need to touch them even more or less. To achieve this goal, it’s essential that you include an automated follow-up process in your marketing plan. Use technology to automate and drive your marketing activities. Task an assistant (preferably a dedicated assistant) with managing your marketing program. Meet at least semi-monthly with this assistant to review results and schedule activities.

SELLING

Marketing to HWN’s differs from broad based marketing. The same can be said for presenting and selling to these people.

1. Approach – Introductions and referrals work far better than direct calls and letters. Letters can be effective, but avoid form letters at all costs. If you choose to use letters make certain the letter is personalized. In addition, use introductions for mutual acquaintances whenever possible. For maximum impact, send the letter by overnight or priority mail.

Often HNW’s do not open their mail, and you must overcome secretarial screening.  Often a personal card can be effective. There tends to be widespread warm response to personalized, signed, stamped letters. Some HNW’s are receptive to highly targeted, well thought-out brochures, but they must be brief, direct, to the point. Given their HNW status, these individuals receive many solicitations every week from the typical providers who try to sound like an old friend. The main point is to be memorable.

2. Expertise – Many HWN’s are skeptical about the ability of others to make better decisions than they do. Financial advisors must demonstrate superior knowledge and experience. Prospects in their 30’s and 40’s are more likely to defer to recognized authorities; but prospects in their 50’s are more likely to see themselves as the best judge of an offering or solution. It is not necessary for an advisor to be an expert in all areas of service to the client. It is necessary for the advisor to be able to bring in specialized expertise seamlessly when it is needed. Regardless of your expertise, you must demonstrate confidence in your recommendations, with a solid plan and backup information if the HWN wants more detail or documentation.

3. Informed Decision Making – Few affluent individuals want to turn major decisions over to another party. Many prefer to be educated as to the process and the choices in a time-efficient manner, and to stay in control of the decision-making process.

4. Access to a Wide Variety of Solutions – Many affluent individuals want access to the widest possible variety of products and product providers, rather than proprietary products. The intelligent firm may offer its own funds or products, but will also have the flexibility to go into the market and access any service or product the client may need and desire.

5. Client Focused, Holistic Orientation – HNW’s typically have complex personal and financial profiles. Most advisors focus on their own functional area of expertise. The advisor who integrates and coordinates different aspects of the client’s situation and sees to the complete and accurate implementation of recommendations, with ease of implementation for the HNW, provides a valuable and rare service.

6. Relationships with Advisor – HNW’s value a strong bond of trust with their advisors, and transition to a new relationship can be problematic. HWN’s expect advisors to act as advocates. They also expect new, creative, customized ideas or opportunities about new products or services that may be of benefit to them. For the most part, HNW’s are not concerned about the age and gender of the advisor, but rather their competence, communication skills, and ability to identify solutions. In addition, premium service delivery and kept promises create loyalty and keep business.

High net worth client development calls for a particular focus and attention to detail to client contact and needs, and an attentive, personalized relationship. There is no understating the importance of knowing your clients at a deep level, and tailoring your marketing, ideas, and recommendations to meet their unique needs. When these principles and strategies are applied to a professional services practice, business grows exponentially.


[1] Role definition and delegation are different topics for a different day.

[2] Many professionals feel they don’t “sell.” However, when business is done a sale takes place, even if the person only buys you, and ultimately that is the sale that matters

[3] This applies to individuals, couples, families, and businesses. ALL interactions are ultimately individual – and personal – interactions.

[4] Make certain to know the compliance guidelines for gifts in your profession.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Posted By Michael Roby | Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

As children, these words marked the beginning of a big event, such as a circus or some other performance of colossal dimensions! With these words we knew we were in for a treat, with excitement and amazement attached to every moment.

We want our clients to react with excitement and amazement whenever we meet with them, whether it is a professional or personal meeting. Excitement and amazement result from many factors, but they start with something very simple; our ability to be professional, and to act as ladies and gentlemen.

As always, we must know our clients and know our audiences. Times exist when we can and should be more casual, but there is never an excuse for being unprofessional in any way. When we share a meal with clients, we must know how to entertain. You will never make a bad impression by knowing which plate to use for bread (on the left) or which glasses are ours (on the right). Knowing what silverware to use does NOT mean we are professionally competent, but it shows we pay attention to the little things.

A large money management firm was interviewing a person for a role as a portfolio manager, and they chose not to hire him because of a faux pas, which occurred over dinner on the day of the interview. What was the egregious error made by the applicant? The applicant salted a steak without first tasting it. The money management firm deduced (rightly or wrongly) that a person who would salt food without taking the time to taste it first would not do the necessary research to make investment decisions.

Professional conduct shows through in everything we do. How we meet a person, make introductions, entertain, correspond with clients, dress, and any aspect of interaction should be a reflection of our willingness to be a true professional. We won’t always be right, but we can always conduct ourselves in a professional manner.