Chicago: "My clients are scared. How do I change their perceptions of me? I know they still regard me as a stockbroker. I have been doing business with many of them for years, and get nervous just thinking about comprehensive wealth management," remarked Chuck at a recent conference.
This is a very real and timely issue in light of today's turbulent markets. The affluent are skeptical in the best of times. Now, distrust is off the charts and (voila) opportunity—if you dare. What I'm talking about is re-positioning yourself in the mind of each affluent client and their centers-of-influence as the "trusted" go-to financial professional who coordinates the financial affairs for a select group of families in the area.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are no shortcuts. Smooth elevator speeches or unique value propositions will be helpful later, after step two, but they ring like a hollow sales pitch when not supported with substance. Re-branding is actually a relatively simple process that you must execute with one affluent client, one affluent upgrade and one center-of-influence at a time. Think of it in terms of a five-step process:
Step One: Determine Your New-and-Improved "Go-To" Role
Our research tells us clearly that the affluent do not want a sales person handling their complex financial affairs. You probably have heard me say that before—but it is worth repeating because if you currently have a one-dimensional relationship with your clients—investments, insurance, planning, etc.—they will most likely see you as the person trying to sell them the products you offer. What the affluent are looking for is a trusted professional to coordinate the multidimensional aspect of their financial affairs: a financial coordinator. So, what will that expanded role look like? How will it benefit affluent clients? How will you convince each client and center-of-influence of those benefits? Step two will help you to answer those questions.
Step Two: Develop A Comprehensive Wealth Management Process
To deliver on your promise of being a go-to financial coordinator, you will need a clearly defined process for pulling all of these financial parts together into an integrated whole. This is more than your investment process, the process in which you might present managed money or how you prepare a financial plan. In a nutshell, you want your value to become market irrelevant. Your wealth management process is the platform where all of this needs to occur.
What financial areas are you coordinating? How are you pulling everything together? Who are the experts and specialists that will assist you? How will your advising and review process ensure the relevance and timeliness of everything you do with and for each client?
Step Three: One Affluent Client At A Time
Once you have established the new-and-improved professional you, it is time to showcase it one affluent client at a time, as your goal is to retain affluent clients. It is amazing how often financial advisors have initiated this process, only to discover that some of their key clients were in the process of looking for another advisor. This effort to retain those clients will become a major source for introductions and referrals to new affluent prospects. For many financial professionals, this is a very uncomfortable experience, at least initially. But the rewards are unlimited. Gene, a 17-year veteran, is a perfect example:
“I knew what my clients thought of me. They liked me—I was a good advisor who sold mutual funds and annuities. After preparing my wealth management process, complete with a financial organizer and the works, I began meeting with my best clients, using the troubled markets as an excuse to make certain their portfolio was diversified properly. Not only were they appreciative, I already brought in $7 million dollars from two new clients who were introduced to me by my current clients. One of them went as far as saying, ‘I guess you're not a stockbroker—you really are a wealth manager. I need to introduce you to my three daughters and their husbands.’
"I guess you're not a stockbroker, you really are a wealth manager. I need to introduce you to my three daughters and their husbands."
Not only did my clients accept the new-and-improved me, they helped me get two new affluent clients. I couldn't believe my ears! Thanks to my clients, I have no more fear. I'm batting a thousand in my re-branding and am two for two with COI introductions.
Gene now walks the talk with confidence and positive energy, complete with a value proposition that reflects his new- and-improved self.
Step Four: One Center-of-Influence (COI) At A Time
You need a face-to-face meeting with every COI, similar to the one used with your existing clients, just as everyone needs a second opinion regarding their portfolio in today's environment. Once again, you need to explain what you are doing and why. Odds are, you'll be able to build on the re-branding success you've already experienced with your affluent clients. You now have something to showcase plus the experience of having presented the new you to key clients. Your goal now is to replicate Gene and get introductions in your affluent client's COIs.
Step Five: One Affluent Prospect At A Time
You can forget about mass mailings, cold calls and seminars. They will not re-brand you, and each has the potential of confirming the worst: You're a sales person. The affluent select their advisors through word-of-mouth influence. Our 2008 research on attracting affluent clients confirms that advisors bring in the most clients using introductions, referrals, referral alliances, networking and intimate client events. Each time these methods get you face-to-face with a new affluent prospect, you've granted yourself an opportunity to make a positive and lasting first impression.
In turbulent markets, the affluent are evaluating and reevaluating all of their financial decisions. This, in combination with our latest research that says only 14 percent of advisors are increasing their face time with clients— when it should be 100 percent. This is your opportunity for re-branding your practice. It is also a perfect storm for rainmaking.
For more help on making the transition, visit our FREE download page for our Financial Coordinator Worksheet.
Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one. If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at firstname.lastname@example.org.