Over the holidays I spent an hour in my office with Gerry, a $1.5 million producer and a veteran of 20 years, who was teetering on a classic case of burnout. Wearing my father confessor hat, I listened to a tale of working hard to establish a healthy business, selling that business (changing firms), working hard to get his business up and running again, and coasting toward working half-days as he watched his business slowly move in the wrong direction. He asked, “Have you ever seen this before? I feel like I'm in a career mid-life crisis.”

My answer was yes. Gerry has a lot of company in what I've taken to calling the “veteran advisor breakdown lane.” It is full of advisors who are NOT fully committed to becoming relevant regarding the needs of today's affluent investors. This financial crisis has kicked them in the gut, and many are questioning whether they want to put forth the effort to change.

As you begin 2011, it might be helpful to answer the question I posed to Gerry: “Do you want to be relevant to your affluent clients?” With three young children to put through college, he explained that retirement wasn't an option. He added, “At my age, it would be difficult to meet my current level of income elsewhere — my path of least resistance is to become relevant to my affluent clients and centers of influence.”

Becoming relevant to today's affluent investor is not just the path of least resistance for every veteran advisor, it is the only path. Let me share a truism that has come from 30 years of performance coaching: your actions over the next 90 days will likely define your upcoming year. Whenever a performance commitment is made, it is imperative to get started with a full head of steam. This creates attitudinal and behavioral patterns that will soon mold into habits. Therefore, what you do during this first quarter of 2011 is critical to your year.

Putting my industry expert cap on, I reminded Gerry that eight of 10 affluent families would switch financial advisors if they encountered a superior alternative, and nine of 10 would entertain the idea of having a professional provide a second opinion on their family's finances — if they encountered a trustworthy professional capable of providing such advice. I also shared the startling fact that only 2 percent of advisors were fully engaged and taking advantage of this opportunity.

Now let me walk you through how we're coaching advisors into what I refer to as a commitment to relevance. It involves two parallel paths:

  1. Repositioning your services with existing affluent clients.
  2. Rainmaking — capitalizing on other advisors' lack of relevance and poaching their affluent clients.

Both paths should be approached in tandem. How? By rolling up your sleeves and working hard and smart. Regardless of where you might think you stand regarding relevancy with your affluent clients, this is where you should begin. The concept is simple — you must be positioned in the eyes of your affluent clients as the professional who is overseeing every aspect of their families' financial affairs. Even if you are already performing this role, you need to make certain your clients are fully aware of it (many aren't). If you're not, it's time to get busy and meet with each affluent client to reposition your services.

Becoming relevant goes beyond managing their investments; it involves financial planning, estate issues, banking and lending services, insurance, tax strategies, and so on. You will become relevant one client at a time through your actions.

As soon as you're taking steps toward becoming, or ensuring, that you're relevant, you're ready for rainmaking. As I explained to Gerry, the idea is to take advantage of the hordes of non-relevant advisors by engaging in what our research has determined to be the “high-impact” affluent marketing activities: getting personal introductions, turning referrals into personal introductions, penetrating COIs, social prospecting, developing healthy referral alliances, strategic networking, and holding intimate client events whenever possible.

So, meet with your affluent clients and make certain you are relevant, and that they know it. And engage in at least one high-impact affluent marketing activity each day. Do so, and you'll be racing down the only path for making 2011 the year of your commitment to relevance.

WRITER'S BIO:

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com