I hesitated to respond to your blog. In my years in this business, I always felt that everyone was looking for a “quick marketing fix” that would transform their business in minutes. In fact, if that is what you are looking for, I do not have the answer. I can share with you, however, my personal story and the process that has evolved to allow me to develop my marketing strategy that now provides me with new warm qualified prospects all the time. Seldom will a week go by without a face to face or two with a prospect who is qualified and is introduced by a client…. All of my new activity is warm.
My clients are my advocates and they help me grow my business. It was not always that way, however. Before I hired my current business consultant, I enjoyed helping people and providing a financial education to them, but like many of us in this business, I just wasn’t able to get in front of enough qualified prospects. My business was inching along. I was frustrated.
What did I do and what have I done to make this transition? Here’s my story….
It all started with a phone call that I was reluctant to make.
I had heard good things about a Business Consultant (Matt Bellis); that I could achieve everything I mentioned above with his guidance. Yet it took me 2 months to make the call to him. Why? Because I was skeptical. I had heard it all before.
Many times I had tried and paid for the next “great system” that was going to help me “explode” my business and all I had to show for it was a lot of disappointment and a “lightened pocketbook.” I’d had enough of those. I finally called Bellis because I’m a business person and the reality was that a little due diligence would only cost me a little time.
I was pleasantly surprised that Bellis had peaked my interest when he explained his philosophy of business and his marketing philosophy. He separated the product or service being provided from the marketing of the product or service.
Matt made the comparisons to our family farm. (My husband and I have a successful farming business) and the fact that there were two separate aspects of that business as well. There was the actual farming of the crops and, of course, there was the marketing of the grain and other business decisions that were vital to our success. Farming and Marketing… two separate skills and both had to be learned. I can tell you that there were plenty of excellent farmers that could raise an unbelievable crop, but they weren’t marketers and they certainly were not good businessmen. Consequently, they are no longer in business. Similarly, it wasn’t enough just to be able to put together a good financial plan for a client and have the knowledge and expertise to help the implement the plan. What did that matter if I didn’t have anyone to see? I needed a marketing system. That is what working with Matt was all about.
The first thing Matt explained to me was he would help me develop a story to tell. A story which subtly illustrated how the market- my prospective clients- perceived me and the industry. (Certainly the first step in any good marketing plan should be to understand the market—something very few advisors ever take the time to do.) Even though I loved helping people and providing a financial education to them, it was as if I had to “break down” the perception they had of me and everyone else in this business. And I completely understand why folks in our profession are not esteemed. Truthfully, I got involved in this business because I was sick of financial services salespeople taking advantage of me and looking at my family and me as a “quick sale.” I have learned to share this personal story to all of my clients and prospective clients so that they truly understand that I am different than the competition. This step was crucial so that my clients perceive me as helping them and not selling them.
I tried to be a good student. Sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn’t. I can tell you, however, that it took a relatively short time for me to see some incredible success. Clients really would introduce me to their quality relationships and for the first time I had folks actually waiting for me to call them. Even more than that, I learned to understand that learning how to market my business was different than learning my trade as a financial professional. They were two separate skills and I had to learn to master them both to have a successful business. Matt’s expertise was the quality client development and marketing side.
Over time, I got more and more proficient with his process. As I improved, I also hit a few stumbling blocks. One of the things Matt had tried to train us to do was to be sure that we properly train our clients in the process of introducing us to their friends and family. I wasn’t comfortable doing this at first and frankly, I didn’t want to do it. I was, however, paying for his program so eventually I recognized that it only made sense to “try things his way.” I discovered that Advisors who were the most open to his suggestions, had the most success.
I recall specifically, Matt explained that after we mastered this process and our clients became our advocates, eventually qualified friends and family members of our clients would be calling us, and/or walking in our doors asking to meet with us. I remember thinking, ‘Sure, Matt—I’m not holding my breath for that to happen!’ This past year, however, I can tell you that is exactly what is happening. So, it did not happen overnight, but the last months, I have been averaging two –four new qualified prospects a month either calling me to schedule an appointment or they walk in my office and want to set up a time to meet. In every case, they have been introduced to me from a current client.
Now just a few years later, my office is known as the Retirement Resource Center in my community where folks know they can come and get answers to their questions without the fear of someone just “trying to sell them something.” And, as a result, all of my clients continue to introduce me to more friends and family. Yes, business is good. In fact, my son joined me.
On the surface, this does not sound like anything knew. Everyone in this business knows that the best referrals come from current satisfied clients—that concept is not new. However, before working with Bellis, I could do great work for great clients and sometimes I felt like I was pulling teeth just to get them to think of a few folks they could refer me to. And then, of course, they would just give me some names and numbers. Frankly, I could probably have gotten the same thing from the phone book.
Below are the things that made this process NEW for me.
- I concentrate on getting introductions from my best clients. We call them qualified warm introductions, because they are friends and family of my best qualified clients.
- All of my clients agree to introduce me to several of their friends, family, or co-workers before we meet for the second appointment.
- My clients call me and let me know that I have permission to call their friends and they let me know the best time to call them and the best phone number.
- Frequently on client reviews, my clients begin the appointment with the name of another family or friend or co-worker that would like me to call them.
- My clients truly are “my partners” and understand that their friends and family need to be introduced to me and to my Retirement Resource Center.
Perhaps the next important question is the following: could this work for other advisors?
There really is no good reason that it couldn’t work for most financial professionals. After all, if someone like me, who lives in a town of 3000 people can learn this system and build a good business, then, theoretically, the system could work for anyone.
What’s the catch? That’s easy. I am sure that there are other places in the country besides Iowa where work is not considered a four letter word. It’s funny, a farmer expects to possibly become successful after twenty or thirty years of hard work. This business is a piece of cake in comparison.